Making Ends Meet: Saving on your utility bill

JEA offers free in-home assessments, strategies to save on your water bill


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – This is the first of three special reports to help you make ends meet by saving on your water and electric bill each month.

You should know the No. 1 reason most homeowners see an unexpected spike in their water bill is a problem with their irrigation system. JEA senior meter specialist Jonathan Andrews makes free house calls to help customers better understand why their bills might have increased.

Jacksonville homeowner Mary Chilton requested the free assessment when she said her water bill jumped about $100 in just a month.

“A bill of $276 is quite a spike,” she told Andrews when he knocked on her front door.

Andrews started the assessment by checking the irrigation system first. He also inspected Chilton’s sprinkler heads since a broken head can waste up to 25,000 gallons of water in just six months, which can add up to more than $90.

Andrews is able to determine how much water flows through the sprinklers during a certain amount of time and can compare that number to the irrigation settings to determine if there is a leak or if the problem is overwatering.

He could not find any leak to account for Chilton’s bill increase but determined after talking with her that the problem was someone had changed the settings on her irrigation system, causing them to run more often than she realized.

Andrews said this is the most common reason for a water bill increase.

“In most cases, it turns out that the irrigation controller or timer is set to run excessively, whether it’s multiple times in a day or too many minutes per zone,” he explained. “People don’t realize how much an irrigation system puts out, and they may be told they need to water an hour a day, which may be two or three times more than they need.”

Andrews can determine quickly if there is a leak inside or outside someone’s home causing a spike in their water bill.

“Our water meters have a built-in flow indicator or leak indicator and that display or dial will move and that will indicate where is water consumption going on,” he said.

You should know, JEA says 30%-50% of the water you use on your lawn is wasted by evaporation and runoff, which is why you can save money by:

  • Running your sprinklers early or late at night when the sun is not at its hottest point of the day
  • Turning off your irrigation system on windy days, which wastes water
  • Making sure your sprinkler heads are adjusted in the correct position to avoid waste by watering sidewalks or roads

During the late spring and summer months, JEA asks its customers to only water their lawns twice a week. It suggests houses with an odd number address water on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Even number homes should water only on Thursdays and Sundays and businesses should only water on Tuesdays and Fridays to conserve water and prevent an unexpectedly high water bill.

JEA also recommends customers check their irrigation system once a month to make sure it is running during these times of the early morning or early evening hours.

If you are uncertain how much your irrigation system is watering, you can use empty tuna cans placed around your yard to capture water as you irrigate to help you better assess your water usage.

Mary Chilton was relieved to learn her problem was not a leak, but an actual human error caused by someone who had adjusted the irrigation system to water her lawn more frequently than needed. She said she wished she had called JEA sooner.

JEA offers free home assessments, which can be scheduled by calling 904-665-6000, or you can click here to learn more.

Continuing coverage: Making Ends Meet

  • Tuesday: We reveal an easy trick you can use at home to determine if your toilet is running or leaking. We also walk you through three rooms in your home that account for most of your water use and how to reduce that amount to save you money on your next water bill.
  • Wednesday: We tackle your electric bill. We pinpoint the biggest factors that cause a spike and explain why JEA said most people are not using their ceiling fans correctly, costing them more money.

About the Author:

Jennifer, who anchors The Morning Shows and is part of the I-TEAM, loves working in her hometown of Jacksonville.