How to Read an Electric Utility Bill (Residential) – Part 1

This is part one in a two part series on how to read residential electric bills. For part 2, click here.

What do you pay?

It seems logical that the best way to determine your household’s monthly electric usage and cost of energy is to simply read your monthly electric utility bill. However, utility companies can cram an overwhelming amount of information into such a small note. And that can make it surprisingly difficult to find what you are looking for. Educated consumers are our best customers (thank you Sy Syms), so we have provided a two-part guide on how to properly read an electric utility bill.

Electric Utility Bill Items

If you are familiar with the items on an electric utility bill and wish to skip to the breakdown of the Account Summary of Charges, please continue to “How to Read an Electric Utility Bill (Residential) – Part 2

Before you begin reviewing your bill, there are several items which each utility company provides on a bill and which you should understand their meaning. Part one of the guide identifies these items. For more detail on an item, we recommend you review our resource section, where we have posted links on how to read an electric utility bill as provided by each utility company.

1. Account Number

Similar to other service providers, the account number is a unique identification number the utility company assigns to identify the account and account service location.

2. Customer Name and Contact Information

The name of the customer in charge of the account and the location of the service. This is typically the home and its respective homeowner. However, in some cases, the person in charge of the account may not be the owner of the home, such as a tenant or spouse. In other cases, the location of the service may not be the commonly listed address but instead the official address listed by the municipally, which Google or Bing may have listed differently.

3. Company Name and Contact Information

The name of the utility company providing the service and their respective contact information. For New Jersey, this is either JCP&L, PSE&G, or ACE. For New York, there are a lot more contenders but a couple of the main ones are Con Edison and PSE&G Long Island. These companies and most others have a website and/or a 24-hour hotline listed on the bill for customers to contact for questions.


3. Utility Meter Reading

The utility meter is the device integrated into your home’s electrical system to read and record the amount of electricity that has been consumed. The utility meter number is a manufacturer assigned unique meter identifier. Utility companies attach this identifier to customer accounts when they deploy the meter to that customer.

4. Utility Meter Information

Additional information provided for a utility meter includes the most recent meter reading results and the next scheduled meter reading date. The meter reading will also state whether it is actual or estimated. (Utility companies often provide an “estimated” meter reading based on a homeowner’s previous usage and other considering factors such as whether. Once an “actual” reading is performed, the estimated amount will be adjusted and credit towards next month’s bill.)

5. Messages

Important notes or recent news that the utility company deems important enough for you to know will be presented to you in this section. This can be a variety of items including promotional deals or new government regulations.

6. Electric Usage Information

The electric usage is how much electricity is consumed measured in kilo-watt hours (kWh) over a given period (monthly). To better understand this rate, 1 kWh is commonly referred as equal to powering ten 100W bulbs for one hour. Have a look at this video by Conserve Energy SoCal…

7. Electric Usage History

The electric usage history is the usage over some span of months or days. The history is often represented by a bar graph. When viewing the graph, pay close attention as to whether the graphs depict average daily usage or actual usage.


8. Account Summary of Charges

The final and most important section provides the total cost of the electric utility bill as well as the breakdown of the cost. Electric rates are broken down by Generation/Supply and Delivery. The Generation/Supply rate is levied upon the amount of energy that was generated and then supplied to your location. The Delivery rate is levied upon the amount of energy that was carried by the local utility company infrastructure and delivered to your location. Prior to electric market deregulation, the local utility supplied the energy and delivered the energy. For deregulated states (states where energy supply need not come from the local utility) Delivery charges go to the local electric company, and Generation/Supply charges can be routed to a 3rd party supplier. As a result, a detailed a bill is sent to customers with several different listed rates and items. This gives the customer more information but is consequently the major factor why an electric utility bill is so difficult to read. These rates and items are further explained in the second section of this guide – How to Read an Electric Utility Bill (Residential) – Part 2


Part 2 of our series gets into explaining rate items. Have a look here!



Should you need further clarification of a particular item on your electric bill, you may be able to find a sample bill with notation posted by your utility company. Below are links to a few that we have found.




Con Edison