Last updated: January 14, 2024.
Discover the reasons behind unexpectedly high electricity bills after the holidays, learn what you can do about it, and find easy ways to keep your future bills low.
- Unusually high electricity bills can catch us off guard after the holidays;
- Spending more time at home, especially with guests, leads to significantly increased electricity usage and, consequently, a higher bill;
- Households, with low AC usage, consume most electricity in the December – January period;
- More heating, more cooking, and a general increase in our usage of energy guzzling appliances (cooker, dryer, washing machine, electric shower, etc.) are the main culprits; and
- Over 25% of US households struggle with their energy bills. Support is available (see several options below), including LIHEAP.
Continue reading to get more details along with no-cost quick wins that’ll keep your carbon footprint and electric bills low.
What is Post-Holiday Bill Shock?
Think your holiday spending is over? Think again. Post-Holiday Bill Shock is that surprise kick in the wallet many of us get when we receive our first bills after the holiday season.
From increased credit card costs to a shockingly high electricity bill, the expense of the festivities continue.
Just when things seem to settle down after the holidays these higher than usual bills can catch us off guard.
Electricity bills can be particularly surprising.
I’ll jump into why it’s so high, what you can do about it, and how to prevent it in future.
Why your electric bill is so high after the holidays
Your electric bill is so high after the holidays because, put simply, you were at home more (maybe even had guests over) which ultimately led to increased electricity usage.
It’s as simple as that in the vast majority of cases.
This is exacerbated by the fact that it’s a particularly energy demanding time of year to be at home. You have more heating, cooking, and lighting requirements.
You might not think you used more electricity than usual. Your energy usage behavior may not have changed, but simply being at home for a longer period of time leads to more power consumption.
Residential households in the US consume most electricity during the summer months. However, AC usage is a key driver of this accounting for 19.4% of home energy consumption, according to eia.gov.
Households, with low AC usage, consume more electricity in December and January than any other months of the year.
This means that, for many, the first electric bill of the year will be the highest.
But you should still make sure that there is no other reason for an unusually high bill. Here’s how to do this.
Confirm there’s no other reason for the unusually large bill
- Make sure that your utility provider didn’t increase your unit rate (i.e. the price you pay per kWh). To do this, simply check your bill and compare the unit rate to the previous bill. If it’s higher, then that’s obviously another reason for an unusually high bill. For context, the average cost per kWh in the US in 2023 was 15.86 cents; and
- Compare your energy usage with the previous month and last December. You can find how much electricity, in kWh, you actually consumed – this should be listed on your bill. Take this bill period and compare it with the previous billing period, and the same period last year. Typically, you can expect your Dec / Jan energy usage to be a lot higher than Oct / Nov (maybe 15-30%) and then the same or only slightly different than the same time last year (unless you made substantial changes like moving home, adding solar, etc.). For context, the average US household consumes 899 kWh of electricity per month.
Options if your bill is too high
Over 25% of US households struggle with their energy bills. If you’re unable to pay your electricity bill, there are options available to you and specific steps you can take to address the situation and get assistance. This includes:
- Contact Your Utility Provider. Reach out to your energy provider as soon as possible. Many companies offer assistance programs for customers facing financial difficulties. Inquire about flexible payment plans or options to spread the outstanding balance over several months;
- Energy Assistance Programs. Check if there are local or government-sponsored utility assistance programs available to you – these programs may provide sufficient financial support. For example, the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) assists families with their energy costs. You can find out more about this program directly on hhs.gov;
- Community Resources. Some assistance may be available within your community. Community-based organizations, charities, or local government agencies may offer emergency financial assistance or support during difficult times;
- Budgeting Assistance. You can reach out to financial counseling services or non-profit organizations that offer budgeting assistance. They can provide guidance on managing finances and prioritizing expenses; and
- Legal Protections. Familiarize yourself with local regulations and legal protections regarding utility disconnections. In some places, there are rules in place to protect vulnerable consumers.
Additionally, if you’re in the position to, consider looking into energy efficiency programs offered by your local government or utility. While it won’t help with this bill, there may be grants and tax rebates that’ll help you reduce all of your future bills by helping you implement energy-efficiency upgrades (e.g. introducing your own renewable energy supply, upgrading to more efficient appliances, enhancing your home’s insulation).
These may require an upfront cost though.
But let’s take a look at some simple no-cost tips to keep your bills low.
No-cost tips to keep your bills low
We’ve all heard the generic tips…turn off lights when leaving a room and unplug electronics when not in use.
Some of the generic tips won’t make a real impact on lowering your bill. For example, you might save a few cents per year by unplugging your TV when it’s not in use.
The bulk of the no-cost savings will be made through behavioral changes specifically related to heating / cooling and energy guzzling appliances.
Here are 3 key no-cost tips to keep your bills low:
- Adjust your thermostat (this typically has the greatest impact on bills);
- Shower faster (showers typically consume the most electricity in a home); and
- Switch utility provider, if applicable (they typically offer significant discounts to unit rates in order to attract new customers).
But there’s more that you can do.
You can save ~28% on your electricity bill with this free 6 Quick Wins Cheat Sheet:
Based on a comprehensive heat pump energy efficiency study, see which heat pump has the highest HSPF, get a list of the top 10 units, & see what is considered a good HSPF rating.
See how much it costs to run an electric fireplace in 2023, get 8 practical cost saving tips and use this calculator to see how much it costs you to run your own electric fireplace.
See the most energy efficient electric fireplace in 2023, and get the average electric fireplace wattage and Btu from a study of 117 of the top selling fireplaces. Also see how they compare with other electric heaters.
James, Eco Cost Savings co-founder and Editor-in-Chief, is also our experienced in-house energy management and sustainability expert, and manager of our network of sustainability consultants.
Before his journey into sustainability, James studied engineering. Additionally, he has experience in HVAC installation, and data analysis. A self-proclaimed practical environmentalist, and avid penny pincher, James established Eco Cost Savings to share his and his colleague’s expertise with the aim of helping to reduce energy bills and carbon footprints at scale.