Friday, June 10, 2011

Uncomfortable Realization

Some pieces of information take longer to hit my radar screen than others. Like this map Deus Ex Machina found. It shows how much the residents of each State pay per kilowatt hour for electricity.

Frankly, I'm a little surprised, and actually, a little irritated to discover that Maine has the fourth highest per kilowatt hour rate in the country with only Vermont, New York, and Hawaii paying more. We pay 12.37 cents per kilowatt hour for electricity compared to say, Oregon, which has a similar population density, but pays 7.71 cents per kilowatt hour (Kentucky pays the least at 5.81 cents per kilowatt hour).

I guess I knew the cost of living was higher up here, but I didn't realize that we paid so much more for electricity than nearly everyone in the rest of the country.

The uncomfortable realization comes from the fact that I've been telling anyone who'll listen that our average electrity bill for the past several months has been around $50 - like that's some awesome thing, and in my opinion and experience, it is. If we used the same amount of electricity that the average US household uses, our electric bill would be $123. We pay $50/month. Our average usage is 350 kwh/month, which is about one-third the usage of the average US household. With five people living in our house, it works out to about 70 kilowatt hours per person, and if one were to calculate out the "business" usage (which we don't) and the homeschool usage, our per person rate would be even lower.

I've had the habit over the past few years of breaking things down into dollar amounts, because it's been my experience that when I'm talking about the changes we've made, the one thing that seems to most often get people's attention is the cost savings. What the map made me realize, though, is that if I'm talking to someone from Oregon about my eletric bill, that person could be using twice the amount of electricity we use, but paying the same amount. If I only say, our last electric bill was $50, that person might think, "Big deal! So was mine!" Not realizing that not all electric bills are created equal.

My dilemma, now, is how to talk about the changes in a way that anyone in any part of the country can understand how big the differences are.

Perhaps the best option is to keep that map so that when I'm talking to my friends and family down south, and I'm telling them about our electric bill, I can convert the numbers.

Me: We just got our electric bill. It was $50.

FamMem: So was ours! Guess we did pretty good this month if our bill is the same as yours.

Me: Oh, wait. I just looked at the chart, and if we had the same usage, but lived down there, our bill would have been $20.

FamMem: Hmm ... maybe you should move.


  1. In discussing electric bills with a neighbor I realized she had NO IDEA that it's the kilowatts you must look at, not the dollar amount.

    So, for many people, having both the dollar amount and the usage amount, kilowatts for electric for instance, would perhaps be clearer.
    Water is harder to explain as areas differ in how it is configured.

    By the way, we pay about .09 per kilowatt and my sister pays .075 - she gets it - but she ends up paying more for heat in IN that we do for AC in FL. We both have only 2 adults in the household so we compare kW.

  2. Yeah. I'm not even sure how to figure out our water usage. I've done it before, but it's really complicated, and I have to sit down and really do some number crunching, and I need Deus Ex Machina's help. We pay water every three months, and the total annual bill is less than $200. I think I figured out that we use about 50 gallons of water per day (5 gallons per person) for everything (showers, laundry, dishes, flushing toilets). Most of our water usage is for sanitation purposes, and so if we were to get a composting toilet, for instance, we could cut our water usage, too. So, while we pay a really high price for electricity, comparatively, we pay a very small price for water. I guess that's pretty cool :) .

  3. Too many variables. Up North many people use oil/gas to heat there homes. In the South electricty is commonly used.

    Obviously in Main, you have less need for air-condition (did the snow finally melt up there?) than in Central North Carolina.

    $50 for a family of five is very low. I wouldn't worry too much about the people in Oregon thinking otherwise.

  4. I've always been told our electricity is cheaper in the Pacific Northwest due to the large number of hydroelectric dams we have up here. Of course there are environmental costs that go along with that, the salmon, etc. have paid a price for "cheap" electricity.

  5. Be thankful. Our power cost is around 20 c a kwh here in Western Australia and we've been told its going up by about another 25% over the next couple of years. We have moderate consumption by our standards here and have solar panels which improves our overall costs.