the price of power...

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by comfortablynumb, May 3, 2004.

  1. comfortablynumb

    comfortablynumb Well-Known Member

    Nov 18, 2003
    Dysfunction Junction, SW PA
    what do pay for power a month? I have a major beef with my power company, they claim I am consuming over 2000 KWH a month and I look around here and its almost impossible. my mom uses half that in her house and she has 100 more 24/7 items running there. half the time my house is dead dark.

    will a bad meter give a high reading? maybe some fault in the wiring? I am clueless.

    I know I cat be using that much power, at the hight of winter last year I was only useing 990 to 1100 a month, and I was using 110 space heaters, now I have 220 basebords with 1/3 the amp consumption!

    time for me to go pay the power mafia a visit.

    for 2 months I havent had the baseboards on at all, it hasnt been that cold at night!

    anyone ever prove the electric company WRONG?
  2. GeorgeK

    GeorgeK Well-Known Member

    Apr 14, 2004
    Try flipping the breakers off one by one to see what they actually do, there have been cases of faulty wiring schematics and people were lighting the city streets off their own system, or "neighbors" running welding equipment off a buried extention cord

  3. Mrs_stuart

    Mrs_stuart Well-Known Member

    Dec 23, 2003
    Our power bill is levelized and we pay way to much too. I watch how much we use but it doesnt seem to matter if we freeze in the winter or use all the heat we want, the usage is always about the same so i went on a hunt to find out what was running up our electric bill. And well, i finally figured it out. Our power bill dropped by almost $40 per month when i quit running our electric clothes dryer. My hubby quickly put up the clothes line i had been asking for when he saw the proof. I am just glad i finally figured it out.

  4. Jena

    Jena Well-Known Member

    Aug 13, 2003
    I have spent years working in the utility industry.

    First, learn to read your meter. If the bill seems too high, go check the read. If your reading is lower than the one on the bill, they goofed. Also check to see if they actually read the meter or if they estimated the bill. My local co-op only actually reads the meters every other month, the other month is an estimate.

    I have never, ever seen a bad meter run fast. When they wear out or break down, they either slow down or stop altogether.

    Flip off your main breaker. If the dial on the meter keeps spinning, then there is something still drawing juice and you need to track that down.

    Generally the biggest user of power (after A/C) is the fridge or freezer. Check your seals, clean your coils. If your applicances are older, it might pay to buy a newer, more efficient one.

    Clean your A/C filter.

    If you have an electric hot water heater, check for hot water leaks. A small drip on a hot faucet can cost you a ton of money as it allows a small trickle of cold water to get in the tank, causing it to cycle more often.

    Check your duct work on your heating, if applicable. A small hole in the ductwork can cost big moola! Clean your filters, if applicable.

    Those are the most common reasons for high bills, or an increase in usage. As I said, I have never seen a meter run fast enough to fall out of the normal parameters (usually 2%).

  5. agmantoo

    agmantoo agmantoo Supporter

    May 22, 2003
    Zone 7
    Your comparison with the space heaters is not calculated properly. The house meter calculates wattage. A 120 volt heater consuming 10 amps will consume 1200 watts and a 240 volt heater using 1/2 the amps (5) will consume 1200 watts also. Therefore for discussion sake the power consumed will be the same for both in the example. I suggest that you turn everything off and then look at the meter and verify it is not turning. Then turn on only the devices you plan to use and as was mentioned learn to read the meter. Read it each day at approxomately the same time and chart the consumption and you will soon determine what is consuming the power. Old refrigerators and freezers are noted for being power consumers. Any device that uses an element for heat such as a light bulb, heating element in a water heater, engine block heaters, oven element and electric cookstove eye all are major power monsters. Well pumps with water logged tanks are also heavy users. With some detective effort you will locate the culprit. Good luck.
  6. Blu3duk

    Blu3duk Well-Known Member

    Jun 2, 2002
    central idaho republic
    Ive got a bad foot valve in my pump.... it slow leaks back off the pressure tank.... costs me about $30 a month ..... downside is the foot valve is WAAAAy down in the well..... so ive been waiting for spring to fully arrive and pull it out and change it. I can lay in bed at night and hear it kick on and have no water running! First thought it was the hot water heater... started turning it off at night and during the day when gone,.... minimal change at best.... unplugged everything i could find and watched the meter... no change, then heard the pump kick on, and started timing it..... and it kicks on way to much for the two houses that are using it.....

    So anyway i understand your plight! may you find your useage and may it be someting that is simpler to fix than setting up a winch and hauling the pump up without breaking anything!
  7. gobug

    gobug Well-Known Member Supporter

    Dec 9, 2003
    Another hidden electricity user (not as bad as an old refrigerator) are the little transformers that you plug into the wall that come with just about all new electronic devices. They recharge the cell phone, run my printer, run my laptop, my phone message machine and so on. These devices suck electricity whether the appliance is connected or not.
  8. shakeytails in KY

    shakeytails in KY Well-Known Member

    May 11, 2002
    I just checked my electric history and highest usage in the last 12 mo. was 899 kwh. Two people, electric everything, including well pump used to water 13 horses as well as supply the house. We don't, however, have electric heat. We don't use our central heat and rarely use a space heater. The blower on the woodstove runs all winter, though! We're not especially thrifty with electric, the tv's on most of the time(the dogs like it!) and there's always at least one light in the house on. About the only thing I conciously do to conserve is when the weather's decent I dry sheets and towels and the heavy stuff (jeans and carharts) on the line. I did have one outrageous electric bill a couple of years ago- we had some really cold weather and had 2 space heaters running- I'm guesstimating usage that month based on cost was probably in the 1800 kwh range. The things I've noticed that really jump the electric bill up (other than the heaters) is the block heater for the tractor and heat lamp usage.

    Blu3duk- when you get ready to replace that pump- consider a submersible pump. We replaced our old above ground pump and that miserable foot valve thing with a submersible about 8 years ago and haven't had a single problem with it.
  9. fordy

    fordy Well-Known Member

    Sep 13, 2003
    Whiskey Flats(Ft. Worth) , Tx
    Blu3duk............You've GOT a Cutoff on TOP of Your pressure switch. Simply, turn it off at night and the well motor won't KEEP trying to fill up the Pressure tank . That check valve is allowing All the water in your pvc pipe as well your pressure tank to leak back INTO the Well bore. ....fordy, :eek: :)
  10. comfortablynumb

    comfortablynumb Well-Known Member

    Nov 18, 2003
    Dysfunction Junction, SW PA
    no one is tapped in to my line from the meter to the house.

    the clothes dryer is an evil thing, yep, i line dry when weather permits.

    jena I have been reading my meter lately... in the past 12 hrs I used 11 KWH. all that was running during this "test" was the fridge the freezer and the hot water tank.

    I'll have to kill the main and see if its still spinning.. tomorrow.
    no AC no heat ducting no water leaks.

    agman I was told the 220 heaters draw less power, by more than one person in the "power biz", electricians ect.. but I know very well for some reason I get lied to a lot (refer to the tiller thread.. HA!) so it wouldnt suprise me to know they were lyin about the 220 heaters.
    any truth to that "220 draws less than 110" crap??

    It didnt really make sense to me either but I aint an electrician... I took their word for it.
    (silly me)

    blu3 the water well is on my next door property and the power for the well feed to both homes comes off that bill, and its HALF of what my bill is, and on my list more than 3 times the "stuff" runs over there, all damn day. I cant see how that house uses 1/3 of what i use and i havent got much at all on most of the time...

    gobug I didnt know that.... I got a bunch of those transformer things all over. I didnt think they used anything till you pluged something into them to charge.

    bluduck just shut the wells breaker off at night... :D

    good help.. thanks!

    the next 12 hrs I am running "as usual" and rechecking the meter noon tomorrow (12 hrs). I'm going to do a lot of charting for a while till I find an answer.

    what I did do today was invest some cash in replacing all my 60 and 40 watt bulbs with 15 watt florecent twisty ones, the local hardware store gave em to me for 12 bucks a 4 pack... beating wal mart by 5 bucks.

    I now have no incandecent 60 or 40s now just 15 watt florecents.

    To keep from tripping thru the darkness i plugged in dusk/dawn nitelites with 4 watt bulbs, (8 in all)

    gonna work from my numbers I shouldnt be using more than @660 KWH a month, if that.

    I also got a FREE coal/wood stove, a hitzer, someone tossed it out so they could get a jacketed one with a blower. this thing is only a few yrs old and I price em at about 1100 bucks!!

    much more effecient than my parlor stove. its ugly but it will burn for 10 hrs on a full pack. (or so the owner says... as much as I have been lied to lately, it probably isnt true)
    anyone have a hitzer and know how long a full "pack" of wood will stay burning?

    it was free... who really cares! almost perfect shape too.

    I have a massive pile of laundry to do so in a day or 2 I will chart the meter for "laundry day" and see what that consumes washing and drying on the electric....unless the sun is out.

    it has to be something recent I never pulled this much power before. my power bills we always about 80 bucks a month on a budget and the adjustments were never that much off... this is just unreal.
  11. Gimpy_Magoo

    Gimpy_Magoo Well-Known Member

    Jun 17, 2003
    Hidden power draws can really add up.
    In addition to power transformers plugged in for battery chargers and rechargable drills, shavers, etc look to your TV, Computer, Printer (especially if you have a laser printer - they have to keep warmed up to work and cost a lot in power to do so), etc.

    The poewr supply in the computer is a minimum of 250 watts and upwards of 400 watts. Your monitor is up there also. So if you are like me and keep your computer on 24/7 expect to pay for it at about 5-500 watts an hour.

    Your TV is also stealing power from you. Even turned off it draws power to stay energized for the "new fangled" instant on feature introduced about 30 years ago.

    Stereos and digital clocks rob you also.

    Turn your freezer down or is it up. to 0deg.
    same with your fridge. 40deg is a good temp.

    Do you have outside lighting?

    One year we had our freezer out in the garage. temps here reach 116 in the summer. imagin the power use for us then :)

    The 220 base board arguement is this.
    at 220 the heaters are more efficient in that they do not have to cycle as often. at 110 the heaters are on almost constantly. at 220 they heat the room faster therefore are able to shut down more often whereby saving slightly more energy.

    Turn your hot water tank down to 120-125

    Have a dishwasher? turn off the dry feature and prop open to door at the end of the rinse cycle.

    Have kids?
    Put timers switches on the closet lights
    Maybe the hall lights too.

    I have pondered putting motion sensors in the kids' room and the bathroom for the same reason. Kids havent developed the "turn the light off" gene, in my household it's non-existant in the wife also.

    hope this helps or adds to your insight a bit.

  12. Jack in VA

    Jack in VA Well-Known Member

    Jul 24, 2003
    Concerning 220v vs. 110..........
    You pay for watts. Volts X Amps = Watts.
    110v service is one "hot" wire (110v) and one neutral wire(0v)
    220 is 2 110v wires. It is more efficient , mostly because there is less resistancethru smaller wires that can go farther distances. Motors also start more efficiently.This may not be the best way to explain it , but the bottom line is watts count more than amps.
    Another possibility is your water heater may be shorted or the elements are so corroded that they are insulated. Try isolating it and watch your meter and see how fast it spins. If your habits havent changed , I would suspect something is malfunctioning. Have you checked your bills for the last year or so and seen when things changed..........good luck........jack
  13. SueD

    SueD Well-Known Member

    Aug 1, 2002

    From the bills, though I might be wrong, so do TV, microwave, washer, dryer, coffee makers and just about any other older 'appliance'... I cut my bill here from $60 a month to $35 so far, mostly by unplugging EVERYTHING 'cept for the one electric clock, the freezer and fridge. Still not even CLOSE to the $17 I was paying in Idaho, though... driving me NUTS trying to figure it out - power isn't THAT much more expensive in IL, but I seem to be using quite a bit...

    Since the guy next door is in the construction trade and constantly has saws, drills etc going - I think the next step is cutting the breaker to see if there is anything on his side that's helping this bill - thanks for all the tips!!!

    (Incidentally, have a mostly gas house - by turning off the hot water heater during the day after showers I've saved a running $70 PER MONTH since before the holidays...) Think its about time to buy a timer for it, lol!
  14. Jena

    Jena Well-Known Member

    Aug 13, 2003
    Comparing dollar amounts on electric bills from different companies can be tricky.

    Some states and companies allow you so much electricity at one rate, then any usage after that is charged at a higher rate. The problem is that they often just divide the charge by the kw on your bill to come up with an average per kw used. People see this and think that's what the rates are, but they aren't. Clear as mud? You might pay .07 per kw up to 500kw, then .13 after that, but your bill for 1000 kw would show .10 per kw, which is accurate, but it isn't. If use an additional 100 kw, you'd think you're going to pay .10 for them, but you won't.

    Also...deregulation...the big rip-off scam played out on residential users, has really screwed things up. Now there are so many different charges you need to be a rocket scientist or familiar with the electric industry to figure it all out.

    Some states tax utilities, some don't.

    Two houses of the same size and even with similar appliances will use differing amounts of power. How the house is laid-out, where the thermostat is, the weather, wind, etc all play a role in your usage. You really can't compare two different residences accurately.

    Hope that helps add to the confusion.

  15. RAC

    RAC Guest

    Other thing to remember to is the "basic charge" per month--for the privilege of having electricity to your property in the the first place. Those go up too.

    In our house, I try to run the printer once a week, if that (I keep a running list of things I may want to print next to it), otherwise it stays off.

    Can you find out what day your meter reader comes out, and be there so you can both read the meter? Someone may just be entering numbers wrong, or the meter is dirty enough on the outside that it could be difficult to read, causing errors.
  16. Regarding your water heater: Most water heaters have two heating elements, one high & one low. If one of them "burns out", the other will work overtime to try to compensate. Does it seem like your hot water doesn't last as long? You might cut off the breaker to your hot water heater disconnect one wire from each element and use an ohm meter to test resistance. BE CAREFULL!!
    How hard is the water in your area? Do you have a water softener? Hard water will quickly leave deposits on your water heater elements, reducing efficiency. I once discovered hard water deposits in the bottom of my heater higher than the lower element. You might consider cleaning out the tank as well.
  17. Gary in ohio

    Gary in ohio Well-Known Member Supporter

    May 11, 2002
    Your 110v vs 220v headers referance is not accurate. Going to 220v doesnt not mean lower consumption. What is consumed is watts, Not amps or volts.

    A 1500watt 110v heater will use the same amount of power as a 1500watt 220v heater. Yes the current will be in 1/2 but the amount of power is the same. There may be a very slight true differance in power but its minimal and usually has to do with the quality and internalosses of power within a heater.

  18. Gary in ohio

    Gary in ohio Well-Known Member Supporter

    May 11, 2002
    You need to make sure your looking at your bill to really understand your power cost. Much like your phone bill the electric compnany like split things out.

    A couple of things to do, Turn off your breakers and see if the meter is still spinning. Sure indication somthing is wrong. Take a look at every device you have running. DOes it have a fantom currnet on it. Most electronic devices consume power when off. TV, home entertainment items. A BIG screen TV can draw a lot of power even when off. Computers draw power even if off. MOnitors, UPS... UPS use power even if not active. GFCI circuits. New home often have a lot of GFCI requirements. These eat lots of power. Dont overlook defective equipment. A sump or well pump turinging off and on to many times,old bad heaters, fridge, freezer or hot water tank may be yanking more power than normal due to a bad motor or heating element.

    Our area had a wet winter and the sump pump was running a lot more for us in the winter than it ever has in the past.
  19. You pay so much $$$ per kilowatt. It takes so & so many kilowatts of electricity to raise the heat in your house so & so many degrees.

    It does not matter if you use 12v, 120v, 220v, or 480v power source to heat something - it is _all_ going to take the same amount of kilowatts to make the same amount of heat.

    Watts are made of volts time amps. If you are using a 12v power source, you need REAL BIG wires & a _lot_ of amps to make the same heat. While if you are using 220volt power to make the same heat, the wires can be pretty small & you won't use very many amps at all.

    But, you will be using about the same amount of total power (in watts) either way. It is ever so slightly more efficient to use 220 instead of 120, and the 220 will use only 1/2 the amps. But that is because you have twice the volts = same total power consumed.

    I run a 220 acre farm, deep well for 40 head of cattle, electric hot water heater, on $35-40 of electricity a month. Been that way for over a decade. Sure glad I don't have your bills. We are frugal, but not rediculopusly so, lots of TV & computer use, do some welding, run a few agricultural augers & such...

    It is pointless to compare one household $$$ bill to another bill. Everything is different, from the way it's billed, to the items hooked up, to lifestyles.

    You need to figure out where the power is going if your bill has doubled but you made no changes in your electrical load. Look to the big items (deep well, heating, water heating, any other big motors). It is extremely rare for a power meter to malfuntion & _increase_ in speed. It is unlikely but possible for a mouse nest or wire penetration to cause electricity to leak away from an underground power line - acts like a huge resistor. I would sure check out all the power consuming items you have first. I'm sure you will find something that should be running 2 hours a week & it's running 3 hours a day instead....

  20. Mel-

    Mel- Well-Known Member

    Mar 30, 2004
    I have cinergy for electricity and had what I thought was an unexplained huge jump last summer and called them. These numbers may not be completely accurate since I'm depending on my memory!

    But, from what I remember from 0 - 1000 kwh was 10 cents a kwh. From 1000-2000 maybe? It was only 7 cents a kwh, it went down from there. I think 2000kwh and above were 5 cents a kwh but it might have been 3. It seems like she said they even had a special price for people with heat pumps that used over 2000 kwh.

    Now, again I am depending on my memory but if I remember right, it was cheaper for me to use 1400 kwh than it was to use 1000 kwh. I meant to start watching my meter but for me at least conservation can actually be a bad thing (except for the environment). I can keep the ac turned down low and be uncomfortable and pay MORE. it's ridiculous huh :)

    for those who seem to know something about it :) I use baseboard heaters, 220v. only about 2 years old. I have seen some really expensive oil filled 220 v baseboards that claim they are more efficient to run. Does anyone have any knowledge whether this is true or not? My dad has some older oil filled baseboards I could use if true (I just bought new ones because they were cheap and prettier than his older ones!).

    Also, does anyone really know if baseboard heating is signficantly more expensive than buying a new electric furance (probably a heat pump). My sil and brother have a 2000 sq ft brand new all electric house and their bill in january was the same for my 150 year old 800 sq ft house! and they have 5 children who don't know how to work a light switch! and probalby 6 tvs in the house, all the older kids have their own and dvds plus the parents bedroom and family room. And I have even put all new insulation, doors, siding, fascia, and windows in! Plus all new water heater, pump and water softener unit. Only old things are the fridge (late 80s I think) and the ac unit (window, it is a 1995 22,000 btu unit I got for $45!).

    Any other tips to lower the electric bills? I know I need to put more insulation in the attic but that is the only thing left I can do to insulate this house any better unless it would help to put insulation under the floor? No one I know does this, not even in new housing.

    my all electric 800 sq ft house is running $114 per month for a yearly average. doesn't that sound awfully high since I turn the baseboards down in the bedroom during the day? And my sunporch isn't heated at all (but is included in the 800 sq ft)! And I bought quality windows, pella.

    Very interesting and informative thread, thanks for starting this one!