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Mystery device running up my electric bill. (pulling between 500-1000W)

Mystery device running up my electric bill. (pulling between 500-1000W)

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  #1  
Old 06-19-18, 08:37 AM
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Exclamation Mystery device running up my electric bill. (pulling between 500-1000W)

My wife and I bought our first home just over a year ago, and the entire time we have been battling with our electric bill. We at first thought it was the horribly undersized and outdated AC, so $6000 later we have a brand new 14 seer AC unit...didnt help. We have had 4 plumbers and electricians come out and look at our hot water heater, they all say its fine. Our pool pump is fine, and on a timer. I at a total loss.

The house is ~1500sq/ft
Built in 1978
Has recently been completely renovated (before we bought it)
All new doors and windows.
I had more attic insulation put in when we got the AC done.
I have replaced and cleared out every soffit vent around the entire house.

We had FPL (our elec company) come out, and we went through every breaker in the panel and they found that when the house is at idle, meaning everything off and unplugged except the fridge and stove, there was still between 500-1000W that was totally unaccounted for. The first time we did it it was 1000W, the second time around it was about 500W so the number seems to fluctuate.

I have one of those Sense smart energy monitors coming in tomorrow to aid is figuring this out, but any help I can get is greatly appreciated.

Just to put this into perspective:

-My dads house is 3x the size of mine, and he has a 3.5ton and a 4ton AC and he keeps his house at 74 24/7 and his bill was $89 last month...

-At our company which is in a 32,000 SQ/ft warehouse with 40ft ceilings, and 2 16ton AC units, the electric bill was $600 (around $700-800 is the hottest part of summer)

-At my little $1,500 Sq/ft house with a single 3ton AC my elec bill was $300!!!!

-A more similar comparison, our friends live 2 blocks away, have the same size house, same size AC except older, their house is about the same age but has NOT been renovated and still has old single pane windows, they keep their house at 72 degrees 24/7 and their electric bill averages between $90-120

I have compared bills from all of these places and the cost per KWh is the same across the board, and they are all FPL.

I have no idea what is going on at my house, but it is killing us, and i dont know what to do. We even went a full month with the AC OFF between 7am and 7pm and it still made no difference.
 
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  #2  
Old 06-19-18, 09:32 AM
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With every breaker turned off does the meter still show activity?
You turned off everything except for stove and refrigerator so it could be one of them.
 
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Old 06-19-18, 09:48 AM
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How old is your refrigerator? Old ones can be major power hogs.

Is your house on a well or municipal water?

Are you on a septic system or city sewer? If you have a septic system is a traditional gravity system or is it an engineered system with pumps and blowers?
 
  #4  
Old 06-19-18, 09:58 AM
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Do you have an electric water heater?
 
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Old 06-19-18, 10:04 AM
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Since you had every breaker off EXCEPT stove and Refrig when the FPL people checked, I would suspect one of those 2 circuits. Circuit board in the refridge keeping the defrost on or bad switch on the stove possibly. You can get a cheap clamp on meter from Harbor Freight ( $14). Please let us know what you find.
 
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Old 06-19-18, 11:15 AM
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Some refrigerators have an energy saver switch which allows you to run or turn off heating elements in the door or side panels. The purpose of those was to prevent condensation on the exterior (stupid as a little more insulation would have solved the problem). But, note the current position and read their instruction at the switch they are often confusing and result in those heater being on when people think they turned them off.

Bud
 
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Old 06-19-18, 11:36 AM
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In Fl. You really need the door heaters working or you will get mold on the door gaskets, we did, what temps are you running your refrigerator and freezer at? 39* refrigerator and 4* freezer works fine for us, are you running a dehumidifier?
Geo
 
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Old 06-19-18, 12:08 PM
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Have the refrigerator coils been cleaned?
 
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Old 06-19-18, 01:44 PM
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Wow, wasn't expecting so many relies so soon. Let me try to answer everyone's questions.

With every breaker turned off does the meter still show activity?
You turned off everything except for stove and refrigerator so it could be one of them.
With every breaker turned off, but the main breaker still on the meter shows nothing.
As far as the fridge and stove, we checked those with an amp meter, and the electrician said they looked completely normal.

How old is your refrigerator?
Its less than 2 years old.

Is your house on a well or municipal water?
Were on City water

Are you on a septic system or city sewer? If you have a septic system is a traditional gravity system or is it an engineered system with pumps and blowers?
Were on Septic with a traditional gravity system.

Do you have an electric water heater?
Yes, and we have had it checked 4 times by 4 different people over the last year and everyone says that it is about 10 years old, but that it is working just fine, and has no leaks.

Since you had every breaker off EXCEPT stove and Refrig when the FPL people checked, I would suspect one of those 2 circuits. Circuit board in the refridge keeping the defrost on or bad switch on the stove possibly. You can get a cheap clamp on meter from Harbor Freight ( $14). Please let us know what you find.
We have actually already did this, I did it myself about a week ago, and our electrician did it himself, last Friday. Everything looked normal.

Some refrigerators have an energy saver switch which allows you to run or turn off heating elements in the door or side panels.
I will look up the manual and check this.

what temps are you running your refrigerator and freezer at?
Fridge is it 39, and the Freezer is at 0

Have the refrigerator coils been cleaned?
They have not, but the fridge is less than 2 years old. But I will definitely check them anyway.
 
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Old 06-19-18, 02:00 PM
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The first thing I thought of was a strip heater that was stuck-on in a heat pump system. This could be labeled "emergency heat" on the thermostat.
Andy
 
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Old 06-19-18, 05:11 PM
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The first thing I thought of was a strip heater that was stuck-on in a heat pump system. This could be labeled "emergency heat" on the thermostat.
Andy
That would be sad. OP replaced their entire HVAC system and the thermostat or wiring was the culprit.
 
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Old 06-19-18, 05:17 PM
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meaning everything off and unplugged except the fridge and stove, there was still between 500-1000W that was totally unaccounted for. The first time we did it it was 1000W, the second time around it was about 500W
That would mean the problem should be easy to find if only two devices were powered. It would eliminate the HVAC system, the hot water heater and everything else.

The fridge in defrost could possibly draw up to 1000 watts.
 
  #13  
Old 06-19-18, 06:16 PM
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A leak in the hot water plumbing will keep the (electric) water heater going more than it should although not necessarily continuously all day and all night.

Check your water meter for needle or dial movement with everything (all faucets, washing machine, etc.) off.
 
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Old 06-19-18, 08:13 PM
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Could the meter from the electric company be faulty? Maybe you're not actually using all those watts.
 
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Old 06-19-18, 09:12 PM
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In re-reading the opening post..... I see mention of a pool. Are you taking that into consideration along with the A/C ? You're comparing your house to others but they don't have a pool.

I have a pool and know the effect it has on the overall bill.
 
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Old 06-20-18, 07:16 AM
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The first thing I thought of was a strip heater that was stuck-on in a heat pump system.
I actually have checked for this using a thermal camera.

A leak in the hot water plumbing will keep the (electric) water heater going more than it should
I was actually just thinking this last night because I have all original copper plumbing and I do have 1 bathroom that doesn't get hot water, it gets warm but not hot. I do need to find a way to investigate if that might actually be part of the electric problem.

Could the meter from the electric company be faulty?
FPL claims that its not the meter, however I had them put in a work order to replace it anyway, just to eliminate 1 possibility.

I see mention of a pool. Are you taking that into consideration along with the A/C ?
I have considered the pool pump, I have done several experiments with the pool pump where I might go a few days with it off, and then ill let it run for a few days solid. and it does make a difference, but nowhere near that big of one. It's a 1HP pump, our pool isn't that big.


See this is why im pulling my hair out over here. I've checked most of the obvious stuff and just cant find anything. allot of the time ill go out to my meter and my usage looks pretty normal, between 1-2KW depending on whats running. But then some times ill go out there and its pulling 5-8KW even though nothing (to my knowledge) has changed...
 
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Old 06-20-18, 07:42 AM
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Oh i forgot to mention. I was in my front room last night, its a converted garage. And I set my non contact amp meter on the floor, I bumped it with my foot and it lit up, I have now repeatedly been able to set the meter in the exact same spot and it detects voltage in the floor...mind you this is carpet on top of concrete. and as far as i know all the electrical in the house runs through the attic. I just found that odd. I don't know what could possibly be in the floor in what used to be a garage.
 
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Old 06-20-18, 09:57 AM
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Those testers aren't entirely reliable as they are susceptible to all sorts of magnetic fields. It's possible it's just picking up something from a piece of rebar in the slab, but given you have a weird problem it could be worth investigating. If you flip off the main breaker, does the tester still give a reading?

I'm from a cold region so my mind goes to pipe heat tapes or roof deicing cables stuck on, but those probably aren't used in FL.

You could eliminate the fridge from the investigation if you get a Kill-A-Watt meter. Plug the fridge in with that for 24h and it will tell you exactly how much energy the fridge consumed.

This still has a water heater feel to me given the amount of energy used. Maybe even something really unexpected like a previous owner accidentally ran the irrigation system off a hot water line - something like that. Instead of posting the dollars could you let us know how many kWH per month you're using that will help us gauge your use compared to typical houses.
 
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Old 06-20-18, 10:12 AM
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Yah sure, for the month of may I used 2210kWh, and my average daily usage is 85kWh according to my bill.
 
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Old 06-20-18, 10:13 AM
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Could you have a heated floor? Time to see what breaker makes the voltage in the floor go away.
 
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Old 06-20-18, 10:18 AM
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That's exactly what I'm going to start doing today when i get off work. I'm going to go down the line of all the breakers and see if the voltage disappears. I doubt it's a heated floor, you'd have to be crazy to want that in FL, but I suppose anything is possible. I'm also going to go through the entire house and see if any breakers might not be needed, I'm starting to wonder if its possible that i have live breakers that don't go to anything anymore and maybe one of them is grounded.

I also have one of those Sense home energy monitors coming in today so ill be working in the panel anyway. Im hoping this monitor can give me some insight as to whats going on.
 
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Old 06-20-18, 12:13 PM
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Do you have a pool heater?
Was the inside air handler replaced with the rest of the a/c? As mentioned maybe the emergency heating coils are running at the same time as the a/c.
 
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Old 06-20-18, 01:02 PM
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FPL claims that its not the meter, however I had them put in a work order to replace it anyway, just to eliminate 1 possibility.

Has this been done?
Geo
 
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Old 06-20-18, 08:56 PM
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"...my average daily usage is 85kWh according to my bill."

85 kWh per DAY? Do you run your incandescent lighting 24 hours a day?

My daily average is between 9 and 17 over the last 2-1/2 years and most billing periods are between 10 and 12 kWh per day. I do heat the home and water with gas but the laundry and cooking is all by electricity and being a "night person" I probably use more lighting hours than normal people.
 
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Old 06-21-18, 05:16 AM
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Perhaps you have a parasite, there is a remote possibility that there is a ground fault of somekind or a funny wire saddled on an outdoor outlet that goes somewhere( maybe an outbuilding?
 
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Old 06-21-18, 05:33 AM
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Do you have a pool heater?
Nope

Was the inside air handler replaced with the rest of the a/c?
Yes it was, they are both brand new.

maybe the emergency heating coils are running at the same time as the a/c.
This has been checked several times, and they are not running.

Do you run your incandescent lighting 24 hours a day?
No, every light in my house is LED.

most billing periods are between 10 and 12 kWh per day.
This is whats driving my crazy, that's not far off from what almost everyone I have talked to is using. Even in the summer with the AC running more, most people I know are looking between 15-25kWh

Perhaps you have a parasite, there is a remote possibility that there is a ground fault of somekind or a funny wire saddled on an outdoor outlet that goes somewhere( maybe an outbuilding?

This is definitely something that has me worried. and I have no idea how id track it down. I have no separate buildings, no sheds, or anything like that. But that doesn't mean that someone didn't at some point. This is a possibility that has crossed my mind, and depending on what or where it is it could be a fire hazard.
 
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Old 06-21-18, 06:44 AM
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Turning off its breaker for just a few minutes will not prove that a water heater is running more than it should.

Turning off a breaker for a few minutes and observing the results would only help track down a mystery device that draws nearly constant power 24/7.

You may need to rent a device that records and/or graphs amperes draw or watts usage over a period of at least several hours. it would need to be tried out on different branch circuits to check for intermittent mystery usage whether unexpected higher usage by a known item such as a refrigerator or usage by a genuine mystery device.
 

Last edited by AllanJ; 06-21-18 at 07:42 AM.
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Old 06-21-18, 06:51 AM
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I installed my new Sense monitor last night and have been watching it like a hawk ever since. I have learned that my dryer uses about 4000W every couple of minutes when running, I had no idea a dryer used that much power. I don't think that's relevant, but i was surprised.

I did learn that even at night while were all sleeping my lowest power draw i saw all night was about 850W, which seems pretty high. The things in my house that I can account for that should be running at this time (including things in standby) is about 441.2W at the absolute MAX, the only thing I can think of that isn't included in that number is the fridge. and the AC was not running during the periods I was monitoring.
 
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Old 06-21-18, 08:47 AM
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You should be able to hear if the fridge compressor is running continuously. It would normally cycle on your meter, off a lot longer than on. The heaters might be the problem, if on continuously. easy to check by unplugging the refrigerator and checking the meter.

(My EnviR monitor reports every 10 seconds.)
 
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Old 06-21-18, 06:46 PM
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The things in my house that I can account for that should be running at this time (including things in standby) is about 441.2W at the absolute MAX,
Things use power even though they are in standby mode. These include:
HVAC equipment, doorbell, wall warts that are plugged in all have transformers that are using power.
Printers, Computers, phones, tablets, monitors
ANYTHING that has a light on it
TV's , DVD, DVR, Cable/Sat boxes, NVR, Game consoles, etc
Kitchen equipment: Microwave, coffee pot, stove, again anything with a light on it.
 
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Old 06-21-18, 07:09 PM
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Originally Posted by Tolyn Ironhand
Things use power even though they are in standby mode.
Can't agree more.
We have a small office building, professional offices (CPA, chiropractor, Realtor, etc)
About 15 years ago, we got our electric bill, and it had some huge kW usage spikes.

I actually went through the entire 2,600 sqft building and cataloged the wattage for the ceiling lights, exterior lights, the HVAC system, and everything that was plugged into an outlet. Of course, the LAST room that I looked at, had the Chiropractor's new x-ray machine, which my boss had neglected to tell me about.

So, this is a good time to do a "wattage inventory" along with a logical sketch of your house wiring.
But, don't forget to stand back, could be something in plain sight that you didn't notice?
 
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Old 06-25-18, 05:40 AM
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So, this is a good time to do a "wattage inventory" along with a logical sketch of your house wiring.
But, don't forget to stand back, could be something in plain sight that you didn't notice?
This is exactly what I had planned on doing this weekend, unfortunately my plans got thrown out the window. But throughout the week im going to be going around the house with my sense app, and a notebook. I'm going to start with all the breakers ON, and im going to start unplugging things one by one.

Also, interesting find. FPL finally showed up to replace my meter (I told them i wanted it swapped, to remove one more variable), they changed it the day before the new billing cycle started. Now granted there has only been 3 days in the new billing cycle as of today, but my daily average kWh has dropped from 85, to 55....and not much has changed....
 
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Old 06-25-18, 07:35 AM
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Do you know if they are going to send the old meter to the certification / testing lab to check it out? Personally I've never seen one run fast -- a few I've seen run slow and the customer is unhappy surprised when a fresh meter is installed. Either way it's quite rare for the meter to be bad they tend to be very reliable.
 
  #34  
Old 06-25-18, 07:54 AM
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This is somewhat out of left-field, but remove the cover on your electrical panel and try your thermal camera on the panel's "innards". A good camera may spot the problem. If the conductors between the meter and the panel are aluminum, there could be oxidation in a connection that's acting as a resistive heater. A corrosion inhibitor should be applied to aluminum conductors before termination (should being the operative word) and the termination torqued to manufacturer's specs. The POCO should have already checked the meter base.

Unusual, but it has happened.
 
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Old 06-25-18, 08:35 AM
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Originally Posted by relink2013
im going to be going around the house with my sense app, and a notebook.
Actually, I'd go with a spreadsheet app.
Doing it on a spreadsheet makes number calculations much easier, also avoids time to double-enter the information (once in pencil, again into the computer.)

Newer breaker boxes have spaces for ~80 circuits. Average circuit can have 2-8 outlets, and 4-16 plugs, you can easily end up with 400+ items on the list.
If it takes 10 seconds to copy info from a paper notebook to spreadsheet, that's an additional hour just to transpose numbers from the paper notebook to the spreadsheet.

That's speaking as someone who had to figure out the wiring on a 1700s farmhouse, it helps to have a system.

Give each breaker/crcuit a number 1-40 or 1-80
Give each circuit a room descrption, or device (oven, dryer)
Give each branch of that circuit a room description
Give each branch-outlet a N/S/E/W wall description, and if necessary a sub-description (i.e. living room, south wall, east outlet,

so example, 4LRSE1 is
Breaker 4, Living Room, South wall, East outlet, plug #1 (top)
 
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Old 06-25-18, 10:26 AM
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Do you know if they are going to send the old meter to the certification / testing lab to check it out?
They said that they are going to. would be interesting to hear what they find.

remove the cover on your electrical panel and try your thermal camera on the panel's "innards"
I have done this once before, thats how i found what breaker went to my pool pump. But I do plan on doing it again, I just need to find my Flir.

so example, 4LRSE1 is
Breaker 4, Living Room, South wall, East outlet, plug #1 (top)
Now that is an awesome idea. I was already considering borrowing a label maker from work, and labeling the outlets. I think I might actually use your system.
 
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Old 06-26-18, 08:13 AM
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They said that they are going to. would be interesting to hear what they find.
They probably will if there's a problem. I believe here in MI if the meter is found to be more than 2% off they have to do some sort of monetary reconciliation. No idea how it works in practice, but that's what is supposed to happen.
 
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Old 06-26-18, 08:29 AM
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so example, 4LRSE1 is
Breaker 4, Living Room, South wall, East outlet, plug #1 (top)
Now that is an awesome idea. I was already considering borrowing a label maker from work, and labeling the outlets. I think I might actually use your system.
I found that labeling the wires outside the breaker box was helpful, I've got an unfinisehd basement, so following them around the house was easy.
 

Last edited by Hal_S; 06-26-18 at 08:44 AM.
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