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Estimated reading: When your energy bill is a calculated guess
 
Estimated reading: When your energy bill is a calculated guess

Not all bills are what they seem. Gas and electric companies are allowed to bill customers based on an estimate of how much gas or electricity was used during a given billing period.

The most common reason for an estimated bill is that the meter reader found it impossible or hazardous to reach the meter. For instance, an intimidating dog in a yard, unusually foul weather or a locked gate may lead to an estimated bill. A company may estimate a bill if a meter has stopped functioning or is believed to be providing incorrect readings.

To estimate a bill, the company will typically look at the customer’s bill for the same billing period from the previous year. Although an estimated read may result in a consumer’s being billed an amount higher or lower than what was actually used, the account will balance out on the next actual read.

An estimated bill must be clearly identified as such. Puget Sound Energy, for instance, prints "Est'd" on the bill, right next to the space that says "present reading."

To avoid surprises, or to see the effects of cold weather on energy consumption, customers can read their own electric or gas meter(s). The gas or electric company can provide instructions on this relatively simple process. Consumers can also find out from their utility when their meter will be read so that they can take their own reading at the same time and compare it to their monthly bill.

Customers who suspect that a meter is malfunctioning can ask their utility to check the instrument for accuracy.
John Cupp

 

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