Author Topic: Electricity bill doubled with similar weather/consumption - why?!  (Read 19194 times)

nirvines88

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I've posted here before asking for tips to lower my electricity bill.  I implemented those techniques from month 1 to month 2 in my new place and saw some positive results.  Now I just received my month 3 bill, and it doubled!  Same temperature average the last few months, the same thermostat setting (heating set to 58-60 degrees; a/c off), same water usage (no leaks), same number of times running the dishwasher and dryer, fridge running as usual, nothing plugged in that isn't being used besides router and major appliances, LED/CFL lights in all fixtures.  I e-mailed the energy company asking what could have gone wrong on their end, but they say there's practically no chance it's the digital meter, which appears to be functioning properly per their instructions on how to check it.  Other than that, they basically stuck to a script and said weather has been colder than usual (which is incorrect looking at the data supplied by their site which I've listed below), blah blah blah.  I plan to keep nagging them until I get a relevant/competent and non-script response.  In the meantime, anyone have an idea how this could have happened?

Here is some data:

WEATHER

December-January Bill
Average high: 49
Average low: 33
Average temperature: 41

January-February Bill
Average high: 51
Average low: 31
Average temperature: 41

February-March Bill
Average high: 50
Average low: 31
Average temperature: 41

Now let's compare kWh usage. 

December-January Bill
kWh usage: 887 kWh
average kWh/day: 32 kWh

January-February Bill
kWh usage: 725 kWh
average kWh/day: 25 kWh

February-March Bill
kWh usage: 1613 kWh (ANOMALY? NEARLY EQUAL TO PREVIOUS 2 MONTHS DESPITE NEARLY EXACT CONDITIONS)
average kWh/day: 50kWh

Any theories would be much appreciated!  Thanks!

Spork

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Re: Electricity bill doubled with similar weather/consumption - why?!
« Reply #1 on: March 20, 2015, 08:54:11 AM »
Do you have a smart meter or an analog meter?

With analog meters (that require a person to manually read them) -- I've seen them skip months and do estimates.  Every few months they "true up".  This can either mean you get a really cheap month or a really expensive month -- depending on your actual usage.

If you have a smart meter... well, then I don't have an intelligent guess.

Retire-Canada

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Re: Electricity bill doubled with similar weather/consumption - why?!
« Reply #2 on: March 20, 2015, 09:28:46 AM »

Any theories would be much appreciated!  Thanks!

Look for an extension cord plugged into a external power outlet of your house running to your neighbour's grow op.

-- Vik

garion

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Re: Electricity bill doubled with similar weather/consumption - why?!
« Reply #3 on: March 20, 2015, 09:31:01 AM »
Is it possible that something is wrong with your heater? If a heater is not working efficiently, it can use up a lot of electricity (assuming you have electric heat).

ShoulderThingThatGoesUp

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Re: Electricity bill doubled with similar weather/consumption - why?!
« Reply #4 on: March 20, 2015, 09:55:13 AM »
What's your heat? If it has a fan, the fan might have a problem.

NathanP

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Re: Electricity bill doubled with similar weather/consumption - why?!
« Reply #5 on: March 20, 2015, 10:16:06 AM »
Theoretically a heat pump could cause this behavior. First, check to be sure that you haven't enabled "emergency" heat which would switch you from the efficient heat pump cycle to using electric heat only. Also, temperature averages don't tell the whole story. Lets say that in December each day's temperature was exactly the average (basically a bunch of 40 degree days). A heat pump will have no problem maintaining a temperature of 60 degrees inside since the temp delta is only 20 degrees. Suppose that February had mostly warmer days but also several days that were very, very cold. On those cold days the heat pump would be running nearly 24/7 and using emergency heat to maintain the interior temperature. This is very expensive.

Another though: be sure to check your duct work to verify that you don't have a duct blowing warm air into the attic or crawlspace.

I'm a red panda

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Re: Electricity bill doubled with similar weather/consumption - why?!
« Reply #6 on: March 20, 2015, 10:20:54 AM »
Did the rate change? Or electric rate is erratic, and the bill has very little to do with consumption :(

Edit: NM, I see your consumption doubled, not just the bill.  I should read to the end of very long posts.

justajane

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Re: Electricity bill doubled with similar weather/consumption - why?!
« Reply #7 on: March 20, 2015, 10:31:19 AM »

Any theories would be much appreciated!  Thanks!

Look for an extension cord plugged into a external power outlet of your house running to your neighbour's grow op.

-- Vik


Funny.

What about a dehumidifier? The seal on your fridge or deep freeze? Those are usually the biggest culprits.

Also +1 on knowing what type of heat you have.

andy85

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Re: Electricity bill doubled with similar weather/consumption - why?!
« Reply #8 on: March 20, 2015, 10:32:07 AM »
as others have mentioned it could be various things.
heat pump
furnace
etc...

you may want to check to see if you have any water leaks. I've seen bills jump like that for no reason at all...turns out their water heater was leaking causing their water heater to go crazy.

southern granny

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Re: Electricity bill doubled with similar weather/consumption - why?!
« Reply #9 on: March 20, 2015, 01:06:14 PM »
When that happens to us it is because the utility company has been estimating and then they came and actually read the meter.  Especially when there is snow on the ground, they will just estimate usage and then catch up the next month.

andy85

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Re: Electricity bill doubled with similar weather/consumption - why?!
« Reply #10 on: March 20, 2015, 01:10:06 PM »
When that happens to us it is because the utility company has been estimating and then they came and actually read the meter.  Especially when there is snow on the ground, they will just estimate usage and then catch up the next month.
doh...i work for a utility company and completely overlooked this point
Good call!
check to see if your readings were estimates the previous 2 months

dunhamjr

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Re: Electricity bill doubled with similar weather/consumption - why?!
« Reply #11 on: March 20, 2015, 01:15:00 PM »
if you have a furnace. could be something wrong there that is eating up tons of kw trying to keep the house heated.

i know when our furnace was going bad, we were eating up a ton of both electric AND gas.
luckily the issue was an item that had been part of a class action suit (heat exchanger rusting out BADLY), so it all got fixed for free. :D

MikeBear

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Re: Electricity bill doubled with similar weather/consumption - why?!
« Reply #12 on: March 20, 2015, 02:21:58 PM »
Check each of your bills to see how many DAYS they are for!

I had something similar happen to me, and then I noticed one bill was only for 28 days, and the next was for 34 days. That's due to the meter reader person not collecting the data on the same time schedule each month.

4-6 extra days on one bill compared to another can make a huge difference, if you are only looking at the base billing charge.

dcheesi

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Re: Electricity bill doubled with similar weather/consumption - why?!
« Reply #13 on: March 20, 2015, 02:29:52 PM »
Theoretically a heat pump could cause this behavior. First, check to be sure that you haven't enabled "emergency" heat which would switch you from the efficient heat pump cycle to using electric heat only.
[...]
I had this happen when a relay in the control unit went bad. Any time the system fan was turned on, the Auxiliary heating elements were turned on as well, resulting in ridiculous heating/cooling bills until I figured it out.

teen persuasion

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Re: Electricity bill doubled with similar weather/consumption - why?!
« Reply #14 on: March 20, 2015, 08:18:27 PM »
First, look at your bills.  It should say "estimated" or "actual" on each one.  Go out and read your meter, and compute your usage per day since the last actual reading.  Maybe even read it each day for a few days, or several times a day to get a feel for when you use more/less kWh.

What runs on electric in your house?  Heat, water heater, well pump, stove, dryer, freezer?  Those are some of the bigger users, I'm sure there are others.  Lights and small appliances generally don't use that much.  We don't have any of the big users on my list (oil boiler w/ water heater, propane stove, none of the rest); our electric usage was 8 kWh per day on the most recent bill, and that's high for us, but the historic cold last month meant the heat ran near continuously, and we had electric heaters running to thaw frozen pipes, more than once!  Could your place possibly have heat tapes on pipes to prevent freezing?

nirvines88

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Re: Electricity bill doubled with similar weather/consumption - why?!
« Reply #15 on: March 20, 2015, 10:37:18 PM »
Thanks for the responses.  Everything runs off electric, including the heat pump and water heater.  I'm going to look into the meter tomorrow, which is a digital meter. 

Emg03063

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Re: Electricity bill doubled with similar weather/consumption - why?!
« Reply #16 on: March 21, 2015, 12:04:05 PM »
As far as the heat pump goes, I would look for a clamp ammeter to see how much current it is pulling in operation and compare to the literature.  You'll probably have to pull the cover off your breaker box to clamp the wire.  Use appropriate caution not to electrocute yourself.

Alex321

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Re: Electricity bill doubled with similar weather/consumption - why?!
« Reply #17 on: March 21, 2015, 12:51:11 PM »
Expanding on the heat pump possibilities, it's possible that you have a refrigerant leak, all the refrigerant is gone, and the heat pump has been working uselessly. Then the emergency heat (electric resistance) heaters have been energizing to make up the difference.

At some point, you have to look further than blaming the utility company for a faulty reading. There's a saying in certain engineering circles that you have to actually believe your indications. Humans have this tendency when if something is abnormal, they imagine all sorts of reasons why the instrument may be malfunctioning. Homeowners will have a carbon monoxide detector start alarming, and they start trying to reset it, then figure maybe the battery is broken so they replace the batteries, then they think well the damn this just broken and they hit it with a hammer and throw it out. Then they suffocate.


Reynolds531

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Re: Electricity bill doubled with similar weather/consumption - why?!
« Reply #18 on: March 21, 2015, 04:58:15 PM »
I'd be looking at alternatives. Natural gas, propane, wood stove. Gas stove, water heater, fireplace.

nirvines88

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Re: Electricity bill doubled with similar weather/consumption - why?!
« Reply #19 on: March 22, 2015, 06:07:02 AM »
Expanding on the heat pump possibilities, it's possible that you have a refrigerant leak, all the refrigerant is gone, and the heat pump has been working uselessly. Then the emergency heat (electric resistance) heaters have been energizing to make up the difference.

At some point, you have to look further than blaming the utility company for a faulty reading. There's a saying in certain engineering circles that you have to actually believe your indications. Humans have this tendency when if something is abnormal, they imagine all sorts of reasons why the instrument may be malfunctioning. Homeowners will have a carbon monoxide detector start alarming, and they start trying to reset it, then figure maybe the battery is broken so they replace the batteries, then they think well the damn this just broken and they hit it with a hammer and throw it out. Then they suffocate.

My digital thermostat says "aux" het when the electric resistance comes on, and the vast majority of time it does not say aux heat, which should probably indicate that the normal heat is working, right?

Alex321

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Re: Electricity bill doubled with similar weather/consumption - why?!
« Reply #20 on: March 22, 2015, 06:14:26 AM »
I can't say for sure. Even if it lost all the refrigerant, the compressor may still be running so the thermostat "thinks" the normal heat is working. It's possible that only after the temperature in the house keeps dropping would the thermostat decide it needs to energize the electric resistance heat, also.

But I'm by no means an HVAC tech, and I think it depends on your thermostat and its settings. Usually you can tell when the emergency heat is on because the air coming out of the registers is very warm, almost like a hair dryer. Whereas even a functional heat pump just puts out slightly warmer air.

I know this goes against the MMM principles, but you may just want to get an HVAC tech out to test the system. He can see what's going on and check the pressures.

dcheesi

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Re: Electricity bill doubled with similar weather/consumption - why?!
« Reply #21 on: March 22, 2015, 06:49:11 AM »
Expanding on the heat pump possibilities, it's possible that you have a refrigerant leak, all the refrigerant is gone, and the heat pump has been working uselessly. Then the emergency heat (electric resistance) heaters have been energizing to make up the difference.

At some point, you have to look further than blaming the utility company for a faulty reading. There's a saying in certain engineering circles that you have to actually believe your indications. Humans have this tendency when if something is abnormal, they imagine all sorts of reasons why the instrument may be malfunctioning. Homeowners will have a carbon monoxide detector start alarming, and they start trying to reset it, then figure maybe the battery is broken so they replace the batteries, then they think well the damn this just broken and they hit it with a hammer and throw it out. Then they suffocate.

My digital thermostat says "aux" het when the electric resistance comes on, and the vast majority of time it does not say aux heat, which should probably indicate that the normal heat is working, right?
The indicator only tells you what thermostat is telling the system to do. In my case defect was in the control circuitry in the main HVAC "blower" unit; the Aux. Heat light on the thermostat never came on, even though the heating elements were drawing power.

nirvines88

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Re: Electricity bill doubled with similar weather/consumption - why?!
« Reply #22 on: March 24, 2015, 12:52:11 PM »
Theoretically a heat pump could cause this behavior. First, check to be sure that you haven't enabled "emergency" heat which would switch you from the efficient heat pump cycle to using electric heat only. Also, temperature averages don't tell the whole story. Lets say that in December each day's temperature was exactly the average (basically a bunch of 40 degree days). A heat pump will have no problem maintaining a temperature of 60 degrees inside since the temp delta is only 20 degrees. Suppose that February had mostly warmer days but also several days that were very, very cold. On those cold days the heat pump would be running nearly 24/7 and using emergency heat to maintain the interior temperature. This is very expensive.

Another though: be sure to check your duct work to verify that you don't have a duct blowing warm air into the attic or crawlspace.

I suppose this could be a possibility since we had 4 days straight with snow/ice.  I tried to make sure the aux heat wasn't running because I knew it was inefficient and expensive, but it's possible it was running while I was asleep to catch up.  I wish there was a way to just disable the aux heat!

In the past few days I've been checking the digital meter and it looks like I'm averaging about 25 kWh/day, so it was either because of the freak weather or some other fluke.  Extremely frustrating since I keep it so cold in my house and use so little energy with other devices. 

I'll keep looking into it...

TheNewNormal2015

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Re: Electricity bill doubled with similar weather/consumption - why?!
« Reply #23 on: March 24, 2015, 01:01:42 PM »
Utility rates can often lag by 12-18 months.

Last winter saw costs skyrocket for many electricity providers due to the polar vortex - those costs may be going into effect now.

Which part of the country are you in?  If the northeast or Midwest I would guess this is the most likely scenario.  You should be able to back into what the cost per kilowatt hour is to compare.

andy85

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Re: Electricity bill doubled with similar weather/consumption - why?!
« Reply #24 on: March 24, 2015, 01:25:52 PM »
Theoretically a heat pump could cause this behavior. First, check to be sure that you haven't enabled "emergency" heat which would switch you from the efficient heat pump cycle to using electric heat only. Also, temperature averages don't tell the whole story. Lets say that in December each day's temperature was exactly the average (basically a bunch of 40 degree days). A heat pump will have no problem maintaining a temperature of 60 degrees inside since the temp delta is only 20 degrees. Suppose that February had mostly warmer days but also several days that were very, very cold. On those cold days the heat pump would be running nearly 24/7 and using emergency heat to maintain the interior temperature. This is very expensive.

Another though: be sure to check your duct work to verify that you don't have a duct blowing warm air into the attic or crawlspace.

I suppose this could be a possibility since we had 4 days straight with snow/ice.  I tried to make sure the aux heat wasn't running because I knew it was inefficient and expensive, but it's possible it was running while I was asleep to catch up.  I wish there was a way to just disable the aux heat!

In the past few days I've been checking the digital meter and it looks like I'm averaging about 25 kWh/day, so it was either because of the freak weather or some other fluke.  Extremely frustrating since I keep it so cold in my house and use so little energy with other devices. 

I'll keep looking into it...
sounds like the heat pump was on the emergency setting as noted above. In super super cold weather heat pumps can suck, they'll kick into emergency mode and seriously use a ton of electricity doing so. I ran across this multiple times when i worked in customer service.

nirvines88

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Re: Electricity bill doubled with similar weather/consumption - why?!
« Reply #25 on: March 24, 2015, 01:58:35 PM »
Utility rates can often lag by 12-18 months.

Last winter saw costs skyrocket for many electricity providers due to the polar vortex - those costs may be going into effect now.

Which part of the country are you in?  If the northeast or Midwest I would guess this is the most likely scenario.  You should be able to back into what the cost per kilowatt hour is to compare.

North Carolina, middle part of state (no mountains or beach)

NathanP

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Re: Electricity bill doubled with similar weather/consumption - why?!
« Reply #26 on: March 24, 2015, 02:10:13 PM »
Theoretically a heat pump could cause this behavior. First, check to be sure that you haven't enabled "emergency" heat which would switch you from the efficient heat pump cycle to using electric heat only. Also, temperature averages don't tell the whole story. Lets say that in December each day's temperature was exactly the average (basically a bunch of 40 degree days). A heat pump will have no problem maintaining a temperature of 60 degrees inside since the temp delta is only 20 degrees. Suppose that February had mostly warmer days but also several days that were very, very cold. On those cold days the heat pump would be running nearly 24/7 and using emergency heat to maintain the interior temperature. This is very expensive.

Another though: be sure to check your duct work to verify that you don't have a duct blowing warm air into the attic or crawlspace.

I suppose this could be a possibility since we had 4 days straight with snow/ice.  I tried to make sure the aux heat wasn't running because I knew it was inefficient and expensive, but it's possible it was running while I was asleep to catch up.  I wish there was a way to just disable the aux heat!

In the past few days I've been checking the digital meter and it looks like I'm averaging about 25 kWh/day, so it was either because of the freak weather or some other fluke.  Extremely frustrating since I keep it so cold in my house and use so little energy with other devices. 

I'll keep looking into it...

Most thermostats will automatically enable the emergency or auxiliary heat if the temperature delta between your desired temperature and the inside measured temperature exceeds a certain value (typically 2 or 3 degrees F). Also, the thermostat likely will enable the emergency heat if the heat pump has been running continuously for more than a certain number of hours.

With the 'extreme' cold we experienced this last February I also was shocked by my power consumption. Heat pumps are great 95% of the time (in a temperate climate), but that 5% can be very painful.