5 questions you should ask about your electric and gas bills


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Does your electric or gas bill seem high? Take the time to read it each month, and ask some questions. At the end of this article, enter our giveaway for the chance to win 5 LED bulbs. (Terms and Conditions.)

  • Am I paying for an alternative gas or electric supplier? Your bill is divided into two parts: supply and delivery. On the supply side, the biggest fee is the per-kilowatt-hour (electric) or per-therm (gas) supply charge, which covers the actual gas or electricity you use. If your supply costs skyrocket, it might be because you’re paying a high rate with an alternative supplier. Scan the supply section to see if you spot the name of another company. (Here's where you look for an alterantive supplier on your ComEd, Ameren, Nicor Gas, or Peoples Gas bill.) 

  • Am I using more energy? Did your electricity or gas usage spike last month because of weather or extra house guests? Most bills have a bar graph that displays your current month’s energy consumption and how it compares to past months.

  • Did my electric or gas utility get a rate hike? If the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) granted your utility a rate hike, the increase will be reflected in higher rates on the delivery side of the bill. The two biggest delivery charges are the monthly customer charge and a per-kilowatt-hour or per-therm distribution charge.

  • Is my meter being read? Some utilities may skip meter readings and estimate your usage. When they get the real reading, you may get an adjustment and that could lead to an uptick in your bill. In your bill’s meter section, look for the words “Actual” or “Estimated” (in some cases just the letter “A” or “E”). If a utility estimates your usage two months in a row, find out why. The good news is more modern meters can be read remotely, so estimated bills are less common than they used to be.

  • Is there something unusual? Is there a security deposit, installment plan, or budget billing adjustment adding dollars to your bill? Is there a new or different meter number? Call the utility for a full explanation, and request an on-site investigation if necessary.

Thanks for reading! Check out CUB's event calendar to see where we'll be holding a utility-bill clinic next. 


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