What is burning 42 watts?!

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  #1  
Old 03-16-20, 02:59 PM
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What is burning 42 watts?!

I recently bought a small 2 bedroom home to use as a rental. For about the last month I've been fixing/cleaning/painting getting it ready. When I leave the house, the ONLY thing I leave turned on is an 8 watt LED light on the porch. The heat is turned off. The water heater is turned off. The well pump is turned off. The refrigerator and range are also unplugged. The house is pretty much empty, with nothing plugged in.

Given that, there should only be an 8 watt draw on the place when I'm gone, right? I can see the hour by hour energy use on the power company's website. Obviously there are bumps on the graph when I am there working, but it never goes below 42-49 watts per hour! Any ideas what could be using an extra 30-40 watts? It's not a ton of power but it makes me think something is wrong. Or maybe the power meter is wrong?

I can start turning off breakers to see where the power draw is, but it will take a while because it takes 24 hours before the usage shows up on the power company website...
 
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Old 03-16-20, 03:21 PM
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Is the LED on a dimmer? Old dimmers, although don't normally work with LED's, use a resistor type mechanism and regardless of the dimming affect will use the full rated wattage of the dimmer.
 
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Old 03-16-20, 03:46 PM
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Doorbell transformer?
Telephone/answering machine?
Thermostat?
GIF receptacles?
Pilot light on switches?

Does the meter show an instantaneous reading or timed over a short period? (1 minute, 5 minutes, 15 minutes?).

Put a clamp-on ammeter on the mains, turn off all the breakers and turn them on one-by-one to see what circuit is drawing power.
 
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Old 03-16-20, 06:51 PM
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Attic light
A couple dozen AFCI breakers
cable tv box
offset error in the power meter, if electronic.
oil heater in an outside a/c compressor
 
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Old 03-16-20, 08:32 PM
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Originally Posted by zeezz
Given that, there should only be an 8 watt draw on the place when I'm gone, right? I can see the hour by hour energy use on the power company's website.
Eh, how exactly do you think the Power Company is able to TRANSMIT that data from your house to their computer? I'll make a wild guess that it takes about 40 watts to run that smart meter...

Easy way to check - flip the main breaker
 
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Old 03-16-20, 08:36 PM
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Smart meters are powered off the line side of the meter. This is done so that when they disconnect service for lack of payment...... the smart part still works.
 
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Old 03-16-20, 09:25 PM
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Eh, how exactly do you think the Power Company is able to TRANSMIT that data from your house to their computer? I'll make a wild guess that it takes about 40 watts to run that smart meter...
I can guarantee that is not true. I have a cottage and unplug everything in the fall but leave the main disconnect turned on so lights still work when I enter the cottage. The meter is still powered. It registers 0 usage for 4 months.
 
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Old 03-17-20, 05:53 AM
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See if your meter has a graphic readout of immediate ongoing usage if it does not have a spinning dial. For example a tiny changing dot pattern under the digital readout:
(example only)
---
--o
-o-
-oo
o--
o-o
oo-
ooo
----
(repeat)
Turn breakers, lights, etc. on and off and count the number of dot pattern changes in a 2 minute period etc. No need to wait for a power company daily automatic meter read.
 
  #9  
Old 03-17-20, 09:01 AM
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Originally Posted by PJmax
Smart meters are powered off the line side of the meter. This is done so that when they disconnect service for lack of payment...... the smart part still works.
Wait, but when I think that through..
If service is disconnected, THEN there's zero usage to measure, and no reason to measure it!

I'd figured that the PoCo powered THEIR side, the "ping" (meter has power) and service ON/OFF.
Because my local PoCo lists "Customer Charges" as including the costs of billing, I'd always figured they'd be billing customers for the cost of powering the smart meter's customer billing function.
Customer Charge - Monthly charge to recover costs of billing, meters and equipment.
Smart Meter Rider - Monthly charge to recover costs associated with the smart meter programs approved by the PUC.

BETTER - WATER OR GAS SMART METERS?
Does the OP have water or gas service that uses a smart meter?
 
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Old 03-17-20, 09:19 AM
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But if the meter is powered by the load side and they remotely turn it off for non-payment, the meter will be totally dead and not able to be reactivated if the customer does pay the bill. So I think it 'should' be powered by the line side
 
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  #11  
Old 03-17-20, 09:53 AM
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But if the meter is powered by the load side and they remotely turn it off for non-payment, the meter will be totally dead and not able to be reactivated if the customer does pay the bill. So I think it 'should' be powered by the line side
SHORT
Agreed. Smart meter POWERED by the line side; BILLED to the load side.
My PoCo charges a "Smart Meter Rider - Phase 2" of $8.12 commercial, $3.86 for residential.
-Smart Meter Rider - Monthly charge to recover costs associated with the smart meter programs approved by the PUC.
https://www.pplelectric.com/-/media/...se-2.pdf?la=en
That "smart meter" charge was approved in 2008 - so they SHOULD have recouped the capital cost of meters within the first decade, which should only leave cost-to-power-the-meters.
The "wattage" which the OP is being charged for SOUNDS like it's around the ballpark amount to power a smart meter.

I could well be be wrong- the easy way to check is for the OP to turn off the main breaker, and then see if they are charged for wattage.
 
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Old 03-17-20, 02:46 PM
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The meter is not using 30+ watts. I agree the meter is most likely powered from the unmetered side anyway, but even if it wasn't there is no way every meter uses over 30 watts. If it did the entire thing would be as hot if there was a 30w light bulb burning inside! They don't get warm. Also no, it does not give me a "live" watt reading, only total kwh on the meter. I believe it was very recently replaced by the power company because it reads just a little over 1,000kwh in total.

Other things...
- Don't have a clamp on meter, but need to get one.
- No dimmers (also no motion lights or dusk to dawn lights)
- No AFCI or GFCI breakers
- No doorbell, phone, or pilot lights
- Old school mechanical thermostat
- No attic light or fans
- No cable/satellite
- No water or gas meters

The only thing I can think of is about 4 total GFCI outlets, but they shouldn't draw more than a watt each. Also, how much should the control transformer for the heat pump use? That could be it, heat is off, but the 24v transformer must still be live. How much power should a heat pump crankcase heater use?

Still turning off breakers one by one to see if I can catch it.
 
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Old 03-17-20, 02:54 PM
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Good thinking as I read that heat pump crankcase heaters are from 40-70 watts.
Other thing might be a recirculating pump for instant hot water. Or a hot water tank under the sink.
 
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Old 03-17-20, 02:56 PM
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Yep. Check out the crankcase heater. Sometimes they wire those to be on even in hot weather. Old ones anyway
 
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Old 03-17-20, 04:44 PM
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Old school mechanical thermostat
Stat might be old school, but the HVAC might still have a transformer and be using power.
 
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Old 03-17-20, 08:14 PM
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You are in a borderline cold zone. Your heat pump would probably have had to been ordered with a crankcase heater or had one installed at installation time.

Post the model off the condenser. We can check into it.
 
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Old 03-17-20, 08:31 PM
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If you don't need the HVAC, turn it off at the breaker.
 
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Old 03-17-20, 08:34 PM
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It's a heat pump so it supplies him with heat.
However.... the condenser could be disconnected from power as a test.
 
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Old 03-17-20, 11:15 PM
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I'll turn the breaker off for the heat pump tomorrow, didn't get a chance to go to the house today. The weather will be mild so it doesn't need to be on. The heat pump is a 1994 model, which the home inspector was surprised to see. I'll try to get the model number, that really is a lot of heat to just run all the time.

Basically just waiting for the old heat pump to go so I can put in a mini split, but the old thing seems to run great!
 
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Old 03-18-20, 07:39 PM
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A crankcase heater will allow the heat pump to start comfortably down to a low temperature. If you're handy you could always install a thermostat on it to keep it off if the ambient air is warm enough.

If your air handler is above the condenser then the heater also keeps the liquid refrigerant from bogging the compressor.
 
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Old 03-19-20, 10:54 AM
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Couple more thoughts:

All HVAC systems with a low-voltage thermostat would have a transformer which would be on 24/7 (except for old gravity heating systems which may be on millivolt controls)
Any clocks (digital or analog) on the kitchen range?
Gas range with spark ignition for the burners?
 
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Old 03-19-20, 11:00 AM
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Any clocks (digital or analog) on the kitchen range?
Gas range with spark ignition for the burners?
Amazing the number of items we have that rely on electric power that we never think about.
 
 

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