Dear PoP – Pepco Help

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Photo by PoPville flickr user schmiddi

“Dear PoP,

I’m not sure if you’ve done any stories about this in the past, but my Pepco bill has jumped from $68 in October to $330 in December. My roommate and I share a smaller two bedroom apartment in an older row house. We are very energy efficient and were actually out of town for 9 days in December while we racked up this bill- the heat was off and major appliance were unplugged. So my question is, does the bill seem reasonable for December or is there something wrong with my bill or heating system? Any help you or your readers can provide would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.”

Has anyone had crazy increases to their Pepco bills? I’ve never had an electric bill jump that high? Has anyone had an error in billing before? If so, how did you remedy it?

48 Comment

  • check the dates of the billing cycle. for the last 5 years pepco has charged me one bill for the months of august and september (combining them into one 60 day month). never asked why.

  • After a $72 bill in November, the following month I received one for about $1,400! Which was 10 times the proper amount (Lots of Dec. guests, I had expected a jump to twice that of Nov.) 10 x too much = meter reading error. I looked at the meter and could tell. Your bill was probably supposed to be 33$ since your use was down. I called customer service and they took care of it over the phone – I didn’t even have to “wait” till the next reading.

  • I remember that happening to me last December or January. My bill jumped from $80 (for small 2 BR in rowhouse) to over $300, but I assumed it was because of the frigid temps in January. And then it seemed to dip again in February to normal. Has been fairly steady in new house this winter so far.

  • I would guess that it is probably some sort of error on PEPCO’s part. My experience has been that they make lots of them.

  • ah

    1) Possibly an error (off by a digit)
    2) Longer billing month (I got a notice), although that should affect it only by 10% or so. (That is, they may have gone 35 days between readings instead of 30).
    3) Was previous reading an estimate instead of actual?
    4) Was heat fully “off” or just set lower? Because if it’s forced air, it’s going to be running a decent amount, even if you burn gas/oil, with the cold temps we had in December

  • On an unrelated note; Pepco’s billing and customer service are truly terrible. I forgot to mail in a check and was disturbed to find that even if I paid the $4 fee for paying them via credit card, they don’t take AmEx or Visa. Plus, customer service was beyond terrible. I tried to set up an online payment account last Friday, emailed them for support when no payment option appeared, then followed up Monday when I hadn’t heard anything. After waiting +/- 25 min on the phone, their service department heard me say something about being unable to pay my bill online and promptly transferred me to the phone payment system.

    As an aside, the phone payment system did not work, either. I am grateful for my electricity, but it always surprises me how abrasive dealing with DC service providers is. I think it’s because we have little direct way as residents to do anything about it. Can anyone on PoP recommend to me a mayoral candidate who could honestly be billed as a reformer?

  • PEPCO is the way it is BECAUSE of the DC council. They refuse to raise the rates to even reasonable levels. PEPCO takes in less money than it costs to maintain the current infrastructure because of the regulatory commission. Pepco sees this as a problem of you electing the wrong people.

    And then they’re a utility so there is no real point to good customer service. You’re stuck with them one way or another.

    I think they suck too, but it’s like fighting taxes. You’re wasting your breath.

  • I have the same issue as rg but my combined months are June/July. It is truly bizarre. I’ve called to try to get them to adjust the billing cycle with no luck and the phone rep has never been able to explain to me what’s going on.

  • my bill jumped more than 2x for the january statement, despite being out of town for a week. i just attributed it to the fact that i was new to the house and hadn’t yet established a good winter baseline for what bills should be in cold weather – however, i’d be interested to see what people have to say…

  • You might have a leak. I had the same thing happen with my WASA bill and it resolved itself after a repair. Look for any electricity pooled around the base of your TV or computer.

  • Mine jumped dramatically for December, but November was estimated. If I combine the two months, it makes some sense.

  • This has been an issue in our (brand new) building. Residents have been shocked by huge increases in our PEPCO bills over the past month… not everyone’s have come yet (go, PEPCO), but many have reported 250% increases. Even considering that we’re on a forced air system and the weather, this seems to be pretty high.

  • It was really cold last month – our last bill was $100 and the bill that arrived yesterday was $200. I believe that the per kilowatt rate changes seasonally.

  • This same thing happened to me. My Nov. 15th – Dec. 15th bill was $89 and that included both me and my roommate being out of town for Thanksgiving. The invoice from Dec. 15th – Jan. 15th was $236!!! We were both gone for about 5 days around xmas. I know it was cold in January, but that seems ridiculous, especially since I turn off the heat when I leave each day for work.

    I haven’t called yet, but I’m not expecting much. Anyone have any advice?

  • I had the same thing happen two years ago in my Capitol Hill Rowhouse. It was a meter error. Call and contest it. Be ready to fight for it.

  • ah

    One solution (of sorts) to this is to get on a budget plan. Your bill is the same every month (unless your usage goes way up, in which case you pay up at the end of the year).

    At least on a budget plan while you may be shocked by a monthly bill at least you don’t have to pay it right away, it’s spread out over the course of a year.

  • Same thing happened us – we went from $150 to $300 and the apartment was completely empty for five days. We thought it was the cold weather but if we’re not the only one’s who have had their bills changed due to a mistake maybe a call to Pepco is in order.

  • we had a huge jump in our pepco bill, too (from $150 to $350). it could be your heating system, it could be pepco, but i think it’s just b/c of what melissa said above – it was really freaking cold last month and energy prices go up in the winter. even if you’re energy conscious (i.e. CFL bulbs, keep temp low, etc), old buildings and heating systems sometimes have a real hard time keeping up! for us, i don’t think it was a meter error b/c we know our heat pump was running all day just trying to get up to 65 degrees.

  • we had the same problem — got a truly ridiculous bill. given the number of people here with the same problem though, i’m going to guess it was the unusual cold of december. remember the blizzard? it was cold. very cold.

    can’t hurt to call and ask though!

  • houseintherear

    In comparison, we’re quite lucky with Pepco. BG&E’s rate per kilo are through the freaking roof- a friend with the same sq ft house in Anne Arundel Co pays a $350 electric bill each month. Mine is usually $100 or less.

    If you’re not sure it’s right, go read your meter. It’s four numbers, then you match it to the bill and check it out. It’s really not that hard.

  • If it ends up being a PEPCO billing error and they’re not responsive you can always file a complaint with the Office of People’s Council. I’ve never had to do it, but I know some folks who have and apparently they’re good at getting results:

  • my bill went up this month, too, for no apparent reason. maybe a rate change or the cold weather i guess. i am turning the heat even lower at night to see if that brings the bill down some.

  • For the past two or three years we have had anomalously high Pepco bills in January followed by anomalously low ones in February — in the end it has evened out. I have no idea why this occurs, but I assume it stems from Pepco’s meter reading estimation methodology.

  • My November Pepco bill was also sky high – about three times higher than what I was expecting (based in part on my November 2008 bill). I called Pepco, and they said they’d arrange to have the meter re-read, but in the meantime to pay “any amount” for that November bill. I paid around what I thought it should be (based on the previous year’s bill). I expected that the amount would be remedied in the next bill I received, but it still hasn’t been. Maybe in the February bill the discrepancy will be cleared up?

    It’s definitely worth calling Pepco to ask them to look into it.

  • If you have a heat pump, the cold snap we had in December is going to have a major impact on your bill for that period – even if you were out of town and had it set fairly low.

    Most heat pumps aren’t effective below the mid 30’s and at that point activate a “supplemental” (read: electric restive) heat, which can cost 3 to 4 times as much to operate per hour.

    Usually it doesn’t get that cold for that long in DC, so the period of time the “supplemental heat” runs is pretty limited. But I imagine for most folks, it ran pretty much solid for a couple of weeks.

    Landlord always think it’s funny when I ask what kind of heat source when searching for a new rental. But a shocking number of the newly built, or recently renovated properties in DC use heat pumps.

    • Also – re: Pepco and lower billing rates in the winter: Yes, there is a sightly lower rate, but it’s almost meaningless in difference. I calculated it would save me about $4.00 a month compared to the summer rate.

    • this is exactly what happened to us. our heat pump was majorly struggling for a week or so. when i checked the thermostat, it said it was on emergency +2…and still couldn’t get warm. ahh, heat pumps and high pepco bills.

  • My Pepco bills have been fine, but my gas bill shot up the past couple of months – guess that’s what happens when you fire up the radiators in a house with very little insulation.

    • warderite: take a look at buying your ng at fixed therm cost. if you are paying higher cost/therm then the purchasers at your gas supplier -washgas, screwed up. buy it yourself and save $$, or at least hedge against increases. besides the utils dont pass the cost on 1:1 anyways. youll pay more in the summer generally when demand tanks, but your summer usage cost is nothing compared to what you wont pay in the winter when you use most of the gas.

      • ah

        So buy some NG futures maturing each winter month?

        The problem is that the competing energy supplier jack you on the fixed-cost contracts. WGES is asking about 10-15% more for a fixed-rate contract than for the floating price near month. Now, that premium may be worth paying to avoid the risk, but it strikes me as about a good a deal as the Best Buy extended warranties.

  • The same thing happened to me and my roommate for the last billing cycle. It went from about $95 to $270 – in one month. And it makes no sense because over the holidays, no one was in our apartment for about 5 days. And we are fairly conservative with our electric usage. So we called and Pepco will come out and do another meter reading, we hope it’s right this time.

  • This happened to me earlier this year bill jumped $200+ in one billing cycle. I looked at my usage history and it was double or triple what it had ever been (even in extremely cold/hot months with alot of heat/AC use). I had already paid the bill when I called but they did another meter reading and corrected it. In the end I had a credit on my acct and didn’t pay an electric bill for a couple of months.

  • this is amazing that you guys are discussing this right now. I just returned home from work and opened my pepco bill: $276.72. WHAT??? I was upset by last month’s bill of $122.52, and never in my wildest dream did I think this month’s bill would be this much. Th rest of you will have to get in line b/c I will be calling pepco first thing tomorrow morning to bitch about this outrageous bill. Unbelievable.

  • I have been having this same problem–and here is what I have gathered so far. Our bill is based on an \estimated\ meter reading because our meter is inside our house. In our case, we set up our account when we started our lease in September. Because the house had been empty for the summer, Pepco’s reading at the start of our lease was very low; therefore our ‘estimated’ readings for the next 2 months were also very low–way below what we were using. When Pepco came and read our meter in November, we received a bill for $500. Which makes sense.

    Now however, our last two ‘estimated’ readings are also sky high, and the estimated readings do not match our actual meter reading. My theory is that Pepco didn’t make the connection that our Nov. bill represented 3 months of use, and just assumes that we are using that much each month. We haven’t. I called, after 25 min. I got someone to adjust our bill. Don’t know yet how it will turn out. But it seems to me that Pepco has no problem forcing you to pay more one month, and refund you where they’ve overcharged. It totally sucks, but so does Pepco. Sorry for the long message, but if this sounds like anyone’s situation, then I hope this diatribe helps you to figure out your situation.

  • I think I might as well go in

  • I was so surprised by my December bill that I contacted Pepco. Their explanation was that the average temperature in December was much lower than that in November. I eventually came to the same conclusion as bdh: it was the heat pump, which is terribly inefficient at temps below freezing. Fortunately, I have a dual-zone system, so I’m shutting off the heat pump during the next cold snap and relying solely on the furnace. We’ll see if that makes a difference…

    • Eli,

      You have a 2 stage system, Stage 1 Heat Pump, Stage 2 furnace. A Dual zone system is as an example one system for upstairs and a second for downstairs

  • Pepco is horrible. They charged me $540 for my power usage in March (when we used hardly any AC or heat) and I’ve never had a bill in Winter or Summer that was higher than $230. They wouldn’t take care of it over the phone. I have been fighting them for months (March 09 to present) through the public service commission.

    I hate that I have no alternative to their horrible customer service and erroneous bills.

  • I had this happen two years ago…a ~$70 bill jumping to ~$200 in January. I called and read the meter to them over the phone, but they said the reading was correct. I just didn’t pay the bill, because I knew something was up. The next month, I received a bill for around $70 again, just like normal.

    Not advocating skipping out on your bills, just saying what happened. We’ve since moved out of that place and closed out our account, and the bill never resurfaced.

  • Hi!

    I’m Andre from Pepco. I run the social media initiative over here, hence the reason I came across this blog post. I’d love to help you and anyone who took the time out to respond to this post with your issues. If you’re interested, the best way to get the ball rolling is to send a detailed email (including your account number, service address, and issue) to [email protected]. I can also be contacted at

    I hope to hear from your soon!


  • heya,

    I wish i’d found this earlier.

    I also had a rediculous bill in January – our KWH went from 790 in Oct, 632 in Nov, 736 in Dec, to 1882 in January. Given that we had one less housemate in the house than usual, plus i was gone half of December, we were stunned.

    PEPCO’s got to be gaming the system somehow…

    • oh yeah, and we just got our bill for January usage – back down to 912 KWH. and all the housemates were here all month.

  • I saw the comments from people about their Pepco bills.

    There is really no reason why anyone in DC should buy their electricity directly from Pepco when you can get it at lower rates from competitive energy suppliers who provide electricity through Pepco.

    For those who aren’t familiar with it, DC and Maryland deregulated their electricity industries. Pepco will always deliver the electricity to your home but you don’t have to buy it from them. You have the right to choose the energy company that supplies your electricity

    Pepco charges residential users 11.34 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) for electricity generation and transmission. That is about 12% above competitive market prices.

    The best offering now available for residential users in DC is from Washington Gas Energy Services (WGES), a major competitive energy supplier that provides electricity and natural gas to 280,000 business and residential customers in our area.

    WGES’ offer for residential users who enroll right now is 10.4 cents per kWh, fixed price. Pepco delivers it.

    WGES’ fixed price offer is important as it will protect residential customers from price increases on their electricity supply for up to 36 months. If you move, you can cancel the agreement without penalty or transfer your account to your new address.

    Here is how you can see and evaluate WGES’ best offers:

    1. Get your Pepco bill. Look at the “Price to Compare” in the fine print on your usage table on page 2. This is the average annual cost that a residential user in your rate class pays per kWh for electricity generation and transmission. (For the typical residential user in rate class “R”, it is 11.34 cents per kWh.)

    2. Go to the following link to obtain WGES’ best offers. (Don’t access it via WGES’s public website. You will get lower prices here than if you go to WGES’s public website) :

    3. Compare your bill’s “Price to Compare” with WGES’ offers and make your decision.

    4. If you want to do something nice for the environment, choose one of the clean, green wind power energy options to support eco-friendly power production.

    5. Hint: We are energy brokers who follow the commodities markets. Energy futures for future deliveries are up, suggesting electricity prices will continue strong over the next several years. It would be wise to lock in a 24 or 36 month fixed price electricity rate, especially since you can break WGES’ agreement with no penalty if you move. For WGES’ offer not to be a good deal, Pepco would have to reduce its rate by more than 12% and keep it down 12% for several years. In my opinion, you have a better chance of being hit by a meteorite than Pepco reducing its rate that far and keeping it down for three years.

    If you choose WGES as your electricity supplier, Pepco will continue to deliver your electricity, respond to problems, read the meter, and do the billing as always. None of that changes. No change is made to physically deliver the electricity. Nothing is connected or disconnected.

    For Pepco, implementing WGES as your supplier is primarily an accounting function. The price you will be charged on your bill for electricity generation and transmission services will be your WGES’ price rather than Pepco’s normal rate.

    Anyone who has any questions may call me at 202 550-8357 or email me at [email protected]

    Who we are: Our firm is a licensed energy brokerage located in Bethesda. We help property owners and businesses reduce their Pepco bills by helping them buy their electricity at lower prices. 99% of our work is helping commercial clients. If you own a restaurant or an office building, we can probably trim your Pepco bill by 12% to 20%.

    If you own a condo or house in DC, the above mentioned link will get you special pricing not normally offered to the public. In the interest of transparency – We earn no fee from it unless it is a large client.

    Michael Strotz
    Energy Consultant
    Electric Advisors, Inc.
    7700 Old Georgetown Rd, Suite 550
    Bethesda MD 20814
    202 550-8357
    [email protected]

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