When you sit down to pay your bills every month, you usually know what to expect, right?

Your housing payment doesn’t change. Your car payment doesn’t change. Your insurance payment doesn’t change.

So do you ever sit down and ask yourself: “Why does my electric bill payment change?”

This is a valid question, and an understandable frustration. You probably feel that your electricity usage is about the same every month. And yet, you have months where your bill might be $50-$75 more or less than the previous month!

If you’ve ever wondered why your electric bill is so unpredictable, here are a few reasons that might explain the variances:

Issue #1: Variable rates

You may not even realize it, but your bill could be based on a “variable rate” system.

Here’s how that works: at different times of the year, the base price of electricity (measured in an amount per kilowatt-hour) changes. The energy market is rather volatile, so it’s common for providers to offer a variable rate plan to account for this.

Every month, your rate is likely to change. Some months it goes up, other months it goes down. As a result, your bill will fluctuate dramatically.

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There are even times when the rate can change hourly. If you are signed up for a variable rate plan, you are likely to always experience fluctuations in your bill. If you’re not sure whether or not you signed up for a variable rate plan, check your latest energy bill for more information.

Issue #2: Your usage changes

This is the simplest explanation - and yet, it often goes by completely unnoticed.

Think about the times of the year when you might use more electricity than other times. In the heat of summer, you might be running your air conditioner more often. During the holiday season, you might have extra lights plugged in to decorate your house.

Those are just times of the year when you might think, “Why is my electric bill so high all of a sudden?” But those are also fairly obvious.

Think about when you add a new appliance to your house, or when you start running a space heater in your home. There are lots of times throughout the year when your electricity usage is going to go up.

Before you start to panic, take a step back and think about how your electricity usage has changed. The good news about this issue is that it is largely in your control, so you can prevent these large fluctuations from hitting your energy bill in the future.

Issue #3: Daylight Savings Time

Spring forward, fall back.

This is another very overlooked cause of energy bill changes. Whenever we think of Daylight Savings Time, we immediately start talking about the change in our sleeping habits. Or we talk about how happy or sad we are that the sun is setting earlier or later.

But think about how that affects your energy usage.

If the sun is going down earlier, you might find yourself turning on the lights throughout the house a lot earlier, too. That extra hour of darkness means an extra hour of lamps and turning on other lights.

And of course, on the other hand, an extra hour of sunlight means one less hour you need to have the lights on. In that case, you save yourself a few dollars.

If you’re looking at your electric bill in the spring or in the fall and you notice a dramatic difference in your bill, Daylight Savings Time may bare part of the blame.

Issue #4: Vampire sources

And finally, there’s one energy waster that might be more dangerous than any other: vampire sources.

What are vampire sources? Vampire sources are appliances and electronics that stay plugged in all the time, even when they are not in use, and they draw a small amount of energy while they are off.

Televisions, computers, phones, even some kitchen appliances… these are all potential vampire sources in your home. And sure, vampire sources might not be the cause of a sudden $50 surge in your energy bill. But they are small drains of electricity that do add up over time, especially if you have a lot of them.

The simple solution? Unplug things when they are not in use. Even if your TV is turned off, it can be drawing electricity. And that electricity adds up over time. Stop these vampire sources right away and you can keep those little charges from driving up your energy bills over time.

Issue #5: Hosting a lot of guests

Whether it’s in the fun summer months or the festive holiday season, there are times of the year when you might find yourself hosting a few parties.

What happens when you host parties? You cook a little more often, you have lights on in rooms of the house that you don’t normally spend time in (like the basement or rec room), and you might be up a little later than usual - leaving the lights on.

When you are hosting a lot of guests fairly often, it’s common to see that reflected in your electric bill. It may not be a cause of concern necessarily, but it helps to know if that’s the reason why your bill has fluctuated.

When your energy bill fluctuates unexpectedly, take action.

You don’t have to settle for a fluctuating electric bill.

The moment you notice a large change in your electric bill, take some time to do your homework. Investigate these issues. If you find that there is a clear reason why you have such a different bill, now you know how to address the problem.

In some cases, it might not be a problem at all. If you have a variable rate, then you just know to expect a different bill every month. And if that bothers you, maybe you can contact your utility company to see if you can be put on a fixed rate plan.

The last thing you want to do in these situations is panic. It’s rare that your electric bill fluctuates by a large amount and you have no explanation for it. There is usually a simple reason why your bill has changed.

So take the time to look at it. And when you can narrow it down to one or two reasons why, then you can think about whether or not you need to take action.