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Old 02-11-2009, 03:47 PM   #1
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Is there a way to tell what's using the electricity from panel?


Similar to the how are you saving electricity post... my electricity nearly doubled all of a sudden, nothing has changed except I connected the solar but I think that coincidence. I got a Kill-a-watt EZ and plugged it into everything that we use, and after adding it all up I can account for $30/month but my bill is $155. Is there a way to measure which breaker is pulling the major draw? I am especially surprised because I have an electric water tank that's heated with solar and since Jan 7th there's only been 3 days or so the solar wasn't heating the water in the tank so my hot water should have been nearly free and my water tank is R17.4 and I added an w/R13 wrap it is seriously insulated. We don't use the electric stove much cause we burn wood for heat and cook on our wood stove. All the lights we use frequently are CFL, and we're not much for watching TV the Kill-a-watt reports my entire entertainment center accounts for less than $7/month.

Anyway to test how much draw each circuit is drawing so I can at least have a chance of finding the culprit? I'm not familiar with a multimeter, I always use a test light designed to "light up" if the wires are live cause I'm simple like that. Can, and exactly how would one use a multimeter (what settings) to test the draw from a circuit in a panel? What would it be to measure a 240v circuit (hot water tank)?


Last edited by Piedmont; 02-11-2009 at 04:01 PM.
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Old 02-11-2009, 03:56 PM   #2
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Is there a way to tell what's using the electricity from panel?


How big of house? What do you have that uses electricity? What type of heating? How many people in the house? What area of the country?
Inquiring minds need to know!

30.00 sounds low so I assume you may be missing something. 155.00 may or not may be high.

Gary

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Old 02-11-2009, 03:59 PM   #3
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Is there a way to tell what's using the electricity from panel?


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Originally Posted by Piedmont View Post
Similar to the how are you saving electricity post... my electricity nearly doubled all of a sudden, nothing has changed except I connected the solar but I think that coincidence. I got a Kill-a-watt EZ and plugged it into everything that we use, and after adding it all up I can account for $30/month but my bill is $155. Is there a way to measure which breaker is pulling the major draw? I am especially surprised because I have an electric water tank that's heated with solar and since Jan 7th there's only been 3 days or so the solar wasn't heating the water in the tank so my hot water should have been nearly free. We don't use the electric stove much cause we burn wood for heat, and cook on our wood stove. All the lights we use frequently are CFL, and we're not much for watching TV the Kill-a-watt reports my entire entertainment center accounts for less than $7/month.

Anyway to test how much draw each circuit is drawing so I can at least have a chance of finding the culprit? I'm not familiar with a multimeter, I always use a test light designed to "light up" if the wires are live. Can, and exactly how would one use a multimeter it to test the draw from a circuit in a panel?

An Inductive amp meter.
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Old 02-11-2009, 04:47 PM   #4
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Is there a way to tell what's using the electricity from panel?


Have they been doing actual readings or estimated readings?

Any motor or pump that could be stuck on?
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Old 02-11-2009, 04:52 PM   #5
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Is there a way to tell what's using the electricity from panel?


Find a clamp amp meter "inductive amp meter" and test wires in your panel. They sell for $40-$100 in the stores.

Turn everything off and check whats pulling what.
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Old 02-11-2009, 07:53 PM   #6
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Is there a way to tell what's using the electricity from panel?


Do you have a pump installed with your solar heating system? I've wondered about these pumps myself in my consideration of adding a primary solar water heating system.

Do you have a sump pump? Boy, when mine is use a lot, I can see an increase to my electric bill.

Don't forget to add those fees, taxes, and what not that are considered as part of your utility bill.

Fans, refrigerator(s), washer & dryer, use of microwave, dishwasher, computer??

How many KW are you using a month?

Something to consider....Do you have an hourly pricing program from the utility company?
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Old 02-11-2009, 08:28 PM   #7
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Is there a way to tell what's using the electricity from panel?


Believe it or not, your RATE of electricity may go UP when you conserve it!
Many utilities give businesses, who use tens to hundreds of thousands of KW / month a much better rate than the do the poor guy who uses only 200KW/mo.
I would look into the solar water pump, as mentioned. They're not small, and a good sized pump could draw 10A or more. If it's on a lot, that adds up.
Also, did you go crazy at Xmas with lights? A lot of bulbs for a month can add up too.

You can take your own meter readings. Write down the reading each month, and see if it matches the usage the POCO states in your bill.

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Old 02-11-2009, 10:06 PM   #8
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Is there a way to tell what's using the electricity from panel?


As said before check with your electric company for any averaging they may have did in the past it normally says it on your bill, then find out who was sneaking the space heater into the bathroom.

I recently did a complete electrical analysis of my house to prepare for solar subsystems and to also find out who the hogs are.
First go out on a normal day and time the disc on your meter just to get an idea of how fast it is spinning. There is a wide black mark on it, time it for one revolution also take note of a number on the meter that may be something like "Kh7.2"

Next turn everything off and unplug it, unplug fridge/ freezer etc., turn off the stove and water heater at their breakers leave all others on - if you have a furnace turn it off at the t-stat.

Go back out to meter, it should be stopped, if not time the disc and record the seconds then turn the breakers off one at a time and go back out to check. If the first breaker doesn't stop it turn it back on and flip the next breaker off, repeat until it does stop. When you find that breaker leave it off and mark it for tracing later if needed. There still may be something that turns on automatically that may not happen while your are watching so keep that in mind.

If the meter has stopped you can now measure your stuff. Next I plugged back in my fridge and turned it to the coldest setting and left doors open - timed the disc and recorded (i usually wait a few minutes and take a second reading), unplug again and repeat with each item you want to measure, for the electric water heater leave the hot tap in the tub running while you go out to read it - all this is very time consuming and took me hours to complete.

I don't measure the small items like tvs or radios I have 2 killawatt meters for that, however I first plug all those small items back in including clocks and microwave etc but leave them off , then measure and record disc time again. I call that number the minimum usage which will draw power 24/7/365 and calculate the cost of that. (don't forget to turn the water heater off again).

Now to calculate the meter times you recorded - watts = 3600 x Kh / seconds in one revolution
If your meter has a Kh7.2 and it took 120 seconds to revolve once then the wattage would be:
3600 times 7.2 = 25,920 now divide by 120 to get 216 watts which is about right for a fridge not in defrost.
I would actually round up 25,920 to 26,000 and make that your meter constant.

For an electric water heater it should take about 6 seconds for one rpm with a Kh7.2 meter
26,000 / 6 = 4300 watts which is also about right for a water heater.

Note: compressor loads like air conditioners and heat pumps take a while for the head pressure to equalize so wait 10 minutes before measuring.
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Old 02-11-2009, 10:39 PM   #9
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Is there a way to tell what's using the electricity from panel?


That sounds like a lot of work to figure out how much power each item uses. You should really check out

The Energy Detective: http://www.theenergydetective.com/index.html

I use it at home and what they say on the site about reducing your energy consumption is true. You see how much you are actively using and what its costing you at that time, it also shows you the estimated bill for the current month. It really makes you want to reduce the amount of power being consumed. I have it connected to a low power computer to data log the energy consumption, the application even has the ability to detect when a certain appliance turns on, you just have to "train" it based on change in power consumption.
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Old 02-12-2009, 12:04 AM   #10
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Is there a way to tell what's using the electricity from panel?


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Originally Posted by theatretch85 View Post
That sounds like a lot of work to figure out how much power each item uses. You should really check out

The Energy Detective: http://www.theenergydetective.com/index.html

I use it at home and what they say on the site about reducing your energy consumption is true. You see how much you are actively using and what its costing you at that time, it also shows you the estimated bill for the current month. It really makes you want to reduce the amount of power being consumed. I have it connected to a low power computer to data log the energy consumption, the application even has the ability to detect when a certain appliance turns on, you just have to "train" it based on change in power consumption.
That is a pretty slick device and read about it before in a different thread here, If I didn't already own $10,000 in test equipment I'd buy one one of those.
I also have digital amp clamps and current transformers for the main breaker panel which I also just replaced. but the reason I say and do what I did is for the very simple reason that the poco don't care what your meters say only what theirs does. So I always double check with both.

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