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“FYI for renters with Pepco!”

by Prince Of Petworth July 26, 2016 at 2:55 pm 34 Comments


“Dear PoPville,

FYI for renters with Pepco:

My roommate and I have had a problem with our Pepco bill being ridiculously high since we moved into our 2 bedroom 1,100 sq ft apartment in November. We moved from a 2,600 sq ft house with 5 people and 4 floors, and have been paying as much and sometimes more in our tiny place every single month. My roommate and I are rarely home on the weekends, turn off all our lights during the day, and sometimes are gone for weeks at a time, and our Pepco bill was continuing to rise. We even decided to turn our thermostat to “off” one month and sweated every night trying to lower the bill, and the bill went UP the next month. We also noticed we had an uncategorized amount charged on our bill each month called “Other” that didn’t fit into our energy usage categories. Three separate Pepco customer service agents were not able to tell us what this “other” category was and why we were paying $50+ a month for this uncategorized area.

After countless confused and irritated phone calls to Pepco, they finally told us that we have a “legacy meter.” The meter isn’t read monthly but is based off of past trends in our apartment, AKA before we moved in. So while we have been extremely conservative and trying to use the lowest amount of energy possible, the people who lived in our apartment before us could have been leaving every light on all day and running the air and heat 24/7, and we would be paying for that years later. I was shocked that this was Pepco’s practice and beyond frustrated that I’ve been paying for previous tenants’ energy use practices instead of our own. Pepco is coming to install an AMI meter (that can be read electronically every month) but only after we requested it. Look at your Pepco bill, and if it says “estimated reading” and you are a renter, then you should call and get them to install a new meter ASAP!”

  • Timmy

    Presumably Pepco is reading the legacy meter at some point (assuming they have access to it), and you’ll see a true up on your bill when they realize that you have used less energy than they estimated. You’re not really paying for the previous tenants’ electricity…

    • Anon Spock

      It’s been 8 months, so I’m going to say maybe legacy meters just aren’t read.

      • Timmy

        Well that’s a different problem. Historically, Pepco has read meters on a monthly basis – sometimes a month with odd billing periods would be estimated, but that is it. Anyway, if you look at your bill, you can see how much energy they’ve charged you for. Compare that to your meter and make sure that you get a true up when they install the smart meter.

        • Anon Spock

          I hope they’re able to do so, but I fear, the extra money outside of energy usage may hinder that process.

      • Tsar of Truxton

        Sometimes my water will go unread for 5 or 6 months (estimates v. actual). I end up getting a huge credit at the end when they finally read it. It is annoying, but there are worse things in life as long as you can afford it in the meantime.

        • also anon

          Why don’t you call DC Water and ask them to check the radio transmitter on your meter? Ours was broken and they fixed it at no cost. It’s in their interest to not have to send people to read the meter each month and then you can track your usage online.

          • Tsar of Truxton

            I don’t know. It never really bothered me to be honest. The difference is a $30-40 bill with a few months of no bill every so often v. a $20-30 bill every month, and I wouldn’t be checking my usage anyway. I just have autopay on all that stuff and unless it looks really bizarre, I don’t notice small changes.

          • Tsar of Truxton

            I just checked, and I haven’t had an actual reading since last September, haha.

          • also anon

            Yeah that’s one of the reasons I had ours fixed. I just didn’t want to deal with unexpected charges if it’s not read for almost a year (or paying too much for almost a year). I think they came out and fixed it the next day.

          • tcohen

            I had this issue and called DC Water to get it fixed. They said that it was just a battery that needed to be replaced. Evidently they only replace dead batteries after people complain.

          • Tsar of Truxton

            That’s nuts. I called them, and they are coming out. This is longer than usual.

  • Utilitycat

    This is standard practice in the utility industry, not Pepco specific, just FYI. Sorry you’re getting stuck with high bills, hope this fixes the problem.

  • dat

    Can’t you just call and have them come out for an actual reading,which should true things up? When you switch account holders, they normally come out and do an actual reading so they know where to split the bill.

  • You should also be able to request an actual reading. We had a similar issue years ago and I checked the meter and it didn’t match up with the numbers on our bill. Pepco eventually came out (I think it took a few weeks, but it was a long time ago) and then we basically had no bill for a few months as our usage caught up with what they’d “estimated”.

    Hopefully a new meter fixes your problem, but if that seems to be more than they can handle, it might be easier to just request a reading of the existing meter.

    • Anon Spock

      Smart meters are read every month electronically. I’m sure there could be issues, but it’s been pretty fool proof for me.

      • also anon

        Actually they’re “read” every 12 hours. You can see your hour by hour usage online the next day.

        • Anon Spock

          Read for billing purposes….

          • ah

            Usually “dumb” meters are read monthly by Pepco – they have people who go from house to house. But they realized it was cheaper to put in smart meters than do that.

            Maybe they fired them all before they installed smart meters everywhere, but until I got a smart meter mine was reliably read every month, except maybe once every 2 years. Typically in August – I think the meter reader was probably just taking some vacation while working and noted something in the chart like “couldn’t read – vicious dog”.

  • JP

    Nothing to do with the thread…but the photo associated with it…the wooden pallet says “PECO”, not “PEPCO”. :)

    • hahaha oh man!!

      • Anonskies

        PECO is the electric utility in Philadelphia, which is now a sister company to Pepco since it also happens to be owned by Exelon.

    • bll

      i noticed that too and thought that was the intention?

  • Kennedy St gardener

    This happened to us in our newly bought home, but we had the opposite problem. We were wondering why our bills were so low, but didn’t question it. Then about six months in, our bill was over $100 more than previous months, and we found out that previously our bills were based on the “estimated reading” and they had just turned on the real meter reading, and we were having to catch up. So this message should be for all new homeowners too!

  • Andie302

    This happened to my tenants as well. The meter hadn’t been read for 8 months, and Pepco just kept using estimated bills. The only reason we noticed is that a pipe burst LAST winter, and so one month this winter their bill skyrocketed. We had them come and install a new meter and true up the readings (on a total basis, not month to month) and luckily for the tenants it didn’t cost more than an extra $40 in charges one time.

  • Anon

    I had a similar problem my 700 sq. foot basement unit that had been newly renovated (with brand-new, energy saving appliances). My first electricity bill for September (no heat and no AC was used) was in the neighborhood of $300. November and December were even worse, even though I was gone for more than half of December and I unplugged all the appliances I could and the window heat/ac units before leaving. I called Pepco and they came to read my meter and claimed it was accurate. I had a consumer advocate read the meter. I had an electrician check if something was draining power and he didn’t find anything. He said my bills should be a quarter of what I was being charged. I had a consumer advocate come out with a Pepco rep to read the meter. I tried everything to pinpoint the problem, but my bills kept rising even though I was using the bare minimum of electricity. Nothing helped. One day in the late spring I came home and noticed a new meter had been installed. Miraculously, my bills dropped significantly. Pepco still claimed they were reading my meter correctly, but clearly they weren’t. Five years later, I have never had a bill over $200, even though I run the heat a lot during the winter and I haven’t replaced any of my appliances that were there when I bought the condo.

    • Anony

      I had a remarkably similar thing happen. My Pepco bill for my basement apt was more than the entire single-family house (3 story) above me. It was absurd on it’s face.

      Pepco claimed everything was accurate. I had a Pepco rep come out alone, he said the meter was UNDERcharging me. The fuckin’ nerve on that guy. Then later I had a consumer advocate come out with a Pepco rep to read the meter. The same Pepco rep came out, he got there early and went over to inspect the meter and fiddled around with it. The reading proved accurate. However, after that meeting, my bills dropped to nearly 1/3 of what they had been, and have never gone back up.

      Can I prove that the Pepco rep fixed my meter and claimed it was working the entire time? I cannot. But I know. Oh, I know.

    • $200 is still a lot of money for a 700 square foot unit. You might want to get a second opinion from an electrician.

      • TJ

        Indeed, I live in a 1,600 sq. ft. rowhouse and never have a bill over $50.00 or use more than 400 Kwh in a month. Most bills are $30-35, and one of us works from home.

        We have made an effort to conserve energy./ and are mindful. For instance, we installed LED lights throughout and limit air conditioning use to late evening/sleeping hours when the temps climb into the 90s. We are comfortable and use electronics and appliances just like everyone else.

        • HaileUnlikely

          This is truly, extraordinarily, impressively low electric usage. That somebody else’s bill is double or triple yours does not suggest that their bill is wrong. $200 for a 700-sqft unit that is using neither heat nor air conditioning does sound abnormally high, though.
          Also, I’m guessing you must have gas heat, and maybe gas hot water as well. If you told me that you have an electric heat pump and electric hot water (whether traditional storage tank or tankless) and maintained 400 kWh/month in the winter, that would be approaching mind-blowing.

  • Cassie

    Like others have said, get Pepco out to do a real reading, and you’ll be credited for the over-billing.

  • sbc

    for people in similar situations in the future, the Office of the People’s Counsel can be helpful in navigating customer service and billing problems with utilities.

  • SB_DC

    When I set up the account for my 1100 sq ft condo I received a $1000+ Pepco bill based on estimated usage for May. I filled a Public Utility Commission complaint and they did an actual reading $46. Call them on their BS and

    • SB_DC

      When I set up the account for my 1100 sq ft condo I received a $1000+ Pepco bill based on estimated usage for May. I filled a Public Utility Commission complaint and they did an actual reading $46. Call them on their BS and don’t let it slide.

  • anon

    When I lived in NYC, Con Edison would let you phone in a meter reading to get an accurate bill. When they couldn’t read the meter because no one was home to let them in during the day when they came by (this was before they installed the ones that can be read automatically), they would leave a little postcard with a circle asking you to show what the reading was and mail it in – but I always just called when I wanted an accurate billing. Sounds like they could do that in DC, but don’t.


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