Maybe it's the extreme changes in weather, the big homes or affluent consumers who don't mind paying top rates for cable TV, but whatever the reason, Baltimore, Maryland is the most expensive U.S. city for utility bills -- with the average customer paying $359 a month in May.

Those living in Los Angeles can breathe a sigh of relief. Utility bills there are among the least expensive at $193 a month, according to a monthly survey for May by WhiteFence.com, a web site that helps people shop for better cable TV, telephone, Internet, electricity and natural gas prices in the United States.


The WhiteFence Index is derived from the orders the company takes from customers each month, along with rate information from utility providers. The company surveys 21 major metropolitan areas, says Bob Harris, CEO of WhiteFence.

Here are the cities ranked by total utility costs for May, from cheapest to most expensive:
  1. Los Angeles, CA $193.36
  2. San Diego, CA $194.50
  3. San Francisco, CA $207.69
  4. Minneapolis, MN $210.60
  5. Indianapolis, IN $219.99
  6. Denver, CO $235.42
  7. Atlanta, GA $244.55
  8. Seattle, WA $254.90
  9. Washington DC $259.61
  10. Boston, MA $262.85
  11. Philadelphia, PA $265.25
  12. Charlotte, NC $274.11
  13. Phoenix, AZ $274.33
  14. New York, NY $279.06
  15. Las Vegas, NV $285.88
  16. Chicago, IL $287.27
  17. Portland, OR $305.24
  18. Dallas, TX $309.10
  19. Orlando, FL $312.04
  20. Houston, TX $315.99
  21. Baltimore, MD $359.29
The variables that make up the final tally include home size, electricity rates, usage and weather. Other factors, such as marketing and customer affluence, can also impact costs.

Electricity tends to comprise the largest percentage of overall utility bills, Harris says. Baltimore, for example, was not only the most expensive city for overall utility costs, but it was also among the top five most expensive cities for electricity bills. Of the $359.29 average utility bill in Baltimore, $178 went toward electricity. The city's electricity and natural gas provider, Baltimore Gas & Electricity (or BGE), disagreed with similar findings by WhiteFence last year. It argued that WhiteFence's study is misleading and faulty. Harris says BGE isn't looking at the whole picture, it was looking at the rate and not at usage.

Weather is probably the biggest factor in determining the size of a utility bill. With less extreme weather in L.A., heating and cooling a home there is cheaper than in Baltimore where there are cold winters and hot summers.

Here are the highest and lowest city rankings broken down by individual utility rates for May, according to the WhiteFence Index:

  • Phone: New York, $39; Portland, $26
  • TV: San Diego, $77; Minneapolis, $48
  • High-speed Internet: Charlotte, N.C.; $45. Phoenix, $32.
  • Electricity: Baltimore: $178; San Diego, $26
  • Natural gas: New York, $50; Boston: $9.

For people looking to cut their monthly utility bills, WhiteFence and other comparison web sites, such as Saveology and BillShrink, can help. On a national average, WhiteFence customers save $76 per month, or $917 a year, off their total utility bill -- TV, phone, Internet, electricity and gas -- by using the service, the company says. In Baltimore, WhiteFence says it could save residents $87 per month.

Aaron Crowe is a freelance journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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