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208V Heaters installed in Apt (crazy expensive electric bill)

208V Heaters installed in Apt (crazy expensive electric bill)

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Old 10-23-18, 10:46 AM
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208V Heaters installed in Apt (crazy expensive electric bill)

Hi, my (NYC) apartment has electric baseboard heaters installed in it. (6 Dimplex heaters across 4 rooms). I noticed that they are 208 VAC heaters, and I read that 208V heaters are only appropriate for commercial buildings with elevators. Our apartment is very old, has no elevator (old walkup apartment in old townhouse), and I am worried that it is improperly wired.

Also, heating our apartment can cost up to $900 per month!! It is totally insane. In the summer when we run the AC all month long, the electricity bill is around $200 per month. I have nearby neighbors that have never paid more than $100 per month ( in any season). So, I think something is wrong with the electrical setup and I definitely think something is wrong with the heaters!

Is there any way to determine if our apartment's wiring is faulty/flawed? And whether faulty/flawed wiring (or wrong heaters) may be causing our outrageous electricity bills?

Thank you!!

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Old 10-23-18, 11:08 AM
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Welcome to the forums.

Electric heating may not be cost effective but it is 100% efficient. Every dollar you spend goes directly to heat.

I doubt there is anything wrong with the wiring or setup. What we can't determine is if something is connected to your electric service that shouldn't be.

The voltage of the baseboard matches what's available. Your complex has 120/208v service.
The heat strip shown in that picture is 1000watts. That's 1Kw. Your electric bill should tell you how much you pay per Kwh. It could be in the $.15 range. That would mean that one heat strip would cost you $.15 per hour to run. If you have a lot of heat loss..... it could get quite expensive.
 
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Old 10-23-18, 12:44 PM
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It's possible you are set up in the wrong rate class with your power company. In some areas the power company charges a different rate for residences with electric heating vs. those with gas/oil heating. You might be bumping up into a heavy-use bracket that has a high surcharge. It's worth a call. It's also possible you're in an area with a high electric rate. These details should be on your bill -- how many kWh you used and what are the rate tiers per kWh.
 
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Old 10-23-18, 02:11 PM
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Originally Posted by PJmax View Post
Welcome to the forums.

Electric heating may not be cost effective but it is 100% efficient. Every dollar you spend goes directly to heat.

I doubt there is anything wrong with the wiring or setup. What we can't determine is if something is connected to your electric service that shouldn't be.

The voltage of the baseboard matches what's available. Your complex has 120/208v service.
The heat strip shown in that picture is 1000watts. That's 1Kw. Your electric bill should tell you how much you pay per Kwh. It could be in the $.15 range. That would mean that one heat strip would cost you $.15 per hour to run. If you have a lot of heat loss..... it could get quite expensive.
Pete - Many thanks for the insight. I am curious how you know my apartment is 120/208v (because the stuff I have read online seems to indicate that only big commercial buildings would have 208v - not a small, old house with 3 apartments inside)? Is all of NYC 120/208v?

Also, I read something about if you plug a 120v heater into a 240v circuit, you would only get 1/4 of the heat output. Thus, I was thinking that a 208v heater on a 240v circuit may be working really hard to produce the right amount of heat (and using more electricity than it should normally use). I understand that you don't think that is the case.

I checked my bill, and I currently pay $0.218 per Kwh, so that is one reason the bill is so high. But, during one winter month, using 3200 Kwh for a small apartment seems crazy. I just think something has to be wrong here (but obviously I dont know).

Thanks again
 
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Old 10-23-18, 02:15 PM
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Originally Posted by ibpooks View Post
It's possible you are set up in the wrong rate class with your power company. In some areas the power company charges a different rate for residences with electric heating vs. those with gas/oil heating. You might be bumping up into a heavy-use bracket that has a high surcharge. It's worth a call. It's also possible you're in an area with a high electric rate. These details should be on your bill -- how many kWh you used and what are the rate tiers per kWh.
Thanks, Ben. I will definitely check with the power company to make sure I am in the right billing category. I am currently paying almost 22 cents per Kwh, but sadly, that appears to be fairly standard for NYC.

Thanks for your help!
 
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Old 10-23-18, 03:04 PM
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Also, I read something about if you plug a 120v heater into a 240v circuit, you would only get 1/4 of the heat output.
Yes that's true, but it also consumes 1/4 of the power that a 240V heater would consume and will take 4x as long to heat the room, so the total cost of operation to heat the room is unchanged. The good (at least straightforward) part of resistive electric heat is that every watt of electricity that goes in comes out as heat, so even if the voltage of your heaters is wrong, you're still getting the same value out as you would with other electric heaters. The downside, is that resistive electric heat is often the most expensive heating to operate, so you're going to need to look at how to conserve heat as much as possible.

Good weatherstripping on doors and windows, put heat-shrink plastic insulation kits over the windows, set back the thermostats in rooms when not in use, make sure any penetrations through the exterior walls are sealed up with caulk or expanding foam, close off attic or crawl space entrances with plastic sheeting. A little bit of sealing can make a big difference. If you have access to add any insulation to the walls, attic or basement/crawl it will pay itself back quickly at that electric rate.
 
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Old 10-23-18, 03:43 PM
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Your heater says it is 208V, so I believe PJmax assumed you have 120/208V service.

If you have 240V and you have 208V heater installed, then you have wrong heater for your service. While it will work most of the times, there is chance of overheating. Also, the wattage will be higher than rated.

Installing 120V heater on 240V circuit is not a good idea as it may overheat and sometimes heating element will just burn out.

Baseboard heaters should be installed under windows where drafts will be. This will heat up cold drafts and also helps with air circulation.
 
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Old 10-23-18, 05:00 PM
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I had thought I read the OP had 208v service. Yes.... it's very uncommon to find it in a home..... less uncommon in a commercial application. Your apartment complex may have three phase power and then 208v is correct.

Most heaters are rated 208/240v...... meaning you can use them on both. You cannot use a 120v heater on 208v or 240v at all. Using a 208v heater on 240v will cause the heater to use slightly more power and run hotter. However, this would cause the heater to run less time which would negate any perceived loss.
 
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Old 10-23-18, 07:19 PM
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Are you sure you are figuring out the total cost per kilowatt hour including distribution?

If all you looked at was the energy cost or supply cost and you saw 22 cents per kilowatt hour then what you are seeing is much less than what you are paying.

Quick and dirty and not quite accurate way to find out the total cost per kilowatt hour including distribution: Take your electric bill dollar amount total and divide by the number of kilowatt hours used. (Assumes you did not miss a payment and you did not make a payment way too early and you are not on equal payment per month budget billing.)

It is not unusual for apartment complexes to have 120/208 volt service but not full 3 phase power supplied to each apartment.

About your nearby neighbors who never pay more than $100. per month, do they live in the same complex? Do they have electric baseboard heat?

Yes, faulty wiring namely a heater in someone else's apartment connect toe your meter, will cause erroneous billing. You and possibly an electrician will have to do some homework (testing different combinations of heaters and circuit usages) and the sooner the better.
 

Last edited by AllanJ; 10-23-18 at 07:34 PM.
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Old 10-24-18, 09:10 AM
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Originally Posted by bs232499
I noticed that they are 208 VAC heaters, and I read that 208V heaters are only appropriate for commercial buildings with elevators.
IIRC, some sections of NYC still have 1920s style 110V and 208V three phase.

Spec sheet for that heater confirms it is 208V
https://s2.img-b.com/build.com/media...ries_specs.pdf

After thinking about it, "how would you wire a building with 3 phase resistance heaters?", it appears that you rectify the 3 phase into three 208V pairs of wiring (legs). If your wiring comes up through shared walls, then I can imagine a harried electrician running power from one 3 phase line to serve heaters in adjacent apartments.

So, at least there is some plausible scenario where you're paying for neighbor's electric heat.
Or you could just have an uninsulated and drafty building.
 

Last edited by Hal_S; 10-24-18 at 09:25 AM.
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Old 10-24-18, 07:01 PM
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The building service is three phase. They don't wire the individual unit for three phase.
Each unit uses only two legs of the three phase power.
Apartment 1 = phase A and phase B.
Apartment 2 = phase C and phase A.
Apartment 3 = phase B and phase C
Apartment 4 = phase A and phase B
Same order just repeats.
 
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Old 10-25-18, 11:07 AM
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I read that 208V heaters are only appropriate for commercial buildings with elevators.
Old buildings don't follow the rules. It's somewhat common to see all sorts of weird (or at least what we now consider weird) wiring and services. Unless there's something specifically unsafe about it - the type of service really doesn't much matter.

Does it seem like the building has been converted years ago? From a 4-unit to 6-unit, or anything like that? PJMax mentioned: "What we can't determine is if something is connected to your electric service that shouldn't be." It might be possible that you are inadvertently paying for someone else's heat.

If you have access to your meter, I would turn off and unplug everything in your apartment. Read the meter, then read it again in 30 minutes. With nothing plugged in, nothing should consume electricity (maybe your stove clock or something will still use a tiny bit). If you're seeing any significant usage, it's worth pursuing more.

Do you have access to your meter?
 
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Old 10-25-18, 06:28 PM
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... 208V heaters are only appropriate for commercial buildings with elevators.
Hate to rain on someone's parade but the clause shown above is false.
 
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Old 10-26-18, 11:02 AM
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Thanks for all of the helpful responses. To respond to some of your points:

The full price including fees and taxes on my electricity bill is $0.30 per KwH. There are a lot of fees and such, but I was including the energy and supply in my earlier statement (but not all of the fees).

My building was fully renovated in the 80s I think and has undergone smaller renovations since then. It was originally built probably a century ago, so I am sure there are lots of odd things about it.

The meter is in the basement of the building (controlled by a restaurant), but it is possible they would let me in to check it, so i might be able to do that.

The splitting of the phases between different apartments is interesting. I wonder if that could result in the meters not properly dividing the energy usage between apartments?

My apartment does have cold spots (walls that have cold air inside of them), but I cant imagine my landlord doing anything about it (e.g., opening up a wall to add insulation). I agreed to pay for heat, and he provided the baseboard heaters. Even though heating the place cost 3X what I expected, I don't think he is going to do any construction work to help my heating problem. I guess that is why i am hoping that something might be improperly wired, because if that is the case, he would need to fix it. I think i will try to see if anything else is hooked up to my meter (and hope that it is!).

Thanks, everyone for all the help!
 
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Old 10-26-18, 05:01 PM
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The meters don't care about the splitting of the phases. They read wattage that is consumed thru it.
$0.30/kwh is expensive. That almost sounds like a commercial rate.

If you look at your bill..... it should list your usage classification..... especially if it's other than a residential service. It may look like GS-1 or GS-2.

If you go down to the basement.... take your camera with and shoot a few pics of the setup.
 
 

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