Usually high Electricity Bill

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  #1  
Old 09-22-11, 07:22 AM
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Question Usually high Electricity Bill

Hello all,

Location : NorthWest Chicago Suburbs

I'm not sure if this is the right forum to post this but ..... my Electric meter reading is 2X what my average month usage normally is and I still have 15 days left to go for this billing cycle. ComEd stated that they won't be coming out to test the meter until Oct 5th which means my usage would have quadrupled at this rate. I was wondering if there is anything I can do to detect the culprit besides waiting for them. I have no experience with Electrical projects.

Thanks in advance.

PS. I'm heading to work so I won't be able to respond until later at night.
 
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  #2  
Old 09-22-11, 07:41 AM
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Is this a house, an apartment, or condo? What type of meter do you have?
If you shut everything off and then throw the main breaker and all other breakers, does the meter still continue to increase?

If the meter stops, then bring the main panel back online and check again. Then repeat with each breaker in the panel to see if one in particular is pulling power when nothing in the house is turned on.

Bud
 
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Old 09-22-11, 07:43 AM
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If you could provide some more info about your house and any electrical appliances it might help to focus the discussion. Does your meter stop spinning when you turn the main breaker off? You might be able to pin down what is using the most power by selectively turning breakers off and watching the spin rate of the meter.

I have heard of the heat being on at the same time as the AC.
 
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Old 09-22-11, 08:33 AM
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Thanks pcboss and Bud9051.

If you could provide some more info about your house and any electrical appliances it might help to focus the discussion.
Sorry, forgot to mention that this is a house. I have not bought any new in years. I have a TV(brother bought in 2009), Energy Star Fridge(bought in 2004), Kenmore Washer & Dryer(bought in 2009), Desktop(bought in 2003), Central AC Unit (bought in 2006), HP Laptop for work(use occasionally). Basically the only new thing in the house is an old Compaq laptop that my brother got from a classmate in July I believe. The battery does not hold charge so if he leaves it plugged in, it would be "charging" indefinitely.


What type of meter do you have?
I can look that up when I get home. Honestly, I never looked at it until Monday....in my seven years of owning my home.

does your meter stop spinning when you turn the main breaker off?
I have no inexperience here so bare with me .... so should I unplug all appliances in the house, then shut off the main breaker Or just shut off the main breaker? Then either plug in one appliance back at a time or one breaker at a time and gauge the meter's spins rate? I will attempt this when I get home.
 
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Old 09-22-11, 09:32 AM
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I would turn all the branch circuit breaker off and then turn the main off. To turn on I reverse the process.
 
  #6  
Old 09-22-11, 09:37 AM
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Since you say you are not familiar with your meter, are you sure you are reading it correctly. Some can be confusing. Also, some electric companies do not read every month, they estimate one month and update the next.

What are you seeing for readings, your appliances don't seem to be substantial.
City water or well?
What type of heat and hot water?
Programmable thermostat?
How does everyone do on using hot water?

Bud
 
  #7  
Old 09-22-11, 10:31 AM
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Do you have an electric water heater?
 
  #8  
Old 09-23-11, 10:40 AM
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Hello all,

Yes, I am beginning to suspect that ComEd Rep's reading instructions are incorrect. My bill was higher last month because it seems the tech read it wrong in July..total wattage was 110, but month of Aug was ~1000. My monthly average is ~450. In any case, I was instructed to go out on read it on Monday(9/19) and as per her guidance it looked like it was :
ComEd's actual reading on 9/7 was 85738.
9/19 : 86865.
9/22 : 86902
9/23 : 86913.
Clearly this week's reading is not indicative of a problem so my suspicion is that even though the indicator is on the 6(bolded), its still a 5 since the 3 number(9) is less than zero. At least this is how my Gas meter reading is interpreted.

Its a Sangamo J4S Watthour Electric Meter Rr277/9. Thanks for the help....but may be okay.
 
  #9  
Old 09-25-11, 07:19 AM
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You can read it yourself every month at the time that the utility company is suppose to read it and call in your reading yourself after they have taken theirs. This way, you can verify that they are close and be sure that they were able to take a reading and your bill not was not estimated. Sometimes the bill shows a reading but the reader was not able to read it for whatever reason so the utility company estimates the bill based on average consumption during that same timeframe the previous year.

Good luck!
 
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Old 09-25-11, 07:42 AM
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I find it hard to believe that a power company as big as ComEd still has meter readers at all. Most larger utilities have automated meter reading such as CellNet or TWACS and the meter reports the correct reading at the same time each month. Johnson Controls also has a meter reading system that reads both electric and water meters at each residence. These smarter meters also notify the utility if there is an outage in the area usually within 15 minutes. That being said, if they still manually read the meters, the beauty of the system is a bad reading will correct itself upon the next accurate reading.
 
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Old 09-25-11, 08:32 AM
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My meter is still read manually. I would assume that if my power company had any of those systems installed, they would be replacing the meters based on their normal life cycle replacement. I can't imagine they would save that much money with automated meters to replace all the meters at once regardless of their age. Plus the cost of the data network.
 
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Old 09-25-11, 08:45 AM
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Ours are also read manually...by binocular...by a woman standing in the back of a pickup truck in the alley, looking over the wall from 40 ft away...lol. Funny thing is..the gas is read by people walking down the sidewalk and into the front yard.
 
  #13  
Old 09-25-11, 09:17 AM
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Maybe someone from the power company saw your avatar .

Bud
 
  #14  
Old 09-25-11, 11:22 AM
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Originally Posted by Bud9051 View Post
Maybe someone from the power company saw your avatar .

Bud
LOL!
He could still get'em

Mine is automatic.
 
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Old 09-25-11, 01:57 PM
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I can't imagine they would save that much money with automated meters to replace all the meters at once regardless of their age. Plus the cost of the data network.
It probably has a lot to do with the size of the utility and the number of customers who have a meter to be read every month. A lot of houses have meters on the side of the house so driving down an alley is not an option. I am sure most utilities still have commercial and industrial customers with indoor meters too, that takes a lot of time. In a rural area, a meter reader would be hard pressed to read over 4 or 5 meters an hour. Figure all those meter readers X a good hourly wage and benefits/vacations, etc and the payback probably isn't as long as you might think. The accuracy and expediance of knowing about an outage and how many customers are affected means a lot too. It could also mean dispatching one trouble truck where with the old system they could have had multiple calls and trouble truck dispatches. The smarter meters also make it a lot easier to turn on and off service as owners change or bills are not paid.
 
  #16  
Old 09-25-11, 02:45 PM
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I won't argue the benefits of the new meters at all. But just trying to do some rough calculations on what replacing meters would cost a utility and the number gets big. My power company, JCP&L, is owned by First Energy. I didn't easily find the number of customers for JCP&L, but First Energy has a total of 6 million. I have no idea what a new meter would cost, but let's just say they were $250 each. With 1 million customers, you are looking at $250,000,000. That's a lot of money to shell out up front. Sometimes it's all about cash flow. That's also a lot of meters to supply. So part of the issue could be available materials.
 
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Old 09-25-11, 04:13 PM
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I am sure there would be a pretty good payback or so many companies wouldn't have made the switch.
 
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Old 09-25-11, 06:23 PM
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Originally Posted by CasualJoe View Post
I am sure there would be a pretty good payback or so many companies wouldn't have made the switch.
Like my semi-rural county. With poorly-maintained turny-windy roads full of potholes and poor guard rails.

The automatic outage feature helps with the lines being original from the 1930s.
 
  #19  
Old 09-25-11, 06:44 PM
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My electric power is through a county-wide Public Utility District so it is a quasi-governmental, non-profit operation and as far as I know there are no plans to install remotely read meters. My natural gas service is through a private, for-profit, utility that also sells electricity throughout a large portion of the state and they DO have the remotely read meters on both the gas and electricity.

In Seattle, which owns its own electric utility, the electric meters are not remote reading. The public utilities are more responsive to customers and also have cheaper rates than do the privately held utilities.

The private utility got rid of almost all of their meter readers, construction crews and support staff such as auto mechanics to maintain the vehicles. They now contract out for almost all new construction and a goodly percentage of the repair and maintenance of the system. They saved a butt load of money in the process and put a lot of people out of work to say nothing of the long term savings by a major reduction in personnel and costs such as vacations, sick leave, pensions and the like. What they did not do is reduce rates.
 
  #20  
Old 10-23-11, 12:08 AM
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That's just horrible. Less and less people having jobs. And where do all those profits go? To a few people in a boardroom who may be going out of the country on extravagant vacations to spend that money outside the country...
 
  #21  
Old 10-23-11, 12:16 AM
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Oh, it gets better. Previously the company was public in that anyone could buy stock and it was traded openly. Last year a consortium out of Australia bought up controlling interest and then took the company totally private by buying up all the outstanding shares of stock. Relieved the company from filing a lot of the paperwork normally required from publicly traded companies.

They just had a rate re-adjustment last month. The lowered the transport costs infinitesimally and I saw a blurb on the television news that they were going to lower the cost of the gas itself. About time considering that they RAISED the rates when almost every other gas utility across the nation was lowering theirs.
 
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Old 10-23-11, 07:49 AM
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Originally Posted by foolios View Post
That's just horrible. Less and less people having jobs. And where do all those profits go? To a few people in a boardroom who may be going out of the country on extravagant vacations to spend that money outside the country...
I can't speak for the state of Washington, but in my state the investor owned utilities are regulated and allowed a certain percentage of profit. The only privately owned utilities are municipal owned not-for-profit corporations. Although rates have been steadily rising here, natural gas and electricity is still a bargain when compared to both east and west coast. The exception, from what I have always heard, is the northwest where much of the power is hyroelectric. I believe rates in the northwest are probably lower than they are here.
 
  #23  
Old 10-23-11, 11:35 AM
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I can't speak for the state of Washington, but in my state the investor owned utilities are regulated and allowed a certain percentage of profit.
It's the same here but the commission that approves the rates is pretty much a rubber stamp. If an investor-owned utility wants a 10% rate increase they ask for a 15% increase and files paperwork that in their mind substantiates the raise. The commission mulls it over for several months and grants a 10% raise thinking they have done their job in protecting the ratepayers.

You are correct that most of our electricity is hydro produced and IS low priced in comparison to the rest of the country. My PUD (Public Utility District) has fairly high rates for a PUD for two reasons, they have very little "in house" generation (buy something like 80% of the power from Bonneville Power Administration) and they got screwed in some Enron contracts. Even so my residential winter rate (higher) is 8.582 cents per kilowatt and I know that there are people that would LOVE to have that rate.

The natural gas is an entirely different issue.
 
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Old 10-23-11, 05:52 PM
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Even so my residential winter rate (higher) is 8.582 cents per kilowatt and I know that there are people that would LOVE to have that rate.
Furd, is that a pure rate or does it have taxes in it too? I always look at my rates after the taxes have been added, they have to be paid too. About 4 years ago our summer rate was around 10 cents/kwh and winter rate was around 8 cents/kwh, taxes included in those numbers. After 4 increases in 4 years, both summer and winter rates have gone up about 2 cents. I hear ya on the regulators, sometimes it seems they must be on the payrolls of the utility companies, but I hate to think what we'd be paying with deregulation.
 
  #25  
Old 10-23-11, 06:18 PM
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That rate includes a state public utility tax at 3.873 percent but there is an additional 6 percent city utility tax added. They included an "Important Message" that residential rates include a BPA Federal Columbia River Benefits Credit of $0.00281 per kWh through Sept.30, 2011 and $0.00139 per kWh beginning Oct. 1, 2011. I have no idea what that means.

One thing that I don't have is separate charges for generation and transportation like the I-O utility has. Neither do I have a "tiered" rate structure with differing rates according to how much power I use.
 
  #26  
Old 10-23-11, 07:16 PM
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I pay about $.20 per kwh and about $1.25 per therm for gas.
 
  #27  
Old 10-23-11, 07:16 PM
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We have tiered rates here, the more you use, the lower the rate gets, but that feature has little effect on most residential users. The local utility here used to also give credits for electric water heating and electric space heating, not sure if they still do that or not. One of the newest programs offered here is, they LET you PAY MORE to make you feel good about using power from renewable resources. Sign up and they automatically raise your bill! I can think of less expensive ways to feel good.
 
  #28  
Old 10-23-11, 08:06 PM
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When I factor in the $10 a month customer charge my natural gas rate is $1.312336 per Therm. That's based on my last bill which is a little less than mid way between summer lows (water heating only) and winter peak. Obviously the more gas I burn the less the effect of the customer charge but the reverse is true during any normal summer, which escaped us this past summer.

I haven't lived in Seattle for over thirty years but prior to that they had a "reversed tier" rate structure that had decreasing cost per kWh when you exceeded specific blocks. They also had lower rates for "all electric" homes where the cooking and water heating (but not space heating) was with electricity. It was during the 1970s when all energy costs were rising that SCL did away with the reversed tier and substituted a progressive tiered structure where the more you used the more it cost per kWh. I haven't checked lately but I think PSE (the private utility) has a modified tiered rate where the first block of about 300-400 kWh is at one rate and the next block is at a lower rate then going to a higher rate than the first block for anyone exceeding the second block.

One of the newest programs offered here is, they LET you PAY MORE to make you feel good about using power from renewable resources.
Yep! my PUD offers this under the name of Planet Power and you can "subscribe" for varying amounts such as $5 a month or more. Amazingly, they even have people signing up. There is also Project Pride where you can donate to a fund administered by the local Red Cross chapter to help people pay their electric bills.
 
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