DETROIT – If you’ve noticed your DTE bills are higher than normal this summer, you’re not alone.
We’ve received several inquiries from readers asking us to look into this. We reached out to DTE to find out why some customers are seeing higher bills. There are three main reasons:
It’s been a hot summer
DTE says one of the biggest reasons bills are higher is the hot summer. “This summer has been one of the hottest on record for the Detroit area, and many customers have increased their air conditioning use to stay comfortable during this period.”
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This summer is on track to be in the top seven warmest on record for the Detroit area. Several of the warmest summers have been recorded since 2000.
Air conditioners use about 6% of all the electricity produced in the United States, at an annual cost of about $29 billion to homeowners, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
Switching to high-efficiency air conditioners and taking other actions to keep your home cool could reduce energy use for air conditioning by 20% to 50%.
More time at home during pandemic
Another big reason is just the fact that we’ve all been spending more time at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, therefore we’re using more energy in the house.
“Many customers have been spending more time inside their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has led not only to increased air conditioning use but also more energy used by computers, televisions and appliances.”
Working from home adds up. Severin Borenstein, an energy economist and director of the University of California Energy Institute, estimates that the average household could spend up to $5 a day, or around $100 a month, on additional energy use during the pandemic. Arcadia found that residents of major metro areas can expect to spend between $20 and $40 more on their monthly energy bills this summer.
The less-likely issue with your higher bill is that it’s being estimated. This happens when a DTE meter reader is unable to contact you to read your meter. DTE will bill you an estimate, instead of an actual reading.
“In the vast majority of cases, if a customer feels a bill is higher than normal, it will not be due to an estimated reading. However, a customer can verify this by viewing the Detail of Current Charges on a bill and looking for the words Actual or Estimate (more details on how to read a bill are online here).
If the reading was an estimate, and the customer believes it was inaccurate, the customer may take a photo of the meter and email it to firstname.lastname@example.org. (Follow the detailed steps on this web page under “Reading and Reporting Your Own Meter.”) We will review the photo, comparing it to our estimate, and contact the customer on next steps if necessary.”
The Michigan Public Service Commission has a one-page guide on how to deal with estimated bills -- and what rules are in place for both the utility company and the customer.
DTE Energy says the company is not performing a higher number of estimated meter reads this summer -- and that most customers have automated meter readers.
How to reduce energy use
- One of the simplest ways to save money and energy at home is to swap out bulbs for ENERGY STAR certified LEDs. Replacing your home’s five most frequently used light fixtures or the bulbs in them with ENERGY STAR certified models can save you $75 per year on energy costs.
- Turn off lights when not in use or when natural daylight is sufficient. This can reduce lighting costs by 10 to 40%.
- The average household owns 24 consumer electronics products, which are responsible for 12% of household electricity use. Unplug electronics such as cell phones and laptops once they’re charged.
- Turn off the TV and gaming systems when not in use. Consider getting a smart power strip, which shuts off electronics that are no longer in use.
- Wash in cold water. Water heating consumes about 90% of the energy it takes to operate a clothes washer. Switching your temperature setting from hot to warm can cut energy use in half. Using the cold cycle reduces energy use even more.
- Clothes dryers use more energy than any other household appliance. Clean the filter after every load to improve air circulation and increase the efficiency of the dryer. It’s also an important safety measure.
- Air-dry clothes outside or on an inside drying rack instead of using a dryer not only saves energy but also helps them last longer.
- Use the right size pots – heat is lost and energy is wasted if the size of the burner is larger than the pot circumference. A 6″ pot on an 8″ burner wastes over 40% of the burner’s heat.
- Use your microwave—it’s the most efficient (and fastest) means of cooking.
- Keep oven and refrigerator doors closed as much as possible. Keeping the oven door closed while the oven is in use can save as much as $20 per year!
- Homeowners can save about 10% of their total energy bills by sealing air leaks first, followed by adding insulation. Seal air leaks using caulk, spray foam or weather stripping. Weatherizing your home this way is one of the most cost-effective ways to improve energy efficiency and comfort.
- Check your air filter every month, especially during heavy use months. If the filter looks dirty, change it. At a minimum, change the filter every three months. A dirty filter slows down air flow and makes your system work harder to keep you comfortable.
- Install a programmable thermostat. Program your thermostat to work around your family’s summer schedule. A setting of 78 degrees Fahrenheit is recommended in the summer. With proper use throughout the year, programmable thermostats can save you about $180 annually in energy costs.
Customers may also receive a personalized energy-saving report by visiting dteenergy.com/saveenergy.