Plugged In? Then Pay Up. Electricity Costs Rise $300 in 5 Years

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It’s not your imagination. Your electricity bill really has been getting higher and higher.

The average U.S. household paid $1,419 for electricity in 2010. That’s about $300 more than five years ago. During the 15-year period before then (1990 to 2005), the average electricity bill remained fairly flat, pretty much rising side-by-side with inflation. Since the mid-2000s, though, costs have spiked, though not quite as much as health care costs have risen.

The figures come courtesy of USA Today‘s analysis of government data. On the one hand, higher electricity bills should be expected: The average household is likely to be sucking up more electricity today, thanks to the increased use of smartphones, tablets, gaming machines, multiple TVs, and all sorts of other gadgets.

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But the increased use of technology is measured, at least partly, by the fact that modern electronics and appliances require less electricity than older models. A new refrigerator, for example, requires half the electricity of its early ’90s counterpart. Today’s air-conditioners consume less electricity as well.

On the other-other hand (yes, that makes three hands, but oh well), recently constructed houses tend to be bigger than those built a generation ago—so they need more A/C. They also come with more outlets, where lamps, computers, fourth TV sets, and extra fridges are likely plugged in.

In addition to increased usage of electricity, rates have just plain gotten higher. This year, the national average is 11.8¢ per residential kilowatt hour. That’s an all-time record high.

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Costs vary widely from state to state, with Connecticut and Hawaii on the high end (19.25¢ and 28.1¢), and Idaho and Washington at the opposite end of the spectrum (about 8¢ per residential kilowatt hour), thanks to access to hydropower dams. Within a state, prices vary quite a bit too: New York City residents, served by ConEd, pay 26¢ per kilowatt hour, compared to 18.74¢ statewide.

Brad Tuttle is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @bradrtuttle. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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