First, we checked whether the rates had increased over last summer. This information is printed on the bill, but we don't get a paper bill so we had to go digging on the website to find it. We learned that the cost had increased by about $.005 (half a cent) for electric and $.003 for delivery per kwh (we're not totally sure what this is, but we think it is the cost to get the electricity to us, so is charged by the kwh just like the electricity itself). It explained part of the difference in our total bill, but not all of it. Plus we can see right on our bill that our kwh usage is up compared to last year.
Then, we rented a wattage meter from our local public library. You plug this in to various electrical devices in your home and it tells you the energy draw in kilowatt hours, the same increment charged by the electric company. We found it really interesting which of our appliances were the biggest energy hogs.
Our #1 energy hog: the toaster oven. Really! If we ran the toaster oven continuously, it would cost us $107 per month (and it would burn our house down). The culprit of the biggest actual cost, though, was the dehumidifier - about $33 per month. Next up is our upstairs computer which runs a server ($20 per month), then our downstairs computer ($9 per month). Our deep freeze is a bargain at just $4 per month. We only checked appliances for which we might actually change our usage depending on their cost, so we didn't check the regular fridge/freezer or things like lamps or the baby monitor. And we couldn't check the air conditioner since it doesn't just plug into the wall. We did discover that a phone charger plugged in to an outlet with no phone on it costs nothing per month, and when you add an uncharged phone, it costs $.40 (that's if it charged the phone for the whole month, not each time you charge it). If you leave a fully charged phone plugged in, it would cost you $.09 per month. Interesting stuff.
Third, we tried to figure out where we had increased our energy usage over the last year. We came up with a couple of theories - first, I'm pregnant during this summer and I wasn't last summer, and I have been feeling a lot hotter than usual. We keep our thermostat at 78 degrees, but I have had to turn it down to 76 on occasion when I just couldn't get comfortable, and each degree is about a 1% difference in energy use (I haven't run the math on that, but I'm sure it adds up to a dollar or two a day if I leave it cooler for eight to ten hours at a time). Second, after our basement flooded last summer, we've been trying to keep it drier down there to prevent mold, and have been running a dehumidifier quite a bit - like, 2 out of 3 days in a month. We got an older dehumidifier at an estate sale for $20; it's worked great but we are now considering whether it would be worth it for us to invest in a more energy efficient model that might have lower energy costs. Probably we'll shelve the idea until next summer because we're about to run into the time of year where our house is way too dry instead of too damp.
At any rate, it was a really interesting experiment to figure out why our energy bill was so much higher than we're used to - I get really peeved when I can't figure out why I'm paying more for something. In this case, it's pretty clear that I'm getting more of that something - electricity - even though it's hard to directly see the increase in our consumption. I now find myself turning off lights, or not turning them on to begin with, thanks to our little exercise, and I'm not so grumpy about paying the bills.