Exploring common causes for a high bill

High Bill

Did you receive your PNM bill and discovered it is higher than expected? If you are trying to determine what could have caused the increase, we have identified ten of the most common causes behind high household electric usage and provided suggestions on easy changes to help you control energy use and save money.



  Why doesn't PNM know the cause of my high bill?

PNM can only see as far as the electric meter outside your home. The electric usage that occurs inside and around your home is not usually visible to PNM. Anytime there is additional electricity being used, your kilowatts (kWh) increase which means your bill will increase. There are common causes we have identified that can help you determine what may contribute toward your unexpected high bill.


  Comparing your high bill with your neighbor

No two households use energy the same way, so comparing your energy bill to your neighbor's is like comparing apples to oranges. It is best to compare your current usage to your past usage for a more accurate record. Remember to determine if the size of your household has increased or if someone stayed at home more than usual, if a new swimming pool or pool heater was added, a hot tub was installed in your backyard, visitors staying for an extended period, the use of power tools has increased, more indoor cooking, a second refrigerator or freezer in the garage, an RV was plugged into the home, if ambient outdoor electric lights are being used, using mini-splits (depending on the type used) or space heaters as a source of heat is often the culprit of high bills in the winter - you may be saving on gas, but electric usage spikes with these items. If any other changes in energy usage has occurred, this will also cause your bill to be higher.


  Can I get help paying my unexpected high bill?

In tough economic times, sometimes many people need a little help to get by. If customers need help paying their PNM bill, we may be able to help through our assistance programs


 Taking the guesswork out of your monthly bill

Budget Billing gives you more predictable energy bills by balancing seasonal high and lows, taking the guesswork out of your monthly bill. Once signed up, you'll pay a similar amount every month - making budgeting and planning much easier. Benefits of Budget Billing include its predictability because you will always know what your bill will be, it helps you stay on budget, the program is free, and you only pay for the energy you actually use, but your total costs are spread evenly throughout the year. Budget Billing amounts are evaluated twice a year, usually in February and August, and may go up or down based on your actual usage and updated energy costs. To learn how it works and who is eligible, visit PNM Budget Billing.


Calculator Icon  Learn where your energy dollars are going

Our Energy Calculators will help you to find ways to save money and energy around your home and discover what the costs and potential savings could be if you make changes to your energy usage.



Common Causes of High Bills


About half of our home energy costs comes from heating and cooling our homes. We recommend keeping your thermostat as high as comfort permits in the summer and as low as comfort permits in the winter. You can expect 3 percent to 5 percent savings in energy use for every degree you set the thermostat higher in the summer and lower in the winter. In the extreme summer heat and cold winter months, it takes more energy to keep your home at a comfortable temperature. You can't control the weather, but you can control your thermostat, which has a big effect on your bill. Check the kilowatt hour (kWh) total by month. From the history, do the summer months indicate air conditioning? Are the winter months higher, indicating some form of electric heat or higher hot water heater use? Were outside temperatures higher or lower than normal during the period? The additional heating or cooling will cause an increase in electric use. In the summer, having your thermostat set low so your air conditioner runs more often, watering of lawns or gardens, running a dehumidifier, etc. will increase your energy use. On high temperature days, make sure to close your blinds and curtains during the day to prevent the sun from heating up your home and causing your air conditioner to kick on more often. Reduce the cost of purchasing and installing certain energy-efficient cooling equipment in your home by checking out PNM cooling rebates. Many models of evaporative cooling and refrigerated air conditioning units and even room air conditioners qualify. In the winter, if your home has electric heating instead of a gas heater, or if you use space heaters, or fireplaces, then it can dramatically increase your energy consumption. Checkout the PNM Home Energy Checkup program to save energy and money in your home in the winter and summer. If you want to know more about all the ways you can save energy in your home that will help cut your energy costs, here is our PNM Energy Efficiency Program brochure.


 Usage history

Review the kilowatt hour (kWh) history on your account for the last 12 months. This history is provided for you on every bill. You can compare your most recent month to that same month one year ago.  The kilowatt hours you use are the main driver of costs on your electric bill.


 Longer billing cycle

Your bill may be higher if there were more days than average in the billing cycle. Refer to the "Days Billed" section on page 2 of your PNM bill for the length of your billing cycle.


 Unpaid balance or other charges

Your bill may be higher if there was a balance due from a previous month or another related account within PNM. There may be other charges beyond electric service such as any additional service fees (i.e. deposits, connection/disconnection fees or returned check fees), or if the price of electricity for residential service increased due to a recent PNM rate or fuel case.


 Estimated meter reads

PNM always prefers to get actual-meter-reads rather than estimated-meter-reads. An actual-meter-read would mean that a meter reader would be there in person reading the meter or you would submit your own meter reading. We cannot transmit the data without a reading because PNM currently does not have Advanced Metering Infrastructure (more commonly known as AMI) which is a system that measures, collects, analyses your energy usage, and communicates by automatically transmitting the data electronically. Estimated meter reads are done using historical customer account data that include readings from the previous month and last year during the same month. For example, if a customer's bill was estimated in August 2021, then the estimate uses data from July 2021 (the previous month) and August 2020 (the previous year). If the estimated reading is too high or too low, it will correct itself the following month, which is called a catch-up or true-up bill.  Per New Mexico Public Regulation Commission (NMPRC) regulations, PNM is permitted, if needed, to estimate residential meters up to two consecutive months. Customers may have received an estimate due to weather, trouble with accessing the meter on the property, or staffing constraints, for example. On the third month, an actual read is required. If your meter was estimated, they notified you through an automated call using the phone number on your account. To verify if your meter was estimated for the month, look at the second page of your PNM bill. There will be an "E" indicated in the upper-left corner under the section titled, "Your Current Electricity Charges" under "Meter Read". We encourage customers to contact us at 888-DIAL-PNM Monday - Friday from 7:30AM-6PM to discuss any questions you may have regarding your PNM bill or energy usage.


 Refrigerator or freezers in the garage

Many New Mexicans have an extra freezer in their garage to store our beloved chile for the year or an extra refrigerator in the garage for drinks or other cold items. Unfortunately, this also results in more energy usage. The location of refrigerators and freezers is very important. By placing a refrigerator or freezer in direct sunlight or in unconditioned space such as a breezeway, garage or out-building, the refrigerator or freezer will have to work harder to overcome excessive heat during warmer months. Make sure that your refrigerators and freezers have adequate ventilation so they can run as efficiently as possible. If you're looking to upgrade your refrigerators or freezer, make sure you know about all the rebates you can get on Energy Star certified models.


 Appliances in the home

Big appliances, like dishwashers, clothes washers and clothes dryers demand a lot of electricity and using them too often can drive your electricity bill way up. During the summer, wait until 8PM to use them, if possible. For your dishwasher, make sure that you fill it to capacity before you run it, choose an appropriate wash cycle and change the drying setting to use no or low heat. For clothes washers and dryers, try having only one laundry day each week, fill your loads to capacity and select low heat for drying. Using old appliances is probably one of the bigger reasons why you may be paying more on your electric bill. The fact is old appliances simply use more energy than new energy-efficient models. If you need to upgrade your washer, dryer, or dishwasher, make sure you take advantage of all the rebates available for Energy Star certified models. That old-fashioned refrigerator or oven might be trendy; however, it may also be spiking your electric bill.  If you have an old working refrigerator or freezer you would like to get rid of, checkout the PNM Refrigerator Recycling program where we pick it up from you for free then we pay you to allow us to safely recycle it. A faulty appliance, such as a leaky water heater, can lead to a surprisingly high bill. PNM recommends having a licensed contractor perform regular maintenance of your cooling system in the spring, and a heating-system checkup in the fall to avoid system failure and higher-than-normal bills. Or, if you move to a bigger home and purchase a larger refrigerator or a larger TV, energy usage increases which means your bill increases. Checkout the PNM Home Energy Checkup program to save energy and money in your home. 


 Being home more often

During times of higher occupancy and activity such as holidays and school vacations, your energy usage can be higher than normal. Following the pandemic, if your employer is allowing its workforce to work from home fulltime or part-time, this will increase your energy usage as well. To review your usage, log in to your PNM.com account.


 Lighting and ceiling fans

When it comes to lighting, many people make the mistake of using lights to affect the brightness of an entire room, which can contribute to high electric bills. However, lighting is efficient only when used directly to provide light to specific areas of a room, such as couches, chairs, kitchen tables and workspaces. Full room ceiling lights are much less effective than individual lamps for providing the light you need. You'll also pay more on your electric bill if you keep lights on when nobody's using them. Ceiling fans only affect the temperature of the room in which they're installed, so it doesn't make sense to leave a ceiling fan on if nobody's in the room. Additionally, ceiling fans have a toggle switch that allows the blades to switch direction for optimal efficiency based on the season. In the spring and summer, make sure your fan blades are turning counterclockwise which creates a downward airflow to feel cooler. In the winter, they should be turning clockwise at a low speed to gently draw the room air up towards the ceiling and force the warm air down and out towards the walls avoiding the wind chill effect. Go to CheckwithPNM.com for many in-store discounts, including lighting and ceiling fans. Also visit the PNM Home Energy Checkup to help you save energy and money in your home.



These days, there seems to be a charger for everything like cell phones, airpods or earbuds, iPads, tablets, laptops, portable gaming systems, electric razors, electric toothbrushes, and much more. Scan your house, and if something is not being charged, remove the charger from the wall outlet because each one is still drawing energy from your home, even when nothing is attached to the other end. PNM offers instant in-store discounts on advanced power strips that can help you prevent energy waste.