Electricity prices going up: Does your electric bill feel out of control?

High electric bills are a real problem. Here’s why electricity prices are rising… and how to cut energy waste in the most impactful ways.

High electric bills are a real problem. Here’s why electricity prices are rising… and how to cut energy waste in the most impactful ways.

If you’re wondering Why are electricity prices going up? or Why is my electric bill so high? you’ve found the right place.

Energy and electricity prices are going up in general. There are a few big reasons for rising costs.

This guide will explain why prices have increased and help to troubleshoot a high electric bill. (And you’ll also get some clear insight on ways to reduce your electricity use.)

We’ll cover:

Why is your electric bill so high?

Your electric bill looks higher than usual because electricity prices have gone up 8% since 2021, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (1).

Even if your electricity usage hasn’t changed much year over year, you’ll still see higher costs than last year. (And unless you’ve taken really significant steps to reduce your electricity use, most people will see an increase in their electric bill.)

Almost everyone is experiencing an increase in electricity prices right now.

But there are a few other factors that contribute to a high electric bill as well, including:

  • Inefficient HVAC equipment 
  • A “leaky” or drafty house that has unsealed air leaks
  • Older energy-hogging appliances
  • Insufficient insulation

Even if your electricity usage hasn’t changed much year over year, you’ll still see higher costs.

Why are electricity prices going up?

This may seem surprising, but one of the biggest reasons electricity prices are going up is because of the rising cost of natural gas. In the U.S., natural gas is the largest generator of electricity, making up 38% of electricity generation (2).

So, naturally, when the price of natural gas rises, your electric bill increases, too.

For a deeper dive, read Why is natural gas going up? to learn the factors behind the global increase in natural gas prices. 

Unfortunately, natural gas prices—like all fossil fuel costs—are determined by complex geopolitical factors, so the best bet to mitigate the rising cost of electricity is to use electricity as efficiently as possible.

Another significant reason electricity prices are going up? An increase in severe weather events, like hurricanes and wildfires, that damage our energy infrastructure. The costs to repair those damages are shared with consumers over time.

As reported by the Wall Street Journal, about $12.4 billion of weather-related utilities debt was issued in the US in 2022—and paying back that debt increases all of our electricity costs.

Natural gas is the largest generator of electricity in the U.S.
animated GIF of a realistic white two-story house wasting money via energy waste with money blowing out the sides

High electric bill investigation: Here’s what to do

If you’ve just received a higher-than-expected electricity bill, rising electricity prices could be the culprit, but sometimes you might experience an unexpected electricity usage jump.

If you’re up for it, it’s time to play detective. 

To understand the root cause of your high electric bill, here are 6 simple steps you can take to investigate it on your own:

  1. Research the cost of electricity in your area
  2. Review fees and taxes on your electric bills
  3. Examine your electricity usage data over the last 12 to 18 months
  4. Try a wattage tester
  5. Maintain your HVAC
  6. Get an energy audit

You’ll learn what to do for each step below.

1. Research the cost of electricity in your area

Check the average price per kilowatt-hour (kwh), and do a little math to see if you’re paying about the average, routine rate for your area.

2. Review fees and taxes on your electricity bills

Have taxes on electricity in your area gone up in the last few months? What about utility fees from your electric company?

Perhaps do a quick fact-check or comparison with a neighbor to see if taxes and fees are consistent. If you notice something out of sorts, call your utility company to troubleshoot.

3. Examine your electricity usage data over the last 12 to 18 months

Most people pay attention to their overall electricity bill cost, but have you taken a deeper look into your electricity usage? You’ll see increased electricity usage in the months where you rely more on your cooling and heating systems (if your heating is electric) to stay comfortable.

For example: If January of last year and January of this year (or May of last year vs. May of this year, for instance) look pretty similar in usage amounts, that means your higher electric bill is probably due to increased energy prices and utility fees.

Usage can change year over year based on hotter summers and colder winters, too. Keep that in mind if your summer has been hotter than usual or if autumn nights were colder than last year.

If you see a notable increase in usage (without much change in your home appliances, local climate, or household number), you probably have an “energy vampire” hiding somewhere in your home—likely in an inefficient refrigerator or computer charger left on all the time. Even aging HVAC systems can cause an increase of electricity use over time.

4. Try a wattage tester

If your usage has seen a notable increase—on top of rising electricity prices—and you’re really curious, invest in a simple wattage use tester. This can help you pinpoint any “energy vampires” that are over-consuming electricity in your home.

For example: Compare your microwave’s actual electricity usage to its predicted or expected usage based on the model and year, and you’ll know if it’s time for a replacement. You can also check out this guide to estimating appliance electricity use.

5. Maintain your HVAC

When was the last time you had your heating and cooling systems serviced? Your HVAC system is the biggest energy-user in your home. If it’s been more than a year, it’s time for a checkup.

Not only does this help keep them in tip-top shape and extend their lifespan, but it also keeps your home healthier and safer (especially if you’re burning fossil fuels to heat your home).

6. Get an energy audit

If you’re going to get a wattage tester, you might as well go all in. Start with a DIY home energy audit, or learn how to get a home energy assessment for free with Sealed if your home qualifies.

In addition, many utility companies provide professional energy audits for low to no cost, depending on your eligibility. An energy audit can help you know crucial areas you need to address in your house to lower your electricity use (like insulation, air leaks, and HVAC issues).

How to reduce your electricity bill by lowering your energy use

The rising cost of electricity is out of most people’s hands (unless you’re a secret evil-genius who can control geopolitical factors that affect energy prices from your living room). 

The best way to deal with rising electricity prices and high electric bills is to use electricity more efficiently. It’s the one factor that’s in your control. 

The best way to deal with rising electricity prices? Use electricity more efficiently!

First, we’re going to address the permanent, long-term solutions that can cut energy waste significantly.

This section will mostly apply to homeowners, but if you’re a renter and have a good relationship with your landlord or rental company, send them this article! 

Bonus: Long-term energy-efficient home improvements can increase resale value, protect a house’s structure by reducing moisture, making the roof last longer, and make your home more comfortable year round.

Learn all about it in our FREE home comfort guide.

Long-term ways to significantly cut electricity use

Most homeowners think upgrading windows or changing out kitchen appliances are the right fixes, but that’s not where most houses will see the most impact in energy-use reduction.

The majority of American homes (85%!) weren’t built with energy efficiency in mind.

To fix this issue, you have to address the best ways to significantly reduce your energy use for the long run: 

  1. Seal up air leaks in your home. Air leaks cause up to 40% of your house’s heating and cooling energy loss (3).

    Professional air sealing can fix this for good. Read more about air sealing and how it works here. 
  2. Make sure your house has sufficient, updated insulation. Insulation stops your home from losing paid-for heat in winter and paid-for conditioned air in summer. And guess what? 9 out of 10 of U.S. homes are under insulated (4).

    Insulation can degrade and become less effective over time, so it’s important to make sure yours is doing its job. (An energy audit can help you determine if it is.) Learn more about home and attic insulation and how it helps.
  3. Install a smart thermostat. This fix is a smaller investment with a big return. People can save up to 12% on heating costs and up to 15% on cooling costs, according to one smart thermostat manufacturer (5). Discover how smart thermostats work here.
  4. Upgrade to a super-efficient heating and cooling system. Modern heat pump HVAC is all the rage, and there’s a good reason why: Heat pumps are up to 3 times more efficient than traditional heating systems, and they’re super-efficient air conditioning systems at the same time (6).

    Electric resistance heating, electric furnaces, and portable electric space heaters are complete energy-gobblers, but not electric heat pumps. Find out how heat pumps work and why they’re the most efficient

At Sealed, we’ve found whole-home energy solutions—including insulation, air sealing, and heat pump HVAC systems—can reduce a home’s energy use by up to 50%.

Another thing before we move into quick ways to reduce your electricity bills… there are a lot of myths out there about energy-efficiency, but the above upgrades work. 

In fact, they can reduce residential energy waste so significantly that tax credits and rebates for heat pumps and home weatherization (like insulation and air sealing) have been expanded. 

Find out what heat pumps qualify for tax credits and rebates or learn what home energy upgrades are included under the Inflation Reduction Act.

Whole-home energy solutions—including insulation, air sealing, and heat pump HVAC systems—can reduce a home’s energy use by up to 50%.

Shot of a young man opening up the curtains in a bedroom at home

Quick short-term ways to reduce high electric bills  

If you need ideas for quick ways (ones that actually work) to reduce electricity use, check out the list below. 

  1. Weatherstrip your doors and windows. This is one step in top-to-bottom home weatherization that you can do yourself—and fairly affordably. Door and window weatherstripping wears down over time, so grab some fresh weatherstripping from your local hardware store to lessen the intake of outside air (aka drafts) into your home. 
  2. Install thermal curtains. Thermal curtains work in both summer and winter to lessen outside temperatures from getting into your house. They provide a decent layer of window insulation that actually works, unlike plastic over your windows. 
  3. Change your air filters in your HVAC system regularly. If you don’t keep up with changing your HVAC air filters regularly, you’re causing your heating and cooling systems to be overworked and waste energy. 
  4. Use LED lighting. If you haven’t switched over to energy-efficient lighting yet, now’s the time. 
  5. Unplug unused devices. Did you know that plugged-in devices use electricity, even if they’re not currently “on” or being used? It won’t save you too much electricity to unplug everything when not in use, but if you’re looking for ways to cut your use any way you can, it’s a smart habit to have. This waste of “standby power” is often referred to as a vampire load or phantom load.
  6. Set your thermostat back 10 degrees. Do this when you leave for work and increase it when you get home. (Or upgrade to a smart thermostat, which can do this automatically.) And if it won’t impact your health, set the thermostat 5 to 10 degrees higher in summer or reduce it by 5 to 10 degrees in winter than you would normally—and dress accordingly!

    We should note here, though: There’s some controversy about this last quick-tip. And at Sealed, we believe you should be able to set your thermostat to whatever temp is most comfortable and leave it there (and we can help make that happen!). If you properly insulate and air seal your home and invest in a heat pump, most people can set their home’s temperature to what makes them most comfortable and still cut energy waste.

Remember, these are short-term fixes. For significant ways to save electricity, tap here for the above list! 

Or are you ready to get really creative with reducing your electric bills? Check out our guide to the absolute best ways to conserve energy at home.

And even if you’ve taken all of these measures, you may still be left wondering: Are electricity prices ever—ever—going to go back down?

It’s unclear… but the best thing you can do to deal with the rising cost of electricity is use it wisely. 

Heat pumps are up to 3 times more efficient than traditional heating systems.

Get energy upgrades without emptying your bank account

With Sealed, you can get home comfort and energy upgrades—like high-performance insulation, professional air sealing, and super-efficient heat pump HVAC—at no upfront cost. 

Yep, you read that right.

We came up with a new way to pay for home energy upgrades—one where we stay accountable for them performing correctly and cutting your energy waste. 

When you work with Sealed, we take the hassle out of finding and negotiating with the best contractors in your area—and we make sure the work is done right.

It’s the worry-free way to get home comfort and energy upgrades. Complete our easy and quick 2-minute questionnaire to see if you qualify.

Sealed came to the rescue right when we needed them…. My hope was for my parents to live comfortably without worrying about putting on multiple fans or heaters. We have that now.

Keith J., Sealed customer

FAQs about electricity prices going up

Still asking yourself Why is my electricity bill so high? Here are a few common questions.

Use the list below to jump ahead:

My electric bill doubled. I have no idea why. What should I do?

If your electric bill doubled—without a big change in the weather, the season, your home appliances, or number of people in your home—you may have an appliance that’s on the fritz and draining electricity.

This is often a sign that a new HVAC system is incorrectly sized for your house or an older one is in need of repair. You can also do an electricity bill investigation to troubleshoot the issue. Tap here to learn how.

man maintaining an older radiator that isn't working in home

What uses a lot of electricity in a house?

If your heating and cooling systems use electricity, they’re definitely the appliances using the most in your house, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (7).

Your water heater comes in second! (Again, if it’s electric.) If you use fossil fuels for your water heating, it’s likely your dishwasher, washing machine, and dryer are working as a team to take second place.

What to do if you can’t afford your electricity bills?

If you’re having trouble paying your electricity bill, you’re not alone. Electricity prices are rising, and it can be a challenge to meet the costs. Here’s what you can do:

  1. Get in touch with your electricity company ASAP. Some utilities have budget billing or assistance programs available.
  2. Apply for the weatherization assistance program to help reduce your energy use if you’re eligible.
  3. Check out the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program to see if you qualify.

See what home energy upgrade rebates may be available to you through the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022.

When will electricity prices go down?

The World Bank estimates that, in general, there will be a decline in the cost of energy next year—but that doesn’t address electricity specifically (8). And even with sophisticated data models, no one can accurately predict the future or determine exactly when electricity prices will fall. 

Remember, a big reason electricity has increased in cost is because natural gas prices have increased over the last two years, and natural gas is the largest producer of electricity. 

So as the price of natural gas levels out a bit, electricity prices may follow. But according to one energy expert, moving away from reliance on volatile fossil fuels and transitioning to renewable electricity sources (like wind and solar) will lower costs over time (9).

Curious about electric home heating? Ready about electric vs. gas heat to learn more.

Qualify now

Want to find out where your house is wasting the most energy? If your house qualifies, your energy assessment is free. 

We’ll analyze (and show you!) where your house is likely wasting energy through air leaks, insufficient insulation, or underperforming HVAC systems and make recommendations to fix the issues for good.

The big difference? You don’t have to leave your couch (or get out of your pajamas) to get an energy assessment. It’s remote!

Does your house qualify for a free expert energy assessment? Find out.

December 12, 2022