Do You Know 6 Fundamentals of Utility Bills?

Chris Heinz - June 7, 2013

A few years ago, my wife and I applied to adopt a child from overseas, and were approved by two national governments—the United States and the Philippines. So when we filled out the paperwork to adopt a kitty from our local animal shelter, we thought we knew all there was to know about adoption. We were wrong.

A few days later we got rejected by the animal shelter. The official ruling? “Unfit to raise a cat.”

no cat final

Sometimes you think you know all you need to know. But when it comes to utility bills, it doesn’t hurt to review some basics.

Here are six fundamentals of utility bills:


  • Pay Attention to Estimated Bills. Utility companies estimate bills for several reasons: convenience of the vendor, lack of access to the meter, or a faulty meter. Their estimates are based on historical data, but are often too high. When an expensive account is estimated multiple months in a row, find out why. You may be eligible for a refund.


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  • Use Correct Units of Measure. If the unit of measure is incorrect, then analytics and reporting will be incorrect. Keep in mind that your bill may show more than one unit of measure. Also, units of measure can vary for the same commodity. For example, gas can be measured in Therm, Dekatherm, MMBTU, CCF, or MCF. Electricity can be measured in KWH, KVAH, KW, KVA, KVAR, or KVARH. Data inconsistencies with units of measure can skew energy analysis, and waste time and energy.


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  • Don’t Double Count Energy Use. A common bill entry error is to count the same use more than once. This happens because many bills display the same energy use in multiple sections: meter read, cost calculation, month-to-month summary, delivery/generation.


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  • Watch Your Load Factor. Load Factor is a useful calculated value that can help spot issues and opportunities with your electric bills including data or meter problems, rate change options, and mechanical/electrical system control problems. Load Factor is calculated as (Actual KWH Use)/(Max Theoretical Use). The Actual KWH Use is what you see on your bill. The Max Theoretical Use is how much KWH you could have used if you operated at peak load for the entire 720 hours in the billing period (assuming 30 days). Favorable rate opportunities exist for meters with consistently high load factors. And knowing what “typical” load factors are for different building types will enable you to spot energy problems that may be affecting the load factor.

  • Know Your Power Factor. Unrelated to Load Factor, Power Factor is a characteristic of AC Power. Inductive loads cause Power Factor reductions and current increases, hence low Power Factor penalties. Inductive loads are loads in which the magnetic property of electricity is utilized, for example, in large motors like pumps, elevators, chillers, and fans, and in transformers and light ballasts. Power Factor problems can be corrected with capacitors.

  • Understand Your Rates. Rate changes can offer long-term savings on your utility bills. Take the time to investigate alternative rates. You may qualify for a different rate schedule. Why pay more when you don’t have to?


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My wife and I thought we knew all we needed to know about adopting a cat, so we missed an opportunity. Don’t make the same kind of mistake with your utility bills.

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Topics: Energy Management

Chris Heinz

About the Author
Chris Heinz

Chris is Vice President of Human Resources for EnergyCAP, Inc., which helps organizations get value from their utility bills through energy management software. He's an Associate Certified Coach by the International Coach Federation, a Gallup Certified Strengths Coach, and a Certified Professional Life Coach. He also started www.Munyay.com to help people love their life and love their work.

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