crazy high electrical bill

Discussion in 'Electrical Forum discussion & Blog' started by adams211, Dec 31, 2007.

  1. adams211

    adams211 New Member

    Messages:
    1
    I have had crazy high electrical bills lately, I had the meter replaced and the DTE guy said I might have a voltage leak. Maybe a staple to tight as the house shifted, or underground line nicked, any idea how this can be checked?
  2. GrumpyPlumber

    GrumpyPlumber Licensed Grump

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    1,404
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    Licensed Grump
    You're gonna need an electrician...just a plumber here, but the problem sounds like it'll take some equipment and know-how that you just won't find at HD.
  3. RRW

    RRW New Member

    Messages:
    91
    Location:
    Illinois
    How about: go through the house and unplug everything including all appliances and "vampire cubes". If the meter stops, plug things back in in stages to see if one or more of them has a significant leak. You can also get ammeters pretty inexpensively that have an extension with a hollow center that plugs into the wall outlet. You can then put the ammeter through the center hole and determine how much each of your appliances is drawing. Good Luck
  4. Bob NH

    Bob NH In the Trades

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    3,317
    Location:
    New Hampshire
    100 Watts on for a month will use 72 kWh, which is $7 to $10 based on current rates. An attic fan or lights, or an outside circuit, or an electric heater, could use a lot of power. A humidifier could use a lot of power.

    Another cause would be a pump that is operating continuously because of a leak or because of a pump failure that is preventing it from reaching the shutoff pressure. If you have a submersible pump in a well, that is the first place to check to verify that it is shutting off.

    An air-conditioner with a heat pump could use a lot of power.

    A water leak in a hot water pipe could use a lot of power if you have an electric water heater. If you are supplied through a water meter you can turn off all known uses and see if the water meter is still registering usage.

    If you are comfortable working with electrical things, you can check it out as follows, using a clamp-on ammeter which you can get at HD.

    1. Make a list of each circuit breaker in your panel, including what it serves.
    2. Turn off everything you can in the house.
    3. Take the cover off your main panel.
    4. Use the clamp-on ammeter to measure the current at every circuit breaker. Also, measure the current in the main lines coming in if you can do it safely.

    Now look at the current readings to see if there are any circuits that are using more current than you can account for where 1 Amp is about 120 Watts. If you think you have turned off everything on a circuit, and you are still measuring current, then there is something that is operating that you don't know about.

    You should also check to make sure that a neighbor hasn't hooked something into your circuits. If you have turned everything off and can safely reach the incoming power lines you can measure the current coming to the meter. That would reveal if there is any connection before it gets to your main panel.
  5. Mikey

    Mikey Aspiring Old Fart, EE, computer & networking geek

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    2,713
    Location:
    Central Florida
    Define "crazy high" and "lately"

    Was it $150/month last year, and now it's gradually gotten to $200, or was it $100 2 months ago, and $300 this month, what? Has your utility added on fuel charges that have doubled the cost per KWH?
  6. BrianJohn

    BrianJohn DIY Senior Member

    Messages:
    151
    Location:
    VA
    There are several ways to tackle this BUT ONE THING FOR sure it is no staple.

    Using a simple amp clamp you can turn off items one at a time till you are sure everything is off check the amp clamp for any current.

    I have seen well pumps, pool pumps, sewage pumps, running when they should be off, that the homeowner did not realize were operating due to control issues.
  7. jwelectric

    jwelectric Electrical Contractor/Instructor

    Messages:
    2,529
    Location:
    North Carolina
    I am sure that any of the members of this forum will tell you that if you have a water leak it is easy to find due to the puddle of water that will be left.:)

    If the DTE guy thinks that you have a voltage leak then I would start looking for a puddle of electrons. This sounds like the easy way to find the leak.:D
    I should warn you that if in your search for the puddle of electrons you should find smoke then the leaky circuit will have to be replaced in its entirety. :eek:
    Once the smoke leaks out there is nothing that can be done to recharge the circuit with smoke. I think this has to do with smoke being lighter than air and it dissipates away quickly. :confused:
  8. BrianJohn

    BrianJohn DIY Senior Member

    Messages:
    151
    Location:
    VA
    JW: Isn't thre an insulated bucket that the OP might be able to use?
  9. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

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    Location:
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    If you have electric heat, it could be just the way things are...with a few exceptions, electric is probably the most expensive way to heat a house. If you use it, you really need either a really tight house with great insulation and great windows, or a big checkbook. Older refrigerators use much more electric than the newer ones. When I changed my old one out several years ago with a new energy star rated one, my electric bill went down $30/month (maybe in the noise for what you are implying, but if you have an old one in the garage - it might be time to think about chucking it).

    Shut the main breaker off and then look at the meter...while it doesn't happen often, someone could have tapped into your line. With the main breaker off, the meter should not budge.
  10. jwelectric

    jwelectric Electrical Contractor/Instructor

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    2,529
    Location:
    North Carolina
    Yes but you MUST be wearing your PPE
  11. Bob NH

    Bob NH In the Trades

    Messages:
    3,317
    Location:
    New Hampshire
    One thing about using the clamp-on ammeter (amp-clamp) is that it must go around the individual wire; not the cable. That is why you must take the cover off the panel so you can measure the current in each wire as it comes from the circuit breaker. It will (should) read zero if you put the clamp on a cable that contains both the hot wire and the neutral. If it doesn't read zero on a cable then there is a problem with that circuit.
  12. jimbo

    jimbo Plumber

    Messages:
    8,997
    Location:
    San Diego
    Please give us some numbers....what is a typical bill in fall or spring, and what is "crazy high"?
  13. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,263
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    bill

    Around here when the gas, electric, and/or water bill starts increasing for no reason, the cause is often an underfloor cracked water line.
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