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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Bottom line, according to the meter, our usage has doubled since January.

I got a letter from the power co. this month saying they no longer can check the meter and have been estimating for the last 3 months. No problem I figure, the bill has been consistent with my payments for the last 4 years in this house. Then a voice in my head thinks to check the meter and I see that the meter to the bill is off by 1,500kwh!!!! I logged onto their website where over the last 3 years records show I've averaged 470kwh/billing cycle.

Their last actual reading was in January, which means I've been using roughly 1,000kwh/month since then. Yes, the fact that now I'm going to have a huge bill bugs me but what bothers me more is that there is nothing to account for this enormous change in usage. Its Michigan so my A/C hasn't been on; don't have a hot tub; its just me and my wife; no new toys; gas stove; I took a walk through the house just to make sure I didn't forget some new appliance somewhere, I can't find anything.

Any thoughts on this? I don't think electricity is like water where there could be a "leak" somewhere but I'm not positive.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks for your response and the link to the charts. Using my watch as an ammeter, what am I looking for? Or maybe the question is what will it tell me?
 

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Thanks for your response and the link to the charts. Using my watch as an ammeter, what am I looking for? Or maybe the question is what will it tell me?
My meter has a wheel that spins. I haven't done this for years but I think the formula was
the number of revolutions of the wheel in 10 seconds multiplied [or divided] by the factor stamped on the meter tells the current in amps. Ask PoCo.

1000 kwh of energy per month divided by 720 hours per month = 1.4 kw of power, all the time, on average.
1.4 kw/240v = 5.8 amps, on average, all the time, and you used to draw half this. That's only a 3A difference.
I guess it could be a failing appliance, but which one?

If you read 3 amps with your meter method and there is nothing switched on in the house, you've got a problem!

Between you and me I think PoCo botched your bill.

It will make them furious, but you could ask that they place a recording ammeter/wattmeter on your house for a week or so.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Search this site for "high electric bill" LOTS of basic things you need to cover 1st
Most of the posts I've found go back to a heat pump or electric tank water heater, neither of which I have. The on-demand heating unit I use kicks on when flow is >1/2gal/minute and a light comes on; so even if there is a small leak it isn't big enough to engage the heater. I have a natural gas furnace so I HOPE its not pulling that much power.

I'm totally stumped... and a little frustrated!
 

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heat pump or electric tank water heater, neither of which I have.

The on-demand heating unit I use kicks on when flow is >1/2gal/minute and a light comes on; so even if there is a small leak it isn't big enough to engage the heater.

But the heater duty cycle will change to compensate for a leak. Two of us use 40 therms/mon in our NG water heater, which would be 1200 kwh/month.
Normal water usage is 70 to 100 gals/person/day.


I have a natural gas furnace so I HOPE its not pulling that much power.

The online Grainger catalog probably shows typical power draw for these. I'd guess 3A when it's heating.

I'm totally stumped... and a little frustrated!
http://www.wholesalesolar.com/pdf.folder/Download folder/Power-table.pdf
You could get a clamp-on ammeter at HD or Lowe's and trace it down but you'd have to open the panel, and then you'd need to be careful of arc flash.
You may be looking for a constant 3A draw or occasional very high peaks of current.
 

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Most of the posts I've found go back to a heat pump or electric tank water heater, neither of which I have. The on-demand heating unit I use kicks on when flow is >1/2gal/minute and a light comes on; so even if there is a small leak it isn't big enough to engage the heater. I have a natural gas furnace so I HOPE its not pulling that much power.

I'm totally stumped... and a little frustrated!
How about casual visits from friends, who shower first, before going home! Those on demand water heaters are big power users!
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Those on demand water heaters are big power users!
Actually our bill went from $30/month to $45/month when we got the heater and I was quite happy with that (I put it in for space savings not $$ savings), and that's been consistent for the last year that I've had it.

No sump pump. Feelin my frustration yet? PoCo is coming out next week, we've had crazy storms for the last week so they have other priorities. Hopefully they can assist.
 

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After 30+ years with POCO's, it's been my experience that when an electric bill suddenly escalates, it's because a device you have been depending on to work automatically, isn't.
Typical things we see are thermostats that go bad (refridgerators and AC units). Also low freon in same.
Water heaters/wells with leaks that run constantly, etc. You can concievably have a high impedance short to ground in an underground cable, but this is rare.

The other big culprit is the mis-read. From your post, I take it they've been estimating the bill. Does it match the register or not?

As for the formula to check your meter.....
On the faceplate there is a number followed by a "Kh". Typically it will be 7.2, but it could be 2, 3.6 etc. This number represents the watts used per revolution of the disk. If the number is 7.2, then if the disk went around once in an hour, you used 7.2 watthours. If it went around 1000 times in an hour, you used 7.2 Kwh.

The formula is 3600 X Kh X #revolutions/ time in seconds X 1000

For example, take a stopwatch and clock ten revolutions of the disk. Let's say it takes 45 seconds.

If the Kh of the meter is 7,2, then plug in:

3600 X 7.2 X 10 (revolutions) divided by 45 seconds X 1000 = Kw

For the example you would be using 5.76 Kw ( if I did the math right).

The key to getiing any usable data doing this is to have a constant load. If the AC or microwave cut on and off during the timing, you're pretty much kaput.
Remember that a house meter is only required to be within 2% accuracy, but most are well within .5% accuracy, so you have a dependable device to use without going out to buy extra equipment.
 

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Turn all the breakers off.

Then turn breakers on one at a time and count the revolutions of the meter dial each time.

This will narrow down on circuits that are likely to have the device that is wasting power.

When done with the test, be sure everything is turned back on or that refrigerators and freezers are operating again.

Repeat the above test a few times at different times of the day over several days, if no unusual usage jumps out at you.

We are not going to compute amperes or watts, just recording the number of revolutions per minute or per five minutes for each circuit. We want to see if there is a pattern of a large revolution count always showing up on one particular circuit.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Thanks all, I'll start working on some of the ideas. Fridge could be the issue, so could the chest freezer but I figured being outside in a michigan winter it shouldn't have been working all that hard. I'll start with them and the meter and see where it takes me.

I appreciate your responses, have a great day!
 

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Thanks all, I'll start working on some of the ideas. Fridge could be the issue, so could the chest freezer but I figured being outside in a michigan winter it shouldn't have been working all that hard. I'll start with them and the meter and see where it takes me.

I appreciate your responses, have a great day!
most freezers are designed to be in heated enviroments and will freeze up if left outside. The cmpressor may have froze and run continously.
jamie
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Ok we're good so far! I follow, my meter reads 7.2 kh. If I start with the fridge, do I check the meter revolutions with the fridge off, then on but not cycling, and then when cylcing? I'm assuming the over draw would be when its on but not cycling? Or am I off base on this? Want to make sure I'm interpreting the data correctly.
 

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Ok we're good so far! I follow, my meter reads 7.2 kh. If I start with the fridge, do I check the meter revolutions with the fridge off, then on but not cycling, and then when cylcing? I'm assuming the over draw would be when its on but not cycling? Or am I off base on this? Want to make sure I'm interpreting the data correctly.
The fridge is supposed to be on half the time, or some such duty cycle.
If the nameplate data for the fridge says it draws A amps, and over a morning the wattmeter says you've been drawing A x 120v = B watts continuously then the fridge is on all the time probably because the thermostat failed [and the contents are much colder than 38F for the fridge compartment and 0F for the freezer].

As for the water heater usage, try to read your water meter. When my pipes leaked, I lost a gallon in 3 minutes.
The meter is under a round plate, flush with the ground surface and secured by a bolt with a 5 sided head, but the bolt easily loosens.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Water_meter
 

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Ok we're good so far! I follow, my meter reads 7.2 kh. If I start with the fridge, do I check the meter revolutions with the fridge off, then on but not cycling, and then when cylcing? I'm assuming the over draw would be when its on but not cycling? Or am I off base on this? Want to make sure I'm interpreting the data correctly.
If you want to check the particular appliance usage against the nameplate data, then yes....this would work.
I've used this technique to find some bizarre stuff (i.e., an AC unit drawing twice it's nameplate value because the heat strips were running at the same time as the cooling unit) but for the most part, I think what you'll see is something running that you didn't expect, or something running much longer than you expected. It would be a good way to see if the on demand water heater is running when you don't expect it.

For example of things you didn't expect, on high bill complaints I've asked people what they had in their garage. They say nothing, but when you look, there's 4 freezers. Then they say, "Yeah, but there's nothing in them". Doesn't matter....they're still running (in a 120 degree closed garage).
They say, "I was gone on vacation all last month". Doesn't matter if you left the AC on.

A fridge that's low on freon won't draw more power (unless it's locking up), it will just run longer. Same with the AC. Make sure the coils are clean and the freon pressure is right.
Make sure your daughter isn't drying one bra in the dryer, or washing one pair of jeans.

Looking back at your original post, you mentioned something about "The POCO can no longer read my meter". I'm wondering if it was an AMR (remote reading) meter that quit working. Why else would they say they can't read it anymore? Since many of the AMR technologies depend on an optic pickup of a spot on the disk, they sometimes will miss revolutions and the "electronic" register will fall farther and farther behind the mechanical one (Turtle meters were bad about locking up on lightning strikes, then starting again much later when an outage "re-booted" them).
What I'm getting at is if the error is a mis-reading that has accumulated over time, it may not be that you're suddenly using more....it may just be that the billing caught up.
I'd see if you can get an explanation on what "we can't read the meter anymore" means.
 

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Did you check for extension cords running from your house to your deadbeat neighbor's garage?
 
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