Electric Bill Doubled! Heat strip stuck on?


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Old 06-20-06, 02:20 PM
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Unhappy Electric Bill Doubled! Heat strip stuck on?

Hello! Hope someone can help. We have central heat/air with Carrier Heat Pump. Our last electric bill more than doubled. We're waiting for air conditioning repairman, but they can't come for two days. Also called for an energy audit with our electric company. Girl asked if we'd had any service done on our unit recently. Said it's common for the heat strips to get stuck on.
We installed a new motor in the blower ourselves a little over a month ago and had some difficulty with the heat strips in the installation. There might be the problem, but...my question:
Is there a way to dismantle or disconnect the heat strips so they're not on when the unit is running until repair gets here? Unfortunately, we're in FL and it's HOT!!!
Appreciate any help out there!!
 
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Old 06-20-06, 04:01 PM
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Turn off all the breakers in your house for everything except for the heat pump unit, and see how fast the meter spins while the unit itself is not running. Heating elements cause meters to spin like the meter in the movie Christmas Vacation (not quite, but....). If the meter does not spin with that only breaker being on...then try to run the unit in just the 'fan on' mode, and see how fast it goes, and see how long it takes (time it) for it to turn say 1/2 of a number (which would be 1/2 kilowatt). This is something you could do now, and get back with us regarding your findings.

Could it be possible nothing is wrong, and your a/c is working harder due to hotter weather this month? Don't go just by what your bill dollar amount is, either. You have to look at things on the bill like what the kilowatt useage was (in case their rates went up) and you have to go by the number of billing days. Up here, we can get a bill one month for 27 days, and the next month it might be for 35 days! (It says right on the bill). Also I presume you made sure the charge was just for this month and not a carry over charge due to the electric company did not get your payment in time and you were caught in one of those mailing overlap periods were they sent the bill out to you for two months due... while you coincidently mailed the payment that very day they sent the bill.
 
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Old 06-20-06, 04:10 PM
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If you know where the heatstrips our... and I don't even know what a heat strip is... I'm guessing you mean resistance backup heat... just disconnect it for now until a repairman gets out there...

But also Are you sure your rates haven't gone up? Here in the MidAtlantic all the states rates have skyrocketed. Many people here report doubling electric bills since the price of oil has skyrocketted... Check your bill for price for generation per kwh.

Just a thought,
Good Luck,
Bill
 
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Old 06-20-06, 07:50 PM
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Thank you both for your replies! (Just sent a lengthy reply but it didn't seem to go through when I hit submit.)
But the first thing I did was check the bill. There was no past due amount, cost per kwh & numbers of days in billing cycle the same Usage went from 1514 kwh in April, 2169 kwh in May, the 4633 kwh for June's bill. Never been that high!
We sort of did as you suggested and turned off almost everything and timed the revolutions. Started at around 14 seconds for a revolution & went to about 8 when we put the AC fan in the "on" position. When we set it for AC, it took only 6 seconds. Then we turned off AC & fan and turned on 3 ceiling fans, frig., pool pump, etc. and it took about 8 seconds for a revolution. Hope that makes sense.
The one thing that supports the heat strip theory (actually they are the auxillary heat coils) is that we set the tstat for about 78 degrees today. The unit didn't go on until the temp was 82 degree in here. (This tstat has about a 4 to 5 degree variance & not very efficient at keeping a constant temperature.) It then took well over four hours for the temp to drop to almost 78/79 degrees. Not at all normal.
Also, one vent in our bathroom tends to collect moisture when we shower and air is running. Noticed that hasn't happened in a while. Also haven't noticed very much condensation coming from unit. Again...all seem to support heat running theory.
We know the heat coils are just above the motor we replaced, but don't know of a way to disconnect them short of taking the unit apart and removing them. Would that be your suggestion or do you know of something else we can do?
Hope this goes through this time! Thanks for your help!
 
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Old 06-20-06, 08:27 PM
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An additional thought...my husband isn't convinced the heat coil theory is the problem. He also installed a resistor/capacitor (have to find the receipt to see just what is was) that came with the new motor. His theory is that either the motor or resistor/capacitor is bad and making the motor draw more amps, thus making the compressor outside work harder because it's not receiving enough power.
Possible?
If something happened during that motor installation, that's one repair we should have called in an expert and not tried the DIY method. If that's the case, that motor replacement cost us about $400 in additional electric expense.
 
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Old 06-21-06, 05:25 AM
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I'll just relate what I did.

I have a package unit, the blower and everything are outside, it runs off two breakers. The way it was originally wired, to run the a/c both breakers had to be on. I rewired it so that the A/C/Heat Pump run off one breaker, and the heat STRIPS run off the other (both are appropriatly rated for this and is the way it is SUPPOSE to have been wired. Unless it's going to get well below freezing, I leave the heat strip breaker OFF.

Once you figure out the problem, you might want to make sure it's wired so that you can disable the heat strips. They are only used when the unit can't keep up, or it's in defrost, and both of those are only going to happen when it gets REAL cold. Doesn't get real cold in florida often!

Unfortunely, unless you know what the unit normally looks like on meter spins, you'll have to do the math on it to get an idea of what it's drawing, and then you need to know what the unit is suppose to draw, and what the heat strips are suppose to draw. My strips are 10kw strips, you can bet that meter spins when they kick on. Less than 1 second / revolution.

Here's what I'd do, turn off all the breakers and then look at the meter. Is it still spinning?
 
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Old 06-21-06, 05:54 AM
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Good Morning! Not sure how ours is wired, but I'll pass that on to my husband. Our blower is inside and there's a breaker (not sure just what it's called, but you pull it out to disconnect the power) right there, but that would disconnect the fan as well. Wish ours was wired as yours, but we'll check in to that.
We will turn off all the breakers and see what happens.
Thanks so much and have a great day!
 
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Old 06-21-06, 05:32 PM
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Originally Posted by ChrisinFL
Thank you both for your replies! (Just sent a lengthy reply but it didn't seem to go through when I hit submit.)
But the first thing I did was check the bill. There was no past due amount, cost per kwh & numbers of days in billing cycle the same Usage went from 1514 kwh in April, 2169 kwh in May, the 4633 kwh for June's bill. Never been that high!
We sort of did as you suggested and turned off almost everything and timed the revolutions. Started at around 14 seconds for a revolution & went to about 8 when we put the AC fan in the "on" position. When we set it for AC, it took only 6 seconds. Then we turned off AC & fan and turned on 3 ceiling fans, frig., pool pump, etc. and it took about 8 seconds for a revolution. Hope that makes sense.
The one thing that supports the heat strip theory (actually they are the auxillary heat coils) is that we set the tstat for about 78 degrees today. The unit didn't go on until the temp was 82 degree in here. (This tstat has about a 4 to 5 degree variance & not very efficient at keeping a constant temperature.) It then took well over four hours for the temp to drop to almost 78/79 degrees. Not at all normal.
Also, one vent in our bathroom tends to collect moisture when we shower and air is running. Noticed that hasn't happened in a while. Also haven't noticed very much condensation coming from unit. Again...all seem to support heat running theory.
We know the heat coils are just above the motor we replaced,
Intersting that just the fan is drawing the same as 3 ceiling fans, the fridge, pool pump, etc. That don't seem like it should be. NOT if the fridge's compressor is actually running, and the pool pump is actually running.

But when you said the temp takes 4 hours to drop to 78, then we have to know if your blower is putting out the speed out of the registers like it used to and also what the temp is that comes out of the registers. IF the blower speed is slow this would simply cause everythign to needlessly be running longer, for nothing! Or, IF your auxilary heat is mixing with the a/c as I think you think might be happening, which is causing this long time for it to cool the house, then the temperature at the register will not be in the mid-50's as it should about be. (Note that with slow blower speeds, the temp should still be in the mid-50's about)

But this STILL won't prove it, if say your temperature at the register is in the 60's instead. You could be low on refrigerant which would also cause your unit to run and run longer, which also would run up the bill from both the blower and compressor and condensor fan from running longer than it should.

So comes the question: How does one know if the auxillary coils are on? Find them, I guess, and see....if you can. The only other way I can think (edit to add one of TWO ways I can think of) of is finding out what the entire units amp draw is with the a/c and then with the coils. (But you would need an amp meter for this to do yo any good) If the amp draw exceeds that of JUST the a/c mode by a lot, then I would suspect those coils. Or, if you could find out what kind of kilowatts the meter was using in a short time span, that too could indicate if the a/c and coils were on at the same time. You could maybe see if some neighbor had central a/c with a similar size unit and compare useage if that neighbor were to turn on THEIR a/c and watch the meter. (But you can't always go by how fast the dial turns as they might have a different type meter. But you could see how fast THEIRS used 1/2 kw and how fast yours did, to perhaps get some idea).

I just thought of something else: *I* got called to a condo where someone's bill doubled. The meter reader read the meter wrong, I discovered! And you can find this out also, especially if the meter had been read not that long ago, by going out there and seeing what it reads now, and what the reading is on the bill.

Figuring stuff like this out I find fun, when stuff like this happens to me. It brings out the scientist in me.

Tells us what your temp is at a register.
 
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Old 06-21-06, 10:05 PM
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Thanks for that info and suggestions. It's after 1:00 a.m. and I'm going to check the temp coming out of register in the morning & see what it is. The air conditioning repairman is coming between 8:30 & 10:00 tomorrow & it's good to have all this information from you when talking to him. My husband will be gone for the day so it's my game tomorrow!!
My money is on the heating coils staying on, but I'll let you know what he finds. Oh, this is going to be a costly month!
Thank you again!!
By the way, I reread our meter as soon as I opened our bill, which was about a week after it had been read by utility company and we'd already used over 1000 kwhs. Feel like I'm throwing money right out the window!!
bbs
 
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Old 06-23-06, 09:49 PM
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Well, we're back to normal, but after a $260.00 repair! Repairman had trouble figuring out why the coils were still drawing power even after he disconnected "something." He said the unit was pulling almost 19 amps. That would be amps, right? not watts? Oh, I'm clearly lacking the technical knowledge here, but then you all knew that right off. )
But, he finally pulled the entire auxillary heat coils out and one coil was pulled, twisted...a real mess. We're sure that happen when we put the new blower motor in. I believe he said it was touching the metal in there and causing it to be on 24/7.
That was in the morning and the entire system was disconnected at that point. He was going to try to get a replacement and someone back maybe today!! But, after I returned home from work around 3:30, the temp in here was almost 90 degrees. So, after a few phone calls to the repair company, they really went out of their way to get the replacement & got it connected.
Very thankful for that and for all your help. I felt even more certain that the heat coils were the problem after all your input.
Thank you again!
CoolChrisInFL
 
 

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