How to Estimate Electrical Bills

Your electric meter displays your usage in numbers.

Your electric meter displays your usage in numbers.

An accurate estimate of your electric bill is a must for budgeting. Calculating the exact percentage of your income that you'll spend on electric costs is difficult because of the varying factors involved, such as where you live. However, a 2012 study by the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity found that approximately half of the families in the United States spent 21 percent of their income on energy costs, including electric and gas.

Step 1

Visit the official website of your electric company. Some companies provide online calculators based on the rates they charge and your history of usage. Check the personal or consumer section of the website to find customer tools. You may need to create an account and log on before using a calculator for personalized results.

Step 2

Review your electric bills for the last year. Your bills should show your actual electrical usage each month. Check the official website of your electric company for a bill history if you have online access. You might be able to print out your bills from the last year if you don't have copies. Contact the billing department of your electric company if you can't get bills online. Request your last 12 bills or a summary of the bills. You might have to pay a fee for bill copies, depending on the company's policies.

Step 3

Use your most recent bill to get the rates your company charges per kilowatt hour and other fees, such as delivery charges. You may average the usage over the last year to estimate the amount of electricity you'll use, or you may focus on bills from the same period in the preceding year. Multiply your estimated usage by your provider's current rates. Add any extra fees your provider charges for an accurate estimate.

Step 4

Contact the electric company if you haven't lived in the location long and don't have a bill history. Call the customer service department number -- not the billing department, which cannot give you information about the previous person's account. Ask the customer service representative for the usage history over the last year only. Policies vary by company, but you might be able to get the history. Your usage may be higher or lower than the previous person's, depending on your consumption needs.

Step 5

Track your own usage if you have trouble estimating based on past usage. Note the meter reading date on your last bill and the kilowatts used at that time. Check your meter to determine how much you've used since the last reader meeting. Use your electric company's current rates to calculate how much your usage will cost. Multiply the difference between the current usage total and your last meter reading by the figure your electric company charges per kilowatt hour. Add any other fees the company charges to your result.

Step 6

Contact the manager of your building. Your past bills should give you an accurate estimate, but if you haven't lived in the building long, you can ask the building manager for an estimate based on your unit size. If you have older appliances or a lot of devices that run on electricity, your cost may be higher than the estimate the manager gives you.

Warning

  • You may use a general online calculator to estimate electricity use by home size and appliances, but your result might not be accurate. Many conditions specific to your residence, such as the age of your appliances, contribute to overall electric costs.

About the Author

Anna Assad began writing professionally in 1999 and has published several legal articles for various websites. She has an extensive real estate and criminal legal background. She also tutored in English for nearly eight years, attended Buffalo State College for paralegal studies and accounting, and minored in English literature, receiving a Bachelor of Arts.

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