monitoring power usage

Discussion in 'Electrical Forum discussion & Blog' started by atuel, Feb 17, 2009.

  1. atuel

    atuel New Member

    Messages:
    56
    Location:
    North Carolina, IPC Code
    With my electric bill skyrocketing lately, I've been wanting to know where I'm using power. I can guess at the usual suspects (heat pump, water heater, etc), but my bill was farily high to start with before it skyrocketed, so I wanted to be more precise. Do you know of or have used any monitoring device that can monitor individual circuits.

    I found a couple such as http://ecatalog.squared.com/catalog/174/html/sections/04/17404015.html but they are all around $2000.

    I can buy some fairly cheap devices such as http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16882715001 that can monitor at individual plugs but these seem to be limited to only 120V and the major current users in my house are likely the 220V heat pumps, water heater, stove, and dryer.

    Any products out there which can monitor power usage for less up front money?
  2. Billy_Bob

    Billy_Bob In the Trades

    Messages:
    422
    Well what are you going to do about it once you learn that something is using a lot of electricity?

    With some things, you can't do anything because you need that thing.

    With others, you can turn it off when not in use or reduce your use of that thing.

    So instead of monitoring your electric usage and spending money on this, why not spend that money on energy saving appliances, compact fluorescent bulbs, and power strips (to switch stuff off) instead?

    Basically cut back everywhere you can.

    Around here we had a 13% electric rate increase last spring. People have not noticed this until the last few months.

    Things you can do...

    Basically there is no one thing which will greatly reduce your electric bill. These are many little things which add up. So first learn arithmetic...

    25 cents + 25 cents + 25 cents + 25 cents = $1. One dollar a day times 30 days in a month = $30!

    So look for those things which will save you 25 cents. There are lots of them!

    A couple of times I've seen compact fluorescent bulbs on sale and subsidized by the local electric company for $1 each. I bought two bags full! Every bulb I can replace is CFL now.

    Don't use the dishwasher, wash dishes by hand.

    An electric water heater can be 30% of an electric bill. Get a water heater timer and run it only 3 days a week in the mornings. Take showers only 3 days a week - weekdays. Then it will be off the rest of the day and you will have warm residual water instead of hot. (These have a button on them to bypass the timer if you need an extra shower.) Install a valve on the shower head. Turn off the water when you are soaping up. Then back on to rinse.

    Get an Energy Star front loading washing machine. Wash with cold water.

    Get a new Energy Star refrigerator and window air conditioners if your existing are older units.

    Turn the heating down and wear sweaters. Heat just the bedrooms at night (baseboard electric) and turn the house heating way down.

    Install Energy Star double pane gas filled windows - use heavy curtains.

    Install as much additional insulation as you can, especially in attic.

    Close off unused rooms.

    Seal all air leaks. Check around doors. Install weather stripping and new bottom threshold if needed.

    Then basically anything electrical these days is "always on" and always using electricity. EVERYTHING! Get a bunch of power strips (which do not have a light in the switch) and plug these things in. Turn them off when not in use. This includes microwave, TV, stereo, coffee maker, computer equipment, garage door opener, etc.

    Phones will work when not plugged in (except cordless). I only have my answering machine phone plugged in. All the others are unplugged and still work fine. Dial numbers instead of using speed dial.

    Place all chargers for cell phones, etc. in one area on a power strip. Turn off when not needed.

    For entertainment system, get about 4 power strips (or more) and place them side by side up high where you can reach them. Use one for playstation, one for DVD, one for stereo, and one as the main and for TV. Then turn on only what you need at the time. If just TV and cable box, then just those on. (Might want to leave cable box on all the time as it takes time to download all the info.)

    Leave the stuff plugged in and on like the cable box if needed, just turn off with a power strip everything which is not needed.

    Same with computer. Place printer on power strip and have off when not in use. Have a main power strip which turns off everything when not in use. (Again these things are always "on" and using a little electricity.)

    Do you have an outside GFCI outlet on its own circuit? GFCI's always use a little electricity. Turn off the breaker if this will not be used all winter.

    More tips...
    http://www.energystar.gov

    Hot water heater timer...
    http://www.drillspot.com/products/122495/Intermatic_EH40_Mechanical_Digital_Water_Heater_Timer
  3. GabeS

    GabeS Remodel Contractor

    Messages:
    294
    Location:
    Brooklyn NY
    What???? Have you lost your mind???? Shower three days a week???? Turn off shower during soaping????? Buy all new appliances???? That right there would take centuries to break even on the few dollars you're going to save a month. Why not just walk around in the dark?? That will save you 10 bucks a month. Your post had some good points but I think it was a little extreme.
  4. Billy_Bob

    Billy_Bob In the Trades

    Messages:
    422
    Well sorry, it is no longer the American dream. It is now the American nightmare. Need to lower your standard of living if you want to cut back on expenses.
  5. atuel

    atuel New Member

    Messages:
    56
    Location:
    North Carolina, IPC Code

    I'd plan on fixing the issue... my bill is easily 3X what it should be for this house during this time of year.


    I already have a ton of CFLs

    I've been using a wood burning stove to heat my house in the colder days, so the heat shouldnt even be running that much and we already have the temp turned down significantly. I also live in North Carolina, so its not even that cold most of the time as we've had our windows open during the day for the past month or so already.

    My washer/dryer are already energy star rated and I've made sure the dryer vent is clear. I believe the dishwasher probably is as well as it is onloy a year or so old.

    I already have programmable thermostats.

    So a lot of the little things we've already done over the past several months (only owned the place since August) and have still seen huge increases in our bill. I'm at the point where I'm thinking of taking more drastic action.

    Computers, TVs,

    The house was built in the 80s so it does not have the most energy efficient of everything.

    1) It has a pair of heat pumps that look to be quite old.
    2) The insulation in the attic could use some improvement but is not horrible.
    3) The water heater is newer but probalby not the most efficient.
    4) Fridge is a farily good whirlpool model

    I've only been in the place for a few months, but the computers, tvs/etc, washer/dryer are all the same as my old place where the bill was a small fraction of what is is now. The fridge, stove, water heater, and heat pumps all came with the place and I'm not sure of their efficiency or if they are working as efficient as they should be.

    I already have my utility company coming out to inspect the meter for a failure, but probably unlikely it is this.

    What I have left to improve will all be in the more major category, so I'm looking to prove what is drawing the power. If its the heat pumps with the little we've been running them, I'll completely replace them. If its the water heater, same deal and it'll get replaced. With my bill as high as it is, any of these including full professional install would be paid for in jsut a few months.

    However, I dont want to just go around replacing major appliances if they are not the problem. I need to find a way to prove they are the problem. It'd be nice to have a monitor like the one I pasted in above to track everything, but I'd settle for for a handful of monitors I can put on my 220V major appliances.
  6. codeone

    codeone Code Enforcement

    Messages:
    160
    Location:
    North Carolina
    What is the sq ft of this house compared to your old one?
  7. chris8796

    chris8796 New Member

    Messages:
    100
    Location:
    Illinois
    I have been debating getting this for a while. If you add the software it looks to be pretty handy power monitor with the ability to do load profiles of major appliances. It runs a little under $200 if you get the software.
  8. atuel

    atuel New Member

    Messages:
    56
    Location:
    North Carolina, IPC Code
    Its about 30% more sq ft in the new place. New place is insulated better and has better windows as well.
  9. atuel

    atuel New Member

    Messages:
    56
    Location:
    North Carolina, IPC Code
    I did see that, but it only allows you to have one device per panel. I'd want to simultaneously monitor several devices over the period of a month.

    1) heat pumps (mine are fed via a single breaker to a sub panel outside and then have 2 other breakers for the heat exchangers)
    2) water heater


    Also, for the price of buying 2-3 of these, you can almost manage to get the full blown unit that monitors all branch circuits.
  10. chris8796

    chris8796 New Member

    Messages:
    100
    Location:
    Illinois
    The software is suppose to allow you to do large appliances loads w/o multiple meters. For example, when a large appliance kicks on it and uses approximately the same amount high amperage each time, the software can assign that to a specific appliance. A sudden 20 amp change is the water heater (going on or off), a 23 amp change is the dryer, 15 amp change is the heat pump, etc... I don't know how well it actually works, but that is the idea.
  11. atuel

    atuel New Member

    Messages:
    56
    Location:
    North Carolina, IPC Code
    Hmm.... bet that doesnt work all that well. Maybe you can tell the difference between a few things but I cant imagine from simple current/voltage drops they can correctly classify everything.

    I found this one as well that the adverstising says $80 per port, which I'm sure is a maximum configuration, but I cant find anyone to sell it.

    http://www.trendpoint.com/EnerSure.html

    This guy http://www.kondra.com/circuit/circuit.html put one in his place using an earlier version of this software and a similar board made by veris. He didnt mention price, but this is the sort of detail that I'd really like.
  12. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    21,773
    Location:
    New England
    If the heat pumps aren't working properly, they'll turn on the resistance heaters, and your bills WILL go up. Generally, they come on either if they run longer than a certain time and/or when the outside temperature drops below a certain value (often around 35-40 degrees). Some thermostats will trigger them if the needed increase in temperature is above a certain value. You may find that setback thermostats with heat pumps end up using more electricity because it needs to run the resistance heaters than if it ran longer maintaining with the compressor only, rather than recovering the temperature.

    What kind of heat did you have in the old place? Assuming your WH is electric, they're essentially 100% efficient. The only thing newer ones tend to do is add more insulation. Another thing to look at is your water meter...make sure nobody is running any water and then look at the meter to see if it is registering anything. You could have a hot water leak in the slab and not notice it. You'd be heating lots of water.

    Do you have a well? If you do and the storage tank's bladder is bad or the foot valve is bad, it may not be able to maintain proper volume in the tank and the pump would run longer. This could be a 1hp or more motor, and that could easily cost $2-3 or more per day.

    A refrigerator can be a huge energy user...I know when I replaced my old one, the new one was both 40% larger and that my electric bill went down about 25%. Do the dollar bill test on the door gasket seals to see if they're working (basically see how easy it is to pull it out when the door is closed).
  13. jimbo

    jimbo Plumber

    Messages:
    8,997
    Location:
    San Diego
    I believe the messiah in Washington has declared that any one who want to be a carbon guzzling pig can go right ahead, but be ready to pay.

    I didn't vote for the idiots, so don't blame me!
  14. atuel

    atuel New Member

    Messages:
    56
    Location:
    North Carolina, IPC Code
    The old place had gas all around. I've only ever had gas before this current place and this is the first heat pump I or anyone else i know has had. I have tried leaving it at a current temp and doing the set back thing, but nothing noticible in terms of reducing the bill.

    The fridge is fine seal wise at lease... this is one of the easy things I've already checked.

    No well.

    Water consumption has been normal for a two person household. At least a month ago when i turned it off to do some work, it was not running when nothing in the house was running.


    My suspect is most likely the water heater or heat pumps. This place is on a crawl space which some genius ran all the water pipes through it rather than through the walls where its warm. We did notice that in the recent cold weather we've had that it takes a very long time before the very cold water turned warm/hot (20-30 feet of 1/2" CPVC).

    With the heat pumps, since I and no one I know has ever owned one, its a bit of a learning experience, but they do never seem to be very warm and they do seem to run longer than I'd think they should. The one for upstairs woke us up one one clicking loudly on and off but I've not seen it do it since then. Only problem is that in the past month when out bill has been the highest, we did not have the heat on most of the time since its been around 70 degrees much of the month.


    So we have our suspects, but no telling if maybe the fridge or washer/dryer/dishwasher are malfunctioning. Rather than guess and start calling people out to look at things, since they all seem to manage to find something wheter it actually is the problem or not, I'd like a way to definitely tell whats using all my power. For all I know, I've just been doing more laundry or too much vaccuming or maybe I left my playstation on for a week or something without noticing it. Thats why I'd like to have a power monitor to tell me what I'm doing wrong vs this guess and wait until next month. I've been doing this for a few months now and if its something that is failing or somethign I'm doing wrong, I could have corrected it and paid for the cost of the monitoring equipment.
  15. codeone

    codeone Code Enforcement

    Messages:
    160
    Location:
    North Carolina
    One thing I would consider is finding a reputable hvac person check your heat pump systems out. Making sure the freon is where it should be, make sure the inside and outside coils are clean. Also change your filters regularly. Having your system maint. once a year will help with the overall longivity.
    If the coils are dirty or clogged and/or the freon is low it will cause the heat strips to come on and drive your electric bill up. Also remember your not paying for gas to heat with. In your old house with gas did you take this into account?

    Just some things to consider.
  16. Scuba_Dave

    Scuba_Dave Extreme DIY Homeowner

    Messages:
    885
    Location:
    South of Boston, MA
    How high is high?
    Our bill is between $200-$375
    Depends upon if the hot tub is on, pool pump, Christmas display up

    I use a KillAwatt meter to check stuff
    My old TV, DVD & cable box use 20w while "off"
    Old windows are R1, new windows are R2
    I replaced mine due to the hollow places on both sides of windows that held the weights
    Replaced our 18 cu ft fridge with a 26 cu ft fridge & power use is 10% less
    But we needed a bigger fridge
    Dehumidifiers use a lot of power
    As does an AC, heat pump
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2009
  17. atuel

    atuel New Member

    Messages:
    56
    Location:
    North Carolina, IPC Code
    So the cooling mode did not drive up my electric back in August/September/November, so unless it was a recent thing, freon should be fine. Filters are changed about once a month.

    In my old place, yes, I took gas into account... here we basically have all in one utilities so it all comes on one bill making it easy to look at. I could handle some difference to account for difference in efficiencies of gas vs electric, but not a more than 3X difference like i'm seeing now.
  18. codeone

    codeone Code Enforcement

    Messages:
    160
    Location:
    North Carolina
    One thing that could drive your bill up during Dec./Jan./Feb. is if your unit is not operating properly and the back up heat strips come on. They are electric strips very costly. If your units are older they may not be as efficient as the newer ones and the strips may be coming on more than they should. Would still have them checked. What county are you in in NC?
  19. atuel

    atuel New Member

    Messages:
    56
    Location:
    North Carolina, IPC Code
    Ours is over $600 this month.... It was around $200 the end of summer with the A/C and everything else the same.

    no hot tub, no pool, no dehumidifiers. Only thing out of the ordinary is a server I run... 8 single-core processors with external 14 bay RAID, so its farily large, but it also ran in the old place exactly as is.

    $150 was normal in my old place for similar times of the month where we're not really heating or cooling any. My thermostat in the old place kept track of how many hours it was running the A/C so in the middle of July, I found it was running for about 20 hours ever day and it was still only $350.
  20. atuel

    atuel New Member

    Messages:
    56
    Location:
    North Carolina, IPC Code
    I'm on the Wake/Johnston county line. Any way to tell if the heat strips are coming on? I've actually had my upstairs heat pump turned completley off for at least the last few weeks. My downstairs one was turned on, though was set to 68.

    The system is fairly old and shows it... wouldnt be suprised if it was nearly original to the house from the mid 80s. The exterior piece says Carrier Tech 2000 SS on the top of it and best guess I can find is its cerca 1993. I have two of these... Downstairs unit is connected to a Carrier 2 zone WeatherMaker as well.

    Fridge is Whirlpool ED2FHEXNQ00 . Doesnt seem to have a series name that I can tell.... this came with the new place so I dont have much info on it.

    Washer/Dryer are Whirlpool Duet from about mid 2003. These are the same as from my old place

    Dishwasher is a Kitchen Aid Whisper quiet ultra - KVDS24SE. Again, this came with the place so dont know much about it.

    Fridge and Dishwasher appear to be farily new, though I'm not sure of their efficiency. The washer/dryer we did pay a bit extra for these because they are more efficient, but they're 6 years old now.
Similar Threads: monitoring power
Forum Title Date
Electrical Forum discussion & Blog Monitoring power consumption? Feb 4, 2008
Electrical Forum discussion & Blog Cost estimate for Generator Power Transfer Switch installation Nov 12, 2013
Electrical Forum discussion & Blog Power Out From Electric Space Heater Jan 25, 2013
Electrical Forum discussion & Blog Old fuse box blowing large fuses but turn on dryer and power is back on? Dec 20, 2012
Electrical Forum discussion & Blog How to run power to a shed that is 16 inches away from my house... Sep 8, 2012

Share This Page