How to meter tenants air conditioning usage

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Old 01-16-07, 04:55 PM
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How to meter tenants air conditioning usage

I have a singley metered house and tenants on the first and second floors who say they do not have the air conditioning on during the day, however while I am away at work, they might. And my bills this summer were very high on the electric.

I want to install an electric watt meter (measuring watts used over time) on just those two outlets that they use.

So as to stay within the guidelines of this forum and not solicit names of vendors or specific products, what query string would I use in a search engine to try and find such a device? I have tried electrical meter watt with no luck.

I am aware if they want to be tricky they could use an extension cord to power the air conditioner to circumvent the meter, however I can also be just as tricky and devise a way in way to find out.
 
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Old 01-16-07, 05:35 PM
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A rental situation like that sounds illegal. If this were a a legal rental they would have their own meter. Either that or electric would be included in the rent agreement and not surcharged or limited.

There are meters out there but none that I know would meter just two receptacles. Possibly one circuit.
I do know the E-monD-mom meter meters a whole panel, but is it worth it to spend several/many hundred dollars to achieve this?
 
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Old 01-16-07, 05:42 PM
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Maybe it is time to raise the rent? How much would it cost to install two separate meters and let the tenants be responsible for their own electricity? I live alone and am responsible for my own utilities. I do not have the budget to afford to keep my house as warm or as cool as I would like. I have to be frugal. Of course, if you were paying my electricity I would be comfortable. I would resent a landlord that was "tricky" and sneaked around to see if I was using my A/C and who was "tricky" and came into my apartment to see.

Although landlord/tenant law varies among states, all states have laws that address the landlord's entry into rental property. All 50 states identify that the landlord can enter for emergencies, inspections, repairs, showings to prospective tenants and during a tenant's extended absence. Landlords must give tenants notice prior to entry. Again, this tends to be state specific, but the average is a 24 hour notice. If a tenant feels that their privacy bounds have been overstepped by a landlord, they can seek legal action.

In no state's laws is it legal to be "tricky" and enter without notice to see if a tenant is running the A/C. What you are considering is illegal interference in the tenants' rights to use the property for which they are paying rent. It is also illegal entry.
 
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Old 01-16-07, 06:31 PM
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Try "portable electric meter."

I can understand that you want to know the details of your electric usage, but as has been stated, slightly, you may have a legal implication if you intend to use the data to recover costs. You can certainly use it to determine where your electric loss is occurring.
 
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Old 01-16-07, 07:24 PM
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air conditioning rental

Hey thanks for your replies. Yes this house is singley metered, just am not going to rewire the house for three units, not in the budget. House is legal. There is not a problem legally with adding a surcharge for this if in the lease.

For those projecting I would enter the apartment illegally, that was not what I have in mind, let's reframe the word tricky into the phrase appropriately and legally resourseful. Since you do not know me, I can see where you might think what you did.

I will check if it is legal to separately meter the outlets.

Thx again..
 
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Old 01-16-07, 07:26 PM
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I do not believe that legally you can do anything, except request that they use the air conditioner sparingly. You need to base the rent on many factors, including electric usage.

Or put in separate meters and have them pay the bill each month.
 
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Old 01-16-07, 07:36 PM
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Exactly. Adding tenant meters is NOT "rewiring" the house.
It may not be real cheap, but it is the best course of action.
 
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Old 01-16-07, 07:36 PM
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portable electric meter

yep, not worth the money
 
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Old 01-16-07, 08:42 PM
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Since you suggest they may simply plug the A/C into another recep, I would think the A/C is a window type unit.

Did you supply the A/C? If so, at the next lease renewal, remove it and preclude the tenant from installing an A/C lest they be subject to a surcharge to be determined by you.

If you did not provide the A/C, again, simply wait until next renewal and add the prohibition of using A/C in the apartment.

I would suggest simply raising the rent to cover the probable use of an A/C. If the tenant doesn't use an A/C, you have a windfall.
 
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Old 01-17-07, 12:01 AM
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As a landlord myself, I suggest the first course of action is to get a copy of your State's laws/codes regarding leases/rentals and READ IT. Anything short of this, and/or consulting an attorney with experience in this area, is pure speculation.

Once you are fully informed about what you may or may not do as a landlord, then you may consider your options regarding a course of action - which may or may not involve monitoring their electrical use.
 
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Old 01-17-07, 06:36 AM
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As someone who lives in an area where it gets very hot and people do die every year for lack of air conditioning I have to say I find your attitude disturbing. Would you also withhold heat in the winter? If the rent doesn't cover the utilities raise it.

[inappropriate comment removed]
 

Last edited by racraft; 01-17-07 at 06:55 AM.
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Old 01-17-07, 10:22 AM
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The utility here will, on request, install a meter that tracks time-of-day usage. This is so you can pay on a peak/off-peak basis, for example 7 PM to 7 AM costs $0.02 per KWh, and 7 AM to 7 PM costs $0.14 or something like that.

You can do this similarly by checking the meter morning and night daily to establish a baseline, and then during cooling season, you can chart the temperature vs. usage to see what's up.

Based on your original post you must live near or in this building (Basement or 3rd Floor) so that should be possible.

Last time I dealt with master-metered rentals in MN and WI, restricting or prohibiting air conditioners in dwellings with operable windows was OK by law. Seems to me you could also add a fixed surcharge for a tenant-supplied air conditioner. You can figure something out based on the nameplate and local cooling degree days averaged over some reasonable period.

What was prohibited was dividing up that master meter bill among separate dwelling units. In other words, as suggested by others, landlords would have to estimate consumption and include that cost in the fixed rent. On month-to-month leases that's not a big deal because if things get out of hand you can just raise the rent. But over the course of a one-year lease you are essentially trading futures if you do not build in a margin.

What state are you in?

Bottom line is if you don't trust your tenants and they don't trust you, it's best to be honest with them and hope they want their security deposit returned: "I wish I could better estimate your electricity usage but I am left with the choice of being unfair to everyone involved or just ending this relationship. You should look for a place that has individual metering. You've kept the place in good shape and I appreciate that so I'll be happy to give you a good reference."
 
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Old 01-17-07, 04:14 PM
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thx

Thanks ArgMeMatey, good advice, thanks for your thoughtful answer. Am in NJ. They are good tenants, it is only the use of their own air conditioning units that one (or both?) of the floors is not being honest about. Upon lease renewal I will make any adjustments to the lease, just want to come up with a fair and equitable solution. I can manually check the existing master meter to get a baseline. Yep, I live on the third floor. I am aware that dividing up the utility bills is not legal as well. Thanks again... really appreciate your thoughts.
 
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