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Mimi413 03-10-2009 02:12 PM

What is using all the kWh?
My power bill has risen substantially in the last 4 months.

My son is away at college, I'm the only one in the house, I'm home on average 10 hours a day. I cook less, wash clothes less, there is 1 less shower a day, I keep the thermostat on 67 during the day and 70 when I'm at home. I've closed the upstairs doors so I'm not heating those rooms. My power company says I have a state of the art meter and there can't be anything wrong. I do know that it's not likely those meters have problems. I work for an electrical contracting company (in the office) and have asked here at work. The hot water isn't any hotter than usual, the fan on the HVAC isn't running all the time. I need someone to advise me what I can do to make sure this is correct or how I can fix the problem.

House is 1780 sq. ft with vaulted ceilings in foyer and living room - three rooms upstairs are closed off
Heat with electric heat pump (2 units, 1 for up and 1 for down)
The house is 6 years old and all appliances are 6 years old or less
I have a well for water
I already use low compact florescent bulbs in the lights

This year
10/13/08 kWh used: 651 - I thought correct
11/12/08 kWh used: 1228
12/10/08 kWh used: 2511
1/13/09 kWh used: 2276
2/11/09 kWh used: 2600

2007 (when my son was living at home)
10/11/07 used: 995
11/9/07 used: 1145
12/11/07 used: 1981
1/11/08 used: 2182
2/13/08 used: 2321

From the detailed analysis the power company provides the temperatures have been relatively the same in comparison.

I am at a loss and can't afford this to continue and I don't know who to call for help fixing this.


Dragon 03-10-2009 02:51 PM

Only a suggestion......

Get one of these Kill-a-Watt's and start working your way through the house. Of course the items that are hard wired in can't be tested but by eliminating the others sources you will eventually find the energy hog culprit.

Good luck and let us know what you find and if there is a solution.

Bob Mariani 03-10-2009 03:36 PM

Take that big cord running to your neighbor's house off the main panel or start isolating like the Dragon mentions.

Yoyizit 03-10-2009 03:41 PM

1 kwh for 720 hours = 720 kwh = the average house, for a month. At 240v this is about 4A.

At 2100 kwh this would be 12A all the time or 24A half the time, so we're not talking hair dryers or toasters. I'd suspect elec. aux heat demanded by your HVAC system, perhaps justifiably.

You could ask PoCo for what percentile your power draw falls into, if they'll tell you. Or, you could poll forum members with the same basic setup and Heating Degree Days for this period as Durham.

HandyPete 03-10-2009 03:46 PM

Those numbers all look pretty normal to me. Forget that funky meter gimmick. Everything that plugs into a receptacle has a nameplate that clearly indicates the wattage and can easily be calculated.

It's a bit of everything, take it easy and just try a few simple things.


(master electrician)

jogr 03-10-2009 05:18 PM

I think it's called winter. Have you checked how frequently your heat pumps are using the electric strip backup. Could be something wrong that is causing them to use more strip heat than normal.

Added note: Your setback could be causing your heatpumps to switch to strip. When it resets to 70 when you get home see if the strips kick in (sometimes after a short while). Usually heatpumps will go to backup if the setpoint isn't reached in a certain amount of time. You'll notice the output temp goes up when the strips kick in.

Billy_Bob 03-11-2009 09:04 AM

If the temperatures are in fact the same as last year, then I would think you would be using less kWh.

Have you purchased anything new in the last year like a new TV? (These can use more electricity than the old TV's.)

You could have a slow water leak and this is making your well run a bit more. This could be difficult to find or detect. With city water, there is a water meter and you can shut off all water for an hour or half a day, read the meter, then go back in an hour or half a day and see if the meter has changed.

But I don't suppose you have a water meter on your well! Sometimes you can place your ear to faucets inside and outside and to water pipes and hear a leak. I would check everywhere. If you have a crawl space under the house, check there for leaks. You can also sometimes walk along the path the water pipe goes from the well to your house and find a "squishy" wet spot where the pipe is leaking.

Then of course fix obvious leaks like dripping faucets, running toilet, etc.

The only other thing I think it could be is your heat pump. Be sure you hear the outside unit running when it is heating. If this unit is not working, then it uses electric coils inside instead (more expensive). On very cold days, the outside unit can't heat and it would switch to the inside coils. But this would happen more often if it was colder this year than last year and you said this is not the case!

Be sure to vacuum under the refrigerator. If lint is blocking, it works harder to cool the refrigerator.

Also clothes dryer. Check outside vent to be sure air is coming out and the vent is clear. Clothes dryer not running longer is it?

Then other than that, you have a new house and should have good insulation. You have energy saving bulbs. If things get desperate, you can turn off the water heater and take fewer showers. Just turn on water heater for 15 to 30 minutes a day for warm water. Or on for an hour before a shower, then off. An electric water heater can be 30% of an electric bill.

Also can wash clothes in cold water. Don't use dishwasher, wash dishes by hand.

More energy saving tips...

P.S. You can get power strips which don't have a lighted switch, just an on/off switch without the light and plug in things which you can turn off when you are not using them. This saves a little. Like microwave, TV's, stereo, coffee maker. Things with electronic clocks or remote controls.

Regular phones (not wireless) which plug in will work without being plugged in, just can't use the speed calling or non dialing features.

Unplug chargers like for cell phones when not in use. Basically unplug things or turn off with a power strip when not using it. Almost everything these days still uses a bit of electricity when "switched off"!

DangerMouse 03-11-2009 09:35 AM

from my understanding, the hot water heater (if elec.) is the biggest powersucker in most homes. i'd look in that direction and the heat strip direction first.
to see if you have a water leak, simply go by the well and listen to how often the pump runs. have someone inside turn on a faucet and time how long it takes before the pump kicks in, if it's immediately, you may have a bad bladder in your pressure tank, so the pump runs any time you turn on a faucet. just a couple more things to consider.


unixb0y 03-11-2009 10:14 AM

There is also a digital wireless meter that you can attach the house meter.

What you would do then is start turning off breakers and see where the load is coming. Some utilities sell/subsidies the device.

Black and Decker also has a re branded version.

geno2 03-12-2009 12:30 PM

Heat pump is the culprit!
Hi Mimi413,

I suspect that you will get your answer over the next few months. Like several of the other posters, I think that it is extremely likely that the extra electricity is going to your heat pumps. If that is the case, you'll see the difference as the heating season comes to a close.

I believe that this winter had several cold snaps which were much colder than anything we had last year. Average temperatures may not be that much different, but with the heat pump, the average is not always accurate.

Down to a certain temperature, which may vary from around 20 to as low as 17 below zero, heat pumps will run strictly as heat pumps and have very good efficiency. Below this temperature, the electric back up heat will kick in. This is straight electric resistance heat, which is very expensive. I think we've had many more days this winter that would have been into backup heat, than last winter.

For next winter, you may want to test this theory. We are in a similar situation, with a home with two heat pumps. We disconnected the electric backup heat from one. This system would maintain temperature until outside temperature got below about 10. On the very cold night this past winter, when the outside temperature was about 6 below zero, inside temperature in that zone would drop to 63, when thermostat was set at 70.

When we disconnected the electric heat for the other zone, inside temperature would fall went outside temperature got below 20.

We replaced the latter system with a larger three stage system and have noticed a significant improvement in heating costs this winter. We have also left the electric backup heat is connected on the older system which remains.

Hope this helps! God bless. Gene.

martyshel 03-12-2009 01:41 PM

A freon leak on your heat pump will cause your electric bill to sky rocket, trust me.

I installed a new AC/Heat pump on my house in the summer of '07 when I was doing an addition to the house. AC ran fine all summer, but when winter came it seemed like the heat pump was running all the time. My electric bill was $330 during the coldest months. That seemed pretty high to me, but since I had just added on I figured the additional square footage was the cause. Then summer came again and the A/C wouldn't work worth a darn. A/C guy came out and said I had a leak but he couldn't find it. He recharged the system and told me to call him again if/when it quit cooling. I finally heard the leak one day and called the guy back out and he fixed it. This winter's coldest months ran me about $200/mo...... so like I said in my first sentence.... a freon leak can cost you big $.

waterheatertech 03-13-2009 10:28 AM

If your water heater is several years old, you may have a grounded heating element.
When this happens, it does not always cause the water to become excessively hot.
If you have a family member or friend who is capable of using an electrical tester, he or she can measure the resistance (Ohms) of the heating elements. They should have readings between 5 and 15 ohms. If they are outside this range, they should be replaced.
Heating elements are relatively inexpensive, and can be purchased from places like Lowe's Home improvement for about $9.00 each.

sweaty 03-13-2009 01:57 PM

Even if your house is new, I would bet that the attic is not adequately sealed. Use spray foam and caulk to seal around plumbing and electrical penetrations, as well as your hatch or attic stairs. Add a radiant heat barrier if your roof gets sun in the summer. Then blow in additional insulation.

WFO 03-15-2009 09:16 PM

I have no idea how your POCO operates, but the Coop I work at has recorders that we will put out on a home (at no charge) for a week or so and record the usage (volts and amps and time). Then the homeowner can go back and look at the usage (time stamped) and compare it to what he was doing.
If you are lucky enough to be on a Coop, they may be more than willing to help.
If you're on an investor owned utility......who knows?

Gigs 03-15-2009 10:42 PM

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