Utility problems - possible water heater?

Discussion in 'Plumbing Forum, Professional & DIY Advice' started by kbbeale, Mar 16, 2010.

  1. kbbeale

    kbbeale New Member

    Messages:
    4
    Location:
    Adkins, Tx
    Here's the deal. I'm desperate for help here. Our utilities have been DOUBLE the amount that they are supposed to be right now. I'm talking they are more than they were this last summer (Texas, we had over 50+ days of 100* days)........

    Something is sucking up electricity and it's been happening for the last three months. We cannot pinpoint what's happening. We've checked everything, it seems. Husband has turned off the power to the house and checked the outside meter. We have no attic, ductwork is under the house, but we havent been running the air (yet). Heat has been coming on now and then, but not more than what it should be. My mother has a similar sized house on the same property as us, and we have ALWAYS had similar utility bills over the last 10 years. Now mine is double what hers is, and nothing has changed here at my house.

    We are at the end of our rope - could it be the water heater? Husband has checked the element and it seems to be functioning properly. How do we know if this or the thermostat is malfunctioning? We have adequate hot water, there hasnt been any signs of problems there - but we cant think of anything else that could be causing this!!!!

    Any thoughts would me much appreciated.
    Kristen
  2. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    27,263
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    THe first thing that comes to mind when this happens is that there could be a cracked hot water pipe under the floor's slab. That would cause the water heater to run more frequently, if not continually.
  3. kbbeale

    kbbeale New Member

    Messages:
    4
    Location:
    Adkins, Tx
    We have no slab....we're on pier and beam.
  4. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    27,263
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    In that case you will have to compare the amount of energy used, not the cost of it, to see if it really increased that much, and also compare your last few months, or maybe a whole year, to see if there are any "spikes" somewhere.
  5. kbbeale

    kbbeale New Member

    Messages:
    4
    Location:
    Adkins, Tx
    We have done that. There are no spikes, other than when this started, three months ago - January, February and now March are all high. My mother next door, with a slightly larger home is running 1/2 of what our bill is...and we have always had bills within $50 of one another, over the last 10 years.

    Is there someone here that can answer me about the water heater? Thanks!
  6. MACPLUMB 777

    MACPLUMB 777 TROJAN WORLDWIDE SALES RP

    Messages:
    679
    Location:
    Houston, Texas, United States


    i have been having the same problem where i live in a apt on slab
    but all our lines are copper running overhead !

    All the electric co. Will say is it must be the heat and pay the daxx bill
    i am on a fixed income and this is wrong ! !
  7. kbbeale

    kbbeale New Member

    Messages:
    4
    Location:
    Adkins, Tx
    Electric co has told us it's because we've had "record low temps"...we had like 3 days it was below freezing here near San Antonio. And, we've had freezing weather in the past 10 years - never have I had this high of an electric bill. There have been rate increases, but this still doesnt explain why my bill is double the house 100 feet from mine. They are coming to check the meter, but I'm not holding out much hope.

    I still need to know something about this water heater issue - husband is going to replace the element and thermostat tonight regardless. But I hate to just keep throwing money out the window.
  8. nukeman

    nukeman Nuclear Engineer

    Messages:
    711
    Location:
    VA
    I would say that it couldn't be anything to do with the water heater unless something like a leak (as hj mentioned) caused the WH to run more than normal. If the thermostat failed to where the elements were just staying on, the temperature (and pressure) would increase until the relief valve on the water heater opened up to relieve the pressure. This is something you can check. Look to see where the relief valve discharges (could be to the floor, outside, or a nearby drain) and see if it is dripping or signs of it discharging. You would see an increase in your water bill too, but maybe you are on a well.

    So, you have compared the kwh used this year to the same months last year and seen a large increase? Has anything else changed in the recent months (additional guests, someone staying home more, changes in the t-stat setting for the room temperature, etc.)?

    I would also compare the reading on the meter to what the reading on the bill shows. This is just to elimate the increase as a clerical mistake (read the wrong meter, for instance).
  9. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    22,324
    Location:
    New England
    As noted, if the WH was always on, the water would boil, and you'd know it.

    Look at the big power users in the house: potentially the furnace, especially if you have a heat pump, dryer, and refrigerator. If you have a heat pump and it needs a charge, the emergency heat will come on and that could easily raise your bill significantly. A frig that has a problem, could easily also start to use big amounts of power. Have the kids come home from college and they're doing a load or two of wash daily? Are they taking hour-long showers a couple of times a day? Did someone leave the lights on in the attic? Do you have outside lights on a sensor and they've been on all night for some reason? Did someone leave the curling iron, rollers, or iron on?
  10. MACPLUMB 777

    MACPLUMB 777 TROJAN WORLDWIDE SALES RP

    Messages:
    679
    Location:
    Houston, Texas, United States


    yes centerpoint energy has been out tested meter and checked reading on meter and says everthing ok ! !

    Bill for feb, 2010 still $294.50 for 1 bd. Apt last year i ran a/c 24 hrs a day and still never ran over 150.00 per month on electric

    yes i know about the water heater it is running the same as always !
    So why the spike in the billing ?
    I have a ext. On the bill till after the first of april to see what march's bill comes out to
    no do not have "new" smart meter, same 1984 electric meter
    i am home all day and run my computer, monitor, stereo sound system, just as i have always done !
    It is a all electric apt. Even electric heating, no heat pump !
    But i weight in at about 350 lbs. So i do not run heat that often !

    I WILL BE CHANGING ELECTRIC CO'S ON THE FIRST OF APRIL
    JUST TO LET ALL YOU KNOW IN TEXAS THE ELECTRIC CO'S ARE
    DE REGULATED, ONE CO. PROVIDES WHOLESALE POWER TO YOUR METER AND DO'S THE METER READING YOU GET TO PICK THE CO.
    THAT YOU BUY FROM ! AND PAY YOUR BILL TO !
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2010
  11. nukeman

    nukeman Nuclear Engineer

    Messages:
    711
    Location:
    VA
    Mac,

    What is the difference in kwh (this year to last)? Here, a lot of people got a big bill for Dec/Jan. It was a combination of temperatures below normal and the rates were increased (by quite a bit) at the same time. I was gone for 2 weeks in Dec. and I still ended up with a $450 bill. Our rates are below average, but 3000+ sqft with an electric furnace is a killer. I bet I could get an electric bill of $1000 if I kept the whole house toasty in the winter. :)

    We need to compare energy used (not $$$) as the rates could have (and probably did) increase over that time period.
  12. MACPLUMB 777

    MACPLUMB 777 TROJAN WORLDWIDE SALES RP

    Messages:
    679
    Location:
    Houston, Texas, United States
    I was not here last winter 2008 2009,
    the first bill is april 2009 for 600 kws, @ 15 cents a kw. First 1000,

    feb. 2010 1755 kws hrs @ 15 for first 1000 and 16.5 for everthing over
  13. nukeman

    nukeman Nuclear Engineer

    Messages:
    711
    Location:
    VA
    I see. It is a little hard to compare, then. The A/C unit will use less juice than a resistance heater (by quite a bit) in terms of energy used per hours run (apples to apples). 1700 kwh seems high for a 1 bedroom apt, but it depends on size, climate, etc. In my old 1 bedroom apt (western OR), typical winter usage was around 500-550 kwh. It was a small place (maybe 450-500sqft). The winters there are mild.

    I'm glad that my rates are much less than yours. I currently pay around 8.4 cents (it was 7.6 or so before the increase). I blow through about 3300-4000 kwh/month in the winter. This is heating only part of the house, heat off at night and when away, etc. In summer, the bill is half (or even less) with the A/C running most of the time.

    If the meter is accurate to what is used, then I would do the following to try to trim the bill:

    - set back temp on t-stat during the winter
    - turn off heat while away and during the night (throw an extra blanket on the bed if needed)
    - unplug devices while not in use (especially items that are often not used)
    - try to use less hot water (shorter showers, wash clothes on cold/warm instead of hot, etc.)
    - if you stick to one area in the apt, a small space heater in the area may be better than trying to heat the whole apt.

    If it were a house, I would also suggest adding insulation to the attic, insulate the hot water pipes, seal air leaks around the house, etc.
  14. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    27,263
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    The ONLY way it could be the water heater is if the hot water were continually leaking out of it, and you have said your house construction is such that you would see that. Otherwise the water would be SUPER hot, the T&P valve would be spewing a constant stream of very hot water, and if that did not happen the heater would explode. But before any of that could happen, the heater's internal high limit should open and turn off all power to the heater. Since NONE of these things are happening, your high electric bills are caused by something else, possibly your heating system, especially if you have "heat strips" as the primary, or backup, heating source.
  15. MACPLUMB 777

    MACPLUMB 777 TROJAN WORLDWIDE SALES RP

    Messages:
    679
    Location:
    Houston, Texas, United States
    Thinks hj
    no problems with hot water, i do have electric forced air heating located above my

    bathroom ceiling area and it was cold from dec. Though feb. But i more then doubled

    my kilowatt hours, i am compared to other people i know here
  16. drick

    drick In the Trades

    Messages:
    392
    Hi,
    Do you have access to the meter? If you do stop waiting for the bill and calculate how much you use daily. You can turn off things for one day (like all the electric heat) and see how much the bill is after 24 hours. Turn the heat on the next day and then compare the readings.

    Its easy to do. Meters display usage in kilowatt hours (KWh). Write down what the meter says now. ( If the meter has dials and the hand is between two numbers always write down the smaller number). Also write down the date and time you took the reading. In 24 hours write down the new meter reading.

    To find out how many KWh you have used you since you took the first reading subtract the old meter reading from the new meter reading.

    Example:
    (New Meter Reading) - (Old Meter Reading ) = how many KWh you used.

    Multiply that by how much you pay for a KWh - I think you said 0.15 - and that is what the utility charged you for usage during that time.

    Example:
    (KWh you used) X (0.15) = $$$

    -rick
  17. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    27,263
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    Comparing to others is an inexact science, because your thermostat setting will be different from theirs, as will the heat retention properties of your house. Even the freguency of going in and out through the doors will change your usage pattern.
  18. decktile

    decktile New Member

    Messages:
    1
    Location:
    bhopal
    Has anything else changed in the recent months
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