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Way OT: To all the electricians and electrical engineers, need help with a home electrical question.


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  • Way OT: To all the electricians and electrical engineers, need help with a home electrical question.

    My neighbor and good friend is having an issue with his power at his house. His house is of similar age to the surrounding houses and his power use habits are similar in nature to the rest of the neighborhood as well. The issue is his power bill is 2.5 times what the rest of the block averages. Most houses on the block are paying around $180/month where his power bill is $450/month. He has switched to CFLs and it hasn't made a real difference.

    He has contact the power company and they have tested their meter and even replaced it but they maintain that the issue is after the meter, somewhere in the house.

    Could it be possible that AC is leaking to ground somewhere? What would you suggest to look for first? I have a good multimeter with a amp meter on it. The house was a RTM so there are two electrical panels.

    If you need any specific information I can try to answer any questions you might have.



  • #2
    Does he grow weed with grow lights by any chance?

    Almost impossible to leak that kind of power to ground.
    Former product development engineer: Genz Benz, a KMC Music/FMIC/JAM Industries Company, continuing factory level product support and service for Genz Benz

    Currently product development engineer: Mesa Boogie


    • RoadRanger
      RoadRanger commented
      Editing a comment

      I assume an "all electric" home - electric heat, hot water, stove ? Try unplugging everything and/or shutting it off and see if the meter is still running.

  • #3

    Tell him to shut off and unplug everything he is aware of and then watch the meter to see if it's still moving/advancing. Keep doing this until the meter is reading zero draw. This will hopefully eliminate the rare possibility that there's a power load he isn't aware of.

    Does he have multiple refrigerators or an additional freezer, kegerator, etc.? These units are the largest power draw in a home, and many people are unaware that putting that old but still-running fridge in the garage will result in a much higher bill.

    It's nearly impossible to have a leak to ground that's great enough to draw an additional 150% of the average power bill.

    A clamp ammeter applied to each phase leg individually will show power draw and can be compared with the meter's readings to see if it's actually reading accurately. Power companies get this type of complaint fairly often and are sometimes less than dilligent in calibrating or confirming calibration of meters. When testing, be certain of what is actually running when you test. It's usually best to unplug devices like the fridge or water heater that may cycle on or off and affect your readings.

    "If you don't know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else" - Yogi Berra, 1925-2015


    • Gregidon
      Gregidon commented
      Editing a comment

      I would check all the major appliances. If he has an electric water heater, have him check to make sure that both coils are working properly. I've had the bottom coil go out, leaving the top coil working at nearly 100% which resulted in a huge power draw. An AC unit or refrigerator can also draw excess power if it's in need of repair.

  • #4

    The neighbor is growing weed and tapping into his power under ground.

    Ok jokes aside..

    An electrician on site can probably figure this out...ya know what I mean?

    Sump pump?

    water well/pump?

    List goes on.


    • #5

      Electric heat? Electric water heater? Old refridgerator or freezer in the basement? Old appliances in general?

      I'd suggest he talk to an electrician and try to isolate the source. We can't really diagnose this kind of thing over the internet.


      • #6

        A few people have already mentioned it, but most likely it is a appliance in the house that is to blame.

        Most likely a refrigerator or freezer..

        Depending on how helpfull your local ustility company is, many are involved these days with rebate programs for switching to energy effecient appliances.

        We went through this about 2-years ago with my mothers house, her electric bill was always in the $3-400 a month range..No electric heat, or hot water.

        The electrical company came out and did a energy audit, they determined that she did not have suffecient insulation in her house (which we knew, the house is around 50 years old) and they also put seperate isolated meters on all of her major applainces. (Stove, Refrigerator & freezer).

        It turned out to be the refrigerator that was the culprit (it was about 25-years old), the power company at no charge to my mother replaced the refrigerator with a new energy effecient one and also insulated her entire house... free of charge as part of the energy rebate programs that were available at the time.

        My mothers electric bill now averages around $1-125 a month, so that old refrigerator was costing right around $300 a month just in electricity costs!



      • #7

        SeeU 22 wrote:
        The issue is his power bill is 2.5 times what the rest of the block averages. Most houses on the block are paying around $180/month where his power bill is $450/month.


        I'll suggest to compare KWH usage... not just the $ on the bill.  It could be that your neighbor isn't using a lot more electricity than average for the area, but is using enough more to bump into a significantly higher tier cost.  That "some more" amount of power usage could be costing somewhere around twice as much per KWH as compared to a "some less" quantity of kilowatt-hours.

        I need to catch up with those guys, for I am their leader.


        • agedhorse
          agedhorse commented
          Editing a comment

          Yes, tier cost in some areas can double or triple the marginal KWH cost. Also, if there's a peak demand charge in the rate structure, this too can be a ball buster.