Massive Hike in Electric Bill

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  #1  
Old 12-22-13, 07:59 AM
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Massive Hike in Electric Bill

Hi All,

Just received my latest electric bill and saw a massive hike. The last four months KWH usage has been September - 981, October - 1,054, November - 1,206, and December - 4,515. I have absolutely no idea how we could have jumped from 1,206 to 4,515 in one month.

A little background, though:
- My wife and I moved into the home, a 1901 colonial, in September
- We used two window A/C units all September and half of October
- We have electric baseboard heat and have had it running since late October
- I was concerned about electric baseboard heat bills, but all November we ran heat and had a 1,206 KWH reading.
- This month we had a tree come down on the line to our house, severing our power for 4 full days. It ripped the line right out of our house and also damaged the meter since it yanked the wires almost right out of the meter.

I've looked over my bill, and they did an actual reading on December 10th. December 10th we didn't have power to the house and the meter, while still attached to the house, was probably damaged.

We now have a digital meter, but I just am clueless about where this power draw could come from. There are only two changes I can think of in December compared to November:

- Christmas lights - we have about 14 100-mini light bulb strands around our split-rail fence, 1400 mini light bulbs in total, a Christmas tree, and a 150 watt spotlight on our door (only used for about a week's worth of nights from 6PM-11PM.
- When we finally could live in our house again after getting power back, I had all baseboard heat on high for about 24 hours to warm the house back up.

Could this really contribute to the high bill? My research indicates the Christmas lights should have a minimal impact on our bill, and given the reasonable usage we've seen while running baseboard in the past, I find it hard to believe 24 hours running at full heat really affected our bills that much.

Any ideas? Could this be an issue where their reading of our meter really can't be considered accurate? What can I do here?

Thank you!!
 
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  #2  
Old 12-22-13, 08:19 AM
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You mentioned that they replaced the meter in December. So there should have been a meter reading from the old meter, then an initial reading from the new meter. I assume you don't have your old meter, so it would be hard to determine if that Dec 10th reading was accurate. I would start by calling the power company and see if they can help you sort through it. Document your calls, when you called, who you spoke with and what they said. If there's an issue you may have to take it up with the state regulator and good documentation will help you.

Also, electric heat does suck a LOT of power. Since you don't have information from last year, it's a bit hard to say. The power company may be able to look at the prior owner's bills from last year to see if it's close or not. Of course, they may have had a cooler or warmer lifestyle, so it's hard to tell, but it may help.

Good luck- I'm sure others here will have lots of suggestions too. These bill issues seem to come up occasionally and while may take a while to sort through, are worth it.
 
  #3  
Old 12-22-13, 08:25 AM
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Thanks for the quick response. The bill says they did an actual reading on Dec. 10th and of course, an actual reading on Dec. 12th when they installed the new meter. Perhaps they could be adjusting for actual v. estimate but I just about had a heart attack when I saw a 200% increase. They also did an actual reading on both August 27th (when we moved in) and September 23rd that yielded the 981 KWH usage for September despite running two window units full time.

I'll give them a call on monday when their customer service department is open, and I'll have to check and see how our actual reading compares to their estimate on our digital meter.

Just seems very unreasonably high. If it is the electric baseboard though, it certainly reinforces the need to get central air installed this winter. $20K estimate, but hey, will pay for itself in just a few years!
 
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Old 12-22-13, 12:31 PM
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Did they read your meter every month? If they estimate some months and read others - the bill could be higher if they estimated [too low] the previous month. Most power companies have a record available of the previous 12 months bills. You might check their web site to see if it's available online.
 
  #5  
Old 12-22-13, 12:41 PM
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I'm pretty sure electric heat is going to cost more than a/c.
 
  #6  
Old 12-22-13, 01:01 PM
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Definitely! One of my stepsons has a MH with central heat [elec strips] and air. His heating bills are always a LOT higher than the cooling bill.... and he keeps his house cool all year [says he can't afford to set the temp above 65 in the winter]
 
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Old 12-22-13, 01:55 PM
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A 1901 colonial home isn't going to be highly energy efficient no matter how you heat it. With electric baseboards, the high bill doesn't suprise me too much if the house is in a cold climate. On the other hand, if the house is in Florida, there might be a problem. The OP doesn't list his location in his profile so we have no idea of the climate and really can't even express an informed opinion. Other things we don't know are the amount of insulation and where it might be, the age and type of windows and doors, type of construction, etc.
 
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Old 12-22-13, 02:47 PM
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- When we finally could live in our house again after getting power back, I had all baseboard heat on high for about 24 hours to warm the house back up.

Could this really contribute to the high bill? My research indicates the Christmas lights should have a minimal impact on our bill, and given the reasonable usage we've seen while running baseboard in the past, I find it hard to believe 24 hours running at full heat really affected our bills that much.
You're right. Contrary to popular belief, turning a thermostat up as high as it will go does not draw any more energy and does not produce heat any faster than setting it lower will.

What it does do is keep the heat running longer. The thermostat, or the control for one of the elements on an electric range, turns the power on and off - fully on and off - and it monitors the temperature. It keeps the power fully on until the set temperature is reached. Then it turns the power off. When the temperature of the room or the range element or whatever it's controlling drops by a certain amount, it turns the power back on. That's it. On and off. Period.

Any ideas? Could this be an issue where their reading of our meter really can't be considered accurate? What can I do here?
Yes, and the best course has already been suggested.

If it is the electric baseboard though, it certainly reinforces the need to get central air installed this winter. $20K estimate, but hey, will pay for itself in just a few years!
When you install central forced-air heating and cooling (it sounds like), what are you planning to use for your heat supply? Gas, oil or electricity?

In the meantime, I think I'd spend a few dollars on removable window caulking and new, effective drapes.
 
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Old 12-22-13, 02:54 PM
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Something free to check to make sure it's working properly if you have electric water heaters is the elements.
If one burns out the other ones going to run nonstop to keep up.
 
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Old 12-22-13, 03:25 PM
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Hot water plumbing leak equals huge bill (electricity or gas) due to heater operating almost constantly.

Double check to see if some baseboard heaters were turned up high for longer than you thought.
 
  #11  
Old 12-22-13, 05:21 PM
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Another thing thing to add is that insulation is fuel you only pay for once. So getting the home well insulated before any replacement of heating appliances will maximize savings.

If you are replacing with another electricly based heating system, a ground source heat pump will be far more efficient than what you have. If that is out of the cards, and air source heat pump would be the next best choice. Do your research on them, however. The newer units are a lot better at lower temperatures than the older ones. There will be a certain threshold when the temp outside gets low enough that the heating strips in the air handler will come on to help heat the home. That will be pretty much what you have now. However, you will save a great deal in temps above 30-4 degrees.
 
  #12  
Old 12-22-13, 07:17 PM
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Perhaps this is related to the new digital "smart" meter. I have heard numerous stories of electric bills skyrocketing after their installation.
 
  #13  
Old 12-23-13, 06:25 PM
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Which branch circuit is using all that electricity?

Turn off various circuits and see how fast the meter dial spins.

Some modern meters have an array of a (one) row of dots instead of a spinning dial. The dot pattern changes, for example:

---
x--
xx-
xxx
-xx
--x
---
x--
xx-

etc. Record how much time (seconds) it takes to go through the sequence. See which circuits that when turned off cause the dial to spin or the pattern to change much more slowly.
 
  #14  
Old 12-24-13, 07:16 AM
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I'm still leaning toward trying to heat a big 112 year old drafty house with electric resistance baseboard heaters.
 
  #15  
Old 01-17-14, 01:41 AM
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Did you say how many rooms / sq ft the house is ? How many of those rooms do you usually occupy at the same time ?

A solution that lets you zone the house and only heat / cool the rooms you are occupying , is worth considering .

God bless
Wyr
 
  #16  
Old 01-17-14, 02:00 AM
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How many baseboard units do you have?

Assuming 2000W per unit and say you have 8 units, that's 16kW. Running them for 24 hours is 384kWh straight up. If it's cold, they're probably running at 30-50% duty anyway just to maintain the temp (as Joe mentioned being 112 years old it's probably poorly insulated with drafty windows). That's 110-175kWh per day. That would account for your extra 3500kWh right there.

You may have had the baseboards 'on' since October, but unless it was as cold in October and November as it was in December, they weren't running all that much.

You should fill in your profile so we know where you are.
 
  #17  
Old 01-17-14, 08:37 AM
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I think it's interesting to note that the OP hasn't been back to the forum since his post #3 on 12/22/13. The OP is obviously not interested in what we think.
 
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