Dear PoPville – More Trouble with Pepco

Photo by PoPville flickr user JosephLeonardo

“Dear PoPville,

So I live in a converted 2 apartment townhouse near 15th and T. We live on the 1st floor and basement leve (3br) and the upstairs has 4 bedrooms on 2 floors. The guys upstairs moved in July 1 and just recieved a Pepco bill for over $750 dollars for 2 months. They called and Pepco says it’s correct. I’ve never experienced an electric bill this high. Both apartments have central air and the guys keep theirs around 75.

Any idea what the next steps should be? Is there someone they should contact?”

Anyone ever successfully argue a Pepco bill was too high?

Ed. Note: we spoke about monitoring your meter in an apartment building here.

39 Comment

  • $750 for 2 months of electricity in two units doesn’t really seem that outrageous.

    • I had a similar problem with my first water bill– the usage was 3 times higher than it should have been. I called DC Water, concerned that there was a leak, but there is nothing they can do. Unfortunately, if you just moved in the utilities don’t have any historical usage data to go by.

  • I had a problem with a utility and the PSC helped me fix it.

  • is the $750 for both apartments combined? because $750 between 7 people for 2 of the hottest months seems pretty reasonable to me… i used to live in a 3BR rowhouse and it was not unusual for our pepco bill to be $250-$300 in the throes of the summer.

    • +1. My 2100 sq foot townhouse is between 200-300 in hot months, and that is apparently not uncommon, especially for end units. I have friends whose bill gets to 600/month!

      One good suggestion is to sign up for a free energy audit through DDOE, they will come and tell you where and how to seal up any air leakages in your house. For free.

  • Pepco has the ability to look up the usage data from previous residents and will consider this in an appeal if its vastly disparate. I had PEPCO do this last winter when I got a massive bill in the dec-jan billing period, but apparently the bill from the last resident was even higher, so I just let it go.

  • I had a $1500 bill from pepco. I went to their offices, they looked at the history… And it turned out that they screwed up. It was really $150! I guess anyone can make a mistake….. Initially, they said it was correct. I had to go in to their office to clear it up.

  • For a walk-up one floor 2BR rowhouse apartment with new windows kept at 78 degrees over the last (damn hot) bill period I paid about $130.

    So, this sounds about right, I guess. Did they have to pay for the month they weren’t living there?

  • I live in a converted townhouse. Getting accounts set up for each unit was extremely painful. Pepco once misread our whole-house meter (the outside/entryway lights) and billed us over $500 for a bill that is usually around $20. They mess up all the time. I’d have them send someone out. I live in a 3 bed/3 bath condo and my bill is seldom more than $150 or so.

  • I don’t know how energy-efficient the house is, but $750 for two months in a seven bedroom house with four floors does not sound unreasonable in the middle of a sick heat wave.

  • 1. Considering DC has experienced its worst July/August on record in terms of heat, cooling 2 places covering 7 bedrooms doesn’t really seem out of whack to me.

    What about your hotwater heater(s)? Is it gas or electric because Electrically heating all the hot water 7 people use is also a fortune.

    2. There are two things. Pepco doesn’t read every meter every month. They do an actual reading one month, and then do a guesstimate the next. If they read your meter wrong, it will be verified by the next reading because your bill will be uncharastically small.

    • claire

      At #2 – what?? Is that seriously how Pepco operates?? So you’re telling me even if I change my electricity usage habits drastically that second month, it doesn’t matter? What a bummer . . .

      • it still matters. it will be rectified in the next billing cycle because they will read your meter and you will get charged for usage.

      • umm, it’s what almost every utility every where does if you don’t have a smart meter. before you get angry, this actually saves you money (fewer trips to your house, lower costs) and any difference (positive or negative) gets pulled into the next reading. depends but usually the usage figure will have an A next to it for actual and an E for estimated.

    • They read my meter every month. Maybe it depends where you live?

  • Seems not so unreasonable– $325 a month for a total of 7 bedrooms. My 3 br house, if I kept it that cold would easily be $175. Keeping an upstairs at 75 would be very expensive. I have a three level home (but only 3 br) and to keep my upstairs below 80 would cost me more than I can imagine a month, well over $175 for sure.

    I don’t know what it takes to get separate metering set up, but if you are on the lower level your bill would be way less . . . .

  • I concur that this isn’t too far out of whack for the # of units, # of months, and recent avg temps. Over a long period of experimentation I have benefitted from the following: programmable thermostat about 80 during day, pay close attention to sun patterns and window treatments, fans in windows at night if temp is low-70’s, limited (electric) dryer use, fans anywhere in addition to slight raises in thermostat. Lightweight bedspread- apparently a lot of people use down comforters year round (!?). My house & bill are different, but I’ve kept my bills constant despite rate increases, and not uncomfortable.

  • Whoops! I guess I didn’t make it clear in the email, my apologies! The two apartments have seperate bills and mine (the bottome 2 floors) was a typical $160 monthly bill. The guys upstairs moved in Mid June and this bill reflects about 6 weeks of living there.

    I’ve lived in all different setups before and while some bills pushed $400 for a 4 story house, I’ve never heard of $760 for 2 floors of a house!

    • Ask Pepco when the last ACTUAL Reading was done on the apartment. If you don’t have one of the new “smart” meters, they will bill on an ESTIMATED reading. If an actual reading wasn’t done prior to the previous tenants moving out, these guys are most likely paying for some amount of the previous tenants electric. When I first moved into my place a couple years ago, my second bill was astronomical and turned out that it was because it was the first time they did an actual reading in 7 months. It took Pepco a few weeks for the appeal to get settled (though I only had to make one or two calls), but they wound up pro-rating the bill between the previous owner and me over the 7-month period. Saved me about $300.

  • Yeah their bill is pretty normal for a 4BR that leaves its A/C on all day. Even at 75 inside, that A/C is working hard when it’s 98 outside.

    Unsolicited Reader Revel:

    So glad Kevin Wood changed his PoP ad. The old one had a soul-crushing stare that was absolutely terrifying.

  • This bill seems correct to me. I keep my temp at 82 while home and 85 while away from my house and my bill is $200. When we have 14 straight days of 90+ and you have temp set at 75 that pretty much means that your system is running 24/7.

  • Our 2100 sq. ft. end unit row house (3 floors) has had bills in the $190-210 range for the last couple months. We keep the middle floor at 76.

    I think, based on the last post by the OP, that an error has occurred or they are running a grow operation up there.

    Are they sure it isn’t back charges from the last tenant?

    • Agree with photodork.

      When I bought my house 3 years ago, I got my first months bill and it was in the $300 range, which was surprising since I was gutting the place and contractors came in the second day I owned it and demo’d out the place (all the walls, plumbing, wiring) in 2 days, then left the place for a month while I got my permits straightened out.

      There was literally no functioning electrical service in my place and I still got billed for $300 bucks. Two months of wrangling later Pepco “found” that the usage they were trying to bill me for was the last two months of usage by the previous owner who hadn’t paid.

      They were all “ooops, our bad” after the fact, but I bet they do that crap all the time. Throw a bill out there for new tenants/owners to try to cover past bills just to see what sticks.

  • Unfortunately, Pepco is a pretty pricey utility. In my old 2 bedroom, 2 bath apartment my bill would routinely top $275/month, even with VERY judicious AC use in the summer.

    If you really want to pursue this, ask for another reading (apparently most of the time they don’t even bother reading meters) or go with the PSC as a last resort.

  • I have a 4 story (3 above, 1 below)5 bedroom row house in U street with all new windows (installed 2 years ago) attic insulation and a new super efficient Central Air system installed last year that I never set below 78.

    I also keep the entire system off from when I go to bed until I get home (basically its on 4-5 hours a day except weekends) and my power bill for July was still 150, which was nearly twice what it was in June.

    The past month was uncharastically hot, even by DC standards and if someone has had the thermostat in that size place set to 75, it means its been running 24/7 for a month. Depending on what other things are consuming power in the unit, its isn’t surprising it would be that high.

  • I live in a 3BR middle rowhouse and my June bill was only $98. My highest bill last year was $150 in July. I have a gas water heater, and a programmable thermostat that lets the house warm up during work days and while I sleep, and automatically cools it to 73 before I get home or wake up. I guess it makes a difference.

  • Interesting conversation and the fairly wide disparity among homes. Guess it depends on what appliances use electricity, where the house is located and renovations. My 2br house is never more than $140 a month. Usually $75 on non-air/heat months.

  • Same here and my bill last month was also $98. I work from home, condition with window units, and kept the house comfortable.

    In the past I have had extremely high electricity bills from various electric companies my first month at a new place. Pretty sure they are trying to get you to pay for the last guy who stiffed them.

    I don’t think there is much you can do, but in Virginia all utilities are subject to a public utilites/monopoly commission that you can complain to. Maybe DC has one.

    Good luck — I really hate it when they do this to people.

  • Call PEPCO and make sure your G&T (generation and transmission) is provided by someone other than PEPCO, such as Washington Gas Energy or NextEra. DC is a consumer-choice jurisdiction for G&T, and choosing one of the other options can save you about 10c/KwH, or around $10-$20 a month for a one-bedroom apt. There’s info on the DCPSC website.

  • One thing to keep in mind is the electricity pulled by other things. I was surprised when my electricity bill jumped one month in the fall, after AC season, and stayed up constantly. Then I realized that the jump coincided with my purchase of a big flat screen TV. Turns out those things suck up more juice than you might think. When I first moved into my house I kept my thermostat in the mid 70’s. A couple of summer months with electricity bills that approached $300 cured me of that. Now the lowest I go is 79, and that’s only when I expect to be home. I keep it a few degrees higher when I am out. Which is a reminder that if you don’t already have them, you should get thermostats that allow you to set different temperatures for different times.

  • Call them out, take down their name and employee number (every employee has one no matter what they tell you), and tell them that they’re full of shit.

    Then demand that they come out and actually read your meter. If they say they won’t, threaten them by telling them you won’t pay your bill until your issue has been corrected. If they still aren’t budging, write a letter to the CEO of PEPCO.

  • I have a 3-floor, 1927 rowhouse that was recently renovated, i.e., new A/C unit and much new insulation installed. We also have a ceiling fan in our master bedroom which makes a big difference. We keep our A/C at 78 degrees when we’re home (sometimes 76 at night), 82 degrees when we’re at work or out of town. Our 1-month electric bill for mid-June to mid-July was about $120; same period a year ago was $144.00 and the following month was $155.00. Although our renovation gave us more space to cool, our bills are nearly always lower than they were before the renovation because we now have better insulation and a new, more efficient A/C system.

    So I would say that, during hot weather, on the upper floors of an older and probably poorly insulated house, with an old A/C unit and with the temperature set that low, their electric bill is probably not all that out-of-line. (BTW do they have an electric water heater and/or electric stove? These things add up.) If they can’t get a new A/C unit (and the new units are MUCH more efficient), one thing they might think about is learning to live with the temperature bumped up a little higher, and in particular make sure it’s set high when there’s nobody home. They should also make sure their unit is properly serviced and the filters changed frequently–that also makes a big difference in efficiency.

    • On second thought, that bill does seem awfully high for a period that includes June (and probably part of May). BTW I just re-read the OP and see that they moved in July 1, but received a 2-month bill. If they put the electric bill in their names as of July 1, they shouldn’t be billed for any period before that. In this case they should definitely appeal it to PEPCO; they should not be liable for an electric bill for a period they weren’t living there. Either the unit was unoccupied (landlord is liable), or was occupied by somebody who should have paid the bill (previous tenant is liable).

  • I had a similar issue with Pepco — a bill over $100 for a small efficiency with a new refrigerator and a window air conditioner that is set to 85 when I use it (which is only when the temps outside are 100+). I called the Public Utilities Commission to put in a complaint (over charging and never being able to get through to a customer service representative at Pepco). While the complaint went through the process I paid the amount I normally pay; yesterday I received a letter from the PUC stating that Pepco had misread my meter and my bill had been adjusted by $95.

    I suggest going through the PUC — much easier than trying to deal with Pepco directly!

  • It’s probably a mistake. I too bought a property and gutted it and was recieving electric bills which were $200 to $300 a month for a house which was unlivable with no walls or fixtures. It took me almost 3 months calling Pepco for them to finally find that they had my address wrong in the system. They had mixed up the NW and SE extensions, so I was paying for someone elses usage. Conincidentally, it was on T street as well, just like your case. I would call and verify they are reading the correct address.

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