mysterious electricity hog?

peonyfanMarch 25, 2011

We just got the first power bill for our new house (built in the 1960s w/original pushmatic electrical panel). It was 770 kWh for the month and the bill started the day we owned it. In our current residence (an apartment) we've only gone over that amount in 3/13 months, which were months we were heating with heat pump, and there are 4 of us and I'm home all day with kids and use electricity often for cooking (ie no gas). We don't live in the new house yet as we are/will be doing floors, kitchen, etc. The only things we have using electricity are 3 outdoor lights near the entrances, an interior fluorescent light, the water heater (I need to turn this off) which is old, and lights when we go over there to work on the house. I am going to start monitoring the meter daily to try to figure out what is going on. We had the baseboard heat (planning on replacing this) at 50 degrees for a week or two (I seriously doubt the heat went on cause it wasn't that cold), then turned them all off because we are able to be comfortable in the house with it off. Also the previous owner left two plug-in devices that are supposed to repel bugs. I will unplug those. I can also unplug microwave and tv (previous owner left it, we've never used it). Fridges are unplugged. We have not used any power tools over there.

Also we are getting a shock at one of the sinks when washing hands. Not sure if that could possibly be related.

Thanks for any tips.

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Water heater may be the culprit.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2011 at 1:08PM
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Fior a 30 day billing period that averages out to ~107 amps at 240 V continuously.

A meter mis-read could be the cause.

An electric water heater is normally protected by a 30 A 240 V breaker, so even if it was completely on the whole time it would barely be 28% of the power on the bill.

Are you sure there are not other new account charges on the bill?
Or it is for more than one month?

I have seen first new bills be high since they start charging on the day ownership changes, but the billing department lags enough the bill covers almost 60 days.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2011 at 4:02PM
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Also, if you are getting any kind of shock at the sink, you need to have an electrician check it out pronto. It could be related to the old water heater, but in any case, don't delay on this one.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2011 at 4:54PM
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"that averages out to ~107 amps at 240 V continuously"

Your math is flawed.

770Kwh in 30 days (30 X 24hrs=720hours) is an average draw of just over 1kw. A defective WH element could easily dissipate that, along with night lighting etc.

My house has half that much in parasitic loads.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2011 at 7:21PM
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Wayne, I agree with your math, but I want to come to your house to play. 500W of parasitic loads means you have lots of toys :-) With 8 computers sleeping, routers, clocks, inactive appliances and battery chargers, my house adds up to less than 100W.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2011 at 9:32PM
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Yes- I have lots of stuff, but parasitic load was perhaps not the phrase I should have used. Some things I could shut off, but choose not to, for instance a battery charger for the standby generator, and a couple of substantial UPS devices.

To me, there is no point in having a UPS if it isn't a "U"PS, so call it self imposed parasitic load.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2011 at 10:40PM
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One of the first things you should do is find out why that sink shocks its user, what was a little tingle yesterday could be a heart stopper the nest time someone uses it. Maybe the water heater as others suggested, or maybe a worn bare wire etc.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2011 at 10:58PM
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If the sink is shocking you, you have current going to ground. Check to make sure the disposal is not reverse phased. Turn off each circuit breaker one at a time while watching the meter. It should be obvious when you get the right circuit as the meter will slow down considerably. Once you isolate the circuit you should be able to determine the culprit

    Bookmark   March 26, 2011 at 4:21AM
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All the other suggestions are valid and definitely have the shocking sink checked. Something to consider also, was the first bill an actual read or was it estimated? I just bought a house myself and the first bill, for 12 days was $115 and had usage of about 1100 was estimated and when I checked the meter it was over estimated by 1015 kwh.....just something to consider.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2011 at 10:12AM
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"Your math is flawed."

Unit conversion error.

It is ~4.5 Amps at 240 V, but 8.9 A at 120 V.

Remember that while there is 240 V across the element, the voltage to ground is only 120 V.

Almost 9 amps to ground is a little high for a defective heating element.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2011 at 4:46PM
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