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Investigate Larger than Average Bills

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JD shared a story last week about how their winter heating bill increased 50% compared to last year. Unfortunately for him, the increase wasn’t large enough to raise any red flags. He only did a post-mortem calculation but in looking back he saw energy use had increased 30% and the cost has only increased 50%.

He says it was a “lot more energy” but if it were me, I wouldn’t have noticed even if I was checking my bills as it was happening. I would’ve attributed the increase in energy costs to fuel being more expensive and it being a colder winter. I know I wouldn’t have noticed. That being said, higher than average bills are usually a sign that something is wrong.

In Maryland, we pay the county every quarter for water. Despite all our conservation efforts, the quarterly cost always seems to be around $50 a quarter (more in the summer). Fortunately for consumers (unfortunately for Mother Earth), water is cheap so our bill rarely deviates by more than a few dollars. A few years ago, my friend discovered that his water bill was over a hundred dollars! (the equivalent of nearly 15,000 gallons of water).

He knew something was wrong. He lived in a house with two roommates but he knew his water bill shouldn’t have been so high. At the time, we had heard a story about someone who discovered a water man break outside their house (it was underneath the sidewalk!) so he was afraid that was the cause. After searching high and low, he discovered the culprit was a poor seal in the toilet tank. It was constantly leaking water out of the tank and into the bowl, like a faucet drip for an entire quarter.

If you have a large bill, try to find the culprit because you may discover something more serious.

(Photo: andrewk100)

{ 11 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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11 Responses to “Investigate Larger than Average Bills”

  1. DebtGoal says:

    This is true not only for water and energy bills, but those with financial concerns should apply this process to any recurring monthly expenses. Since recurring monthly bills are some of the most profitable for service and product providers, and sellers know that they tend to be the least reviewed items in a budget, checking them for fraud is a must in this economic climate.

  2. Michael says:

    Um… by definition half of your bills are “larger than average.”

  3. Aaron says:

    I live in North Plains, OR and my monthly water bill is 95 dollars. I thought maybe that was pretty high. I have noticed over the last few months that the toilet in the master bedroom does that sound like it is refilling the tank fairl frequently. I will have to check into why it is doing that. I wonder if I were to stop that if my bill will go down. I’ll repost if that works.

  4. Chewbakka says:

    Very true! Toilet seals don’t last forever…in fact, in places where there is hard water, the seal flaps tend to build up with mineral deposits that contribute to the shortened seal life. This can apply to any water outlet in some way.

  5. eemusings says:

    Too true. We’ve just discovered our water cylindre is faulty – explains why our power bills have been soaring AND why our water bills have been reading so high. Sigh.

  6. Cathy says:

    We had a much larger than expected electricity bill recently. The culprit was not what I was expecting. It was a leaking faucet! Apparently it was dripping hot water. We got that fixed, and things are back to normal.

  7. Keeping on the topic of toilet seals and the longevity of them… You want to make sure that the pretty blue tablets that you drop in your tank to color the water don’t contain bleach. Bleach can be very abrasive and it will shorten the lifespan of your toilet seals immensely.

  8. Patrick says:

    Maryland’s water bills have stayed about the same, but the electricity and gas bills in this state are ridiculous. They seem to charge what they please. Some people complained of having bills of over $800 a month just for gas and electric and no politician seems to be standing up to them.

  9. Stephen - NYC says:

    Here in New York City, we’re about to get hit with another 14% water rate increase. Since they are separate from the rest of the city budget they seem to be able to ram through just about anything they want. Of course, they claim it’s because they’re building the 3rd water tunnel (yeah, they are, big deal). The real problem comes from the fact that the mayor steals the surplus that’s generated and puts it into the general fund. So the water board needs more money. And we have a minimum usage rate, so even conservation doesn’t help. As a single guy, I usually don’t go over the minimum (except when the pipe to the outside water spigot broke and flooded my basement – but I thought it was a rain problem due to water backing up from the shower in the basement’s bathroom). And yeah, keep an eye on the toilet bowl tank. It’s amazing how much water will leak if the seal isn’t perfect.

  10. Rich says:

    We received a water bill that was tripled normal at our business.
    $18 to $54 dollars for a month. The flapper seal in one of the toilets had a slight leak. Replaced it and still had a leak. Was told to make sure to use a flexible rubber seal, not one of those rigid plastic ones. Changed it again and our water bill this month was back to normal. Natural gas heating bills are tougher to monitor since the price per therm varies so much as well as the range in daily temperature. I have a spreadsheet where I compared the monthly degree days to the therms used. I was able to increase my heating efficiency by 20% over three years by comparing natural gas used to monthly degree days and adjusting programmable thermostats and adding insulation. I am looking forward to next year to see the improvement from changing out five drafty basement single pane windows to better sealed double pane windows!

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