Author Topic: electricity impaired - can't figure it out  (Read 8048 times)

mstryin

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electricity impaired - can't figure it out
« on: July 29, 2013, 08:10:11 PM »
I admit, my electric bill is crazy high.  I've read the post about understanding my electric bill, but I can't seem to get ours down. I'm looking for ideas....We have a totally electric house and live in the midwest.  We very rarely use AC (it was broken for a month) - we also live in a very wooded area, lots of shade. My husband calls me the light freak - and says we're turning into mole people from living in the dark because I turn off lights.  we rack dry a decent portion (admittedly, not all) of our laundry. I've put showers on a timer to reduce hot water use ---yet our bills are still 150 a month.  What am I missing???  Should I just resign myself to high bills - I do cook a lot on our electric store and in our electric oven.....

Frankies Girl

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Re: electricity impaired - can't figure it out
« Reply #1 on: July 29, 2013, 08:27:35 PM »
Lots of electronics pull electricity even when turned off. Things like televisions, DVD players, computers, phones, etc... if it's got one of those large blocks on the plug, it definitely will be pulling in power as long as it's plugged in, and some will still do so even without the wall wart. One of the things you can do to stop that energy draw is to either unplug the items, or plug them into a power strip and flip off the strip after you turn off the electronics to cut the power draw completely.


StarryC

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Re: electricity impaired - can't figure it out
« Reply #2 on: July 29, 2013, 08:45:33 PM »
You probably shouldn't stop cooking or showering to save electricity.  I think there might be a few things to do.  If you can see or track your usage by day either on the website or yourself, that might help.  Are you using more on weekdays or weekends?  If you go on vacation for a full day, is there still a lot of usage? 

You could get a kill-a-watt and rotate it around the house to see how much certain appliances/electronics are using. 

One problem with comparing to people on these boards is that rates vary a lot.  It looks like I pay 10 cents per KWH.  It looks like in Minnesota the rates are 6 to 8 cents per KWH.  In Ohio I see 5 cents!  So, if you live in a 10 cent area, and you use the same electricity as a 5 cent area, you might be doing the best possible where you live. 

psu256

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Re: electricity impaired - can't figure it out
« Reply #3 on: July 29, 2013, 09:41:29 PM »
Yeah, mine is 10.445 cents, and my usage has actually gone up quite a bit because I've sworn off restaurants and have been cooking for myself. We should probably use KWH/month instead of dollars when talking so we compare apples to apples.

Take a look at this table from eia.gov with 2011 stats. Makes me want to move to Boise.

http://www.eia.gov/electricity/sales_revenue_price/xls/table5_a.xls
« Last Edit: July 29, 2013, 09:46:28 PM by psu256 »

marty998

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Re: electricity impaired - can't figure it out
« Reply #4 on: July 30, 2013, 02:24:45 AM »
Yeah, mine is 10.445 cents, and my usage has actually gone up quite a bit because I've sworn off restaurants and have been cooking for myself. We should probably use KWH/month instead of dollars when talking so we compare apples to apples.

Take a look at this table from eia.gov with 2011 stats. Makes me want to move to Boise.

http://www.eia.gov/electricity/sales_revenue_price/xls/table5_a.xls

Now now come on, don't be a complainy pants. I get charged 80c/day connection fee + 47c per kwh in peak times. You guys don't know how good you've got it.


psu256

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Re: electricity impaired - can't figure it out
« Reply #5 on: July 30, 2013, 06:50:07 AM »
Yeah, mine is 10.445 cents, and my usage has actually gone up quite a bit because I've sworn off restaurants and have been cooking for myself. We should probably use KWH/month instead of dollars when talking so we compare apples to apples.

Take a look at this table from eia.gov with 2011 stats. Makes me want to move to Boise.

http://www.eia.gov/electricity/sales_revenue_price/xls/table5_a.xls

Now now come on, don't be a complainy pants. I get charged 80c/day connection fee + 47c per kwh in peak times. You guys don't know how good you've got it.

I'm not being a complainypants, it should just make you want to move to Boise too :D

mstryin

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Re: electricity impaired - can't figure it out
« Reply #6 on: July 31, 2013, 05:21:23 AM »
Many thanks for suggestions!  I hadn't thought of the kill-a-watt.  Good idea, and my library has 2 of the units that you can check out on your card for free.  As for the underlying issues of saving more, I took a look at the cost per K - it's shocking - at 14 cents.  We also pay $36.40 for a 'service delivery fee' each month.  I wish I had the cash to go solar.....

daverobev

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Re: electricity impaired - can't figure it out
« Reply #7 on: July 31, 2013, 06:48:06 AM »
$150 seems very high, even at 14c/kWh. We need more info.

So $36 delivery - fine. How many kWh are you using, how many people, how often do you shower, how much do you bake, how many fridges and freezers do you have, what stays 'on' all the time?

You can probably turn down your hot water tank.

Line dry everything.

Pull the power cable out of the wall or buy some power bars with on/off switches - one for your tv+xbox+whatever, etc, etc.

Our bill.. well, the *bill* doesn't matter. It's all about the kWh.

So for us, 2 people in 1000 sq ft, we use ~10kWh a day, a bit less usually in the summer, a bit more in the winter (central heating blower).

New fridge freezer, old hot water tank I just turned down, small dehumidifier in the crawlspace. That's about it. Computers. Though I bought a small solar setup for fun with my laptop :)

aj_yooper

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Re: electricity impaired - can't figure it out
« Reply #8 on: July 31, 2013, 07:50:06 AM »
Put the kill-a-watt on the dehumidifier.  Those appliances really guzzle!

Gas is probably not an option for stove and hot water tank, right?

kdms

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Re: electricity impaired - can't figure it out
« Reply #9 on: July 31, 2013, 10:57:55 AM »
We're all electric too and rates are similar to yours here in rural eastern Ontario.  We've also become 'mole people' and I haven't yet seen a bill this year less than $190 - and it ticks me off to no end that our kW usage is actually quite small and that the bill is 50% taxes on average.  Thank you HydroOne....

The biggest savings we managed to implement was turning down the temperature on our hot water tank....dropped the bill by $20 from one month to the next, hence also saving the taxes on the funds not spent.  May want to try that if you haven't already.

daverobev

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Re: electricity impaired - can't figure it out
« Reply #10 on: July 31, 2013, 12:16:46 PM »
We're all electric too and rates are similar to yours here in rural eastern Ontario.  We've also become 'mole people' and I haven't yet seen a bill this year less than $190 - and it ticks me off to no end that our kW usage is actually quite small and that the bill is 50% taxes on average.  Thank you HydroOne....

The biggest savings we managed to implement was turning down the temperature on our hot water tank....dropped the bill by $20 from one month to the next, hence also saving the taxes on the funds not spent.  May want to try that if you haven't already.

How?! That's a monthly bill? We're on HydroOne too, I guess the rural rates are a bit higher? But still, what is actually.. I mean.. how many kWh?

backyardfeast

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Re: electricity impaired - can't figure it out
« Reply #11 on: July 31, 2013, 12:36:30 PM »
We're in an all electric house too, and though we have cheap rates (6-8c/kwh), we're in Canada with service fees and taxes.  We also have a rate rider system that's trying to encourage people to use less power: first 1300kwHs (per 2 months) are at .06, after that, .08.  And we're seeing steady increases in rates--could be 20% a year coming down the line...

SO, needless to say we've been doing some work.  2 people in 1800 sq ft, but we're rural, so we have a well (with well pump) and a septic system that draws power.  So that we can't change.  BUT: we managed to get our bills down from $200/mo in the winter to $50/mo year round.

GET THE KILL-A-WATT.  Test EVERYTHING.  We had an older second fridge and an older chest freezer.  Replacing both of these with one new, bigger chest freezer had a big impact.  So did not using the dryer.  We stared washing dishes by hand, rather than using the (new, high efficiency) dishwasher--decided the energy savings was worth the extra bit of water.  We're gradually switching lights to LED.  We use laptops rather than desktops these days. 

But by far the biggest impact, cut our bill in half, was putting in a wood stove.  Even with high-efficiency heat pump, heat was our biggest draw.  The wood stove is AWESOME.  Keeps us warmer and dryer than we could afford to do with electricity.  Allows us to line dry our clothes year-round.  Keeps showers shorter because I'm not freezing before I get in. :)

We can look at our daily usage online, and we can tell which days we use the oven.  We cook pretty much everything from scratch, but I do try to strategize a little with the oven.  If I'm going to use it, I try to stack my cooking to really use the heat.  It's also amazing what you can cook on the stove (wood or electric) in a cast iron dutch oven to simulate using the oven.  Even bread can be done this way.

Good luck!

dragoncar

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Re: electricity impaired - can't figure it out
« Reply #12 on: July 31, 2013, 02:23:28 PM »
Cooking can't cost more than, say, $1/hr.  How much time can you possibly spend cooking?

kdms

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Re: electricity impaired - can't figure it out
« Reply #13 on: August 01, 2013, 02:04:20 PM »
We're all electric too and rates are similar to yours here in rural eastern Ontario.  We've also become 'mole people' and I haven't yet seen a bill this year less than $190 - and it ticks me off to no end that our kW usage is actually quite small and that the bill is 50% taxes on average.  Thank you HydroOne....

The biggest savings we managed to implement was turning down the temperature on our hot water tank....dropped the bill by $20 from one month to the next, hence also saving the taxes on the funds not spent.  May want to try that if you haven't already.

How?! That's a monthly bill? We're on HydroOne too, I guess the rural rates are a bit higher? But still, what is actually.. I mean.. how many kWh?

I'm happy to post the details....I'm a bit lost as to why we can't get it down myself.  We've taken Kill-O-Watt meters (multiple units) and tested every appliance we've got that needs to stay plugged in (ie fridge) and everything else gets plugged in when we need to use it (think stand mixer and food processor) and then unplugged again.  TV and all other assorted gadget are on a power bar that is turned off at the source when not in use.  We're also both out of the house all day from 7am to 5pm and the little one goes to daycare, so there's no one home during peak usage hours, and all but the minimum required are off.

Latest bill: May 31-Jun 29 2013 = $200.55
Avg kWh/day: 36

Electricity: On-Peak: 156.3563 kWh @ 12.4000 $19.39
Electricity: Mid-Peak: 204.9040 kWh @ 10.4000 $21.31
Electricity: Off-Peak: 689.2442 kWh @ 6.7000 $46.18
Actual electricity usage = $86.88

Non-electricity usage charges on the same bill:

Delivery $81.61
Regulatory Charges $6.13
Debt Retirement Charge $6.73
HST (87086-5821-RT0001) $23.59

Total charges not actually related to electricity usage = $118.06

Total of your electricity charges $204.94
Ontario Clean Energy Benefit: 10% off applicable electricity charges and taxes*** $20.49 CR
New total of your electricity charges $184.45
Adjustments Real-Time Billing Payment Plan ($80.51 remaining) ** $16.10
Total adjustments $16.10


As you can see, the taxes and other assorted charges are worth more than the actual electricity used.  Considering that it's the summer months, even $86 is quite high in my opinion as we don't have A/C, we haven't used the dryer since the end of April, the furnace has been turned off since the end of March, and the hot water tank has been dropped as low as it can go.  Dishes are mostly washed by hand and the washing machine is only used during off-peak hours with cooler temperatures.  We do have two fridges and two chest freezers because DH is an avid hunter and we need the storage, but we did check all the appliances with the Kill-o-watt meters and calculated that right now there would be no savings in replacing all four appliances with two bigger ones.  (Although I would like to do that eventually just to free up the space.)  We've rewrapped the hot water tank to prevent any heat loss.  We've recently replaced 90% of our windows with higher efficiency glass (which made a big difference in heat loss last winter) and anything that wasn't changed gets covered with heavy drapes or plastic if we want the natural light, but the winter bills are still horrific.  Any suggestions or ideas welcome; we've been pretty thorough, I think, but somebody out there has probably done something else we haven't thought of.

I do a fair amount of baking, but only during off peak hours, and try to multi-task to use the residual heat.

HydroOne has recently been in the news, though, with a lot of people wondering if there's a problem with the smart meters they're making everyone go to - a lady wrote in to her local MP after her usual monthly bill of $123 came in at $644 with no change in usage.  The MP himself got a record high bill while he was working in Toronto 4 days a week, his wife was out west, and his kids were away at college, so who knows what's going on there.

Sorry about the thread hijack!

daverobev

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Re: electricity impaired - can't figure it out
« Reply #14 on: August 01, 2013, 02:53:08 PM »
Electricity: On-Peak: 156.3563 kWh @ 12.4000 $19.39
Electricity: Mid-Peak: 204.9040 kWh @ 10.4000 $21.31
Electricity: Off-Peak: 689.2442 kWh @ 6.7000 $46.18
Actual electricity usage = $86.88


Ok, ignore the other stuff as it is directly related to the electricity used - just factor that actually electricity costs roughly double the 'kWh' price. Ignore the 1/5 of the catch-up payment plan nonsense too.

Do you have an account on their site - to look at the smart meter? Because when nobody's home here, my usage is 0.01kWh. I'm talking about here: https://www.myaccount.hydroone.com/TOUPortal/Home.aspx

When you log in go to 'My Electricity Usage'

The one thing you can't do is 'today'. But you can look monthly, daily, and hourly.

Ok, so here is mine from yesterday. I made lunch (cooked some.. what did I have, pasta and sauce I think), baked bread. Not sure what the spike at 9pm is - maybe the water heater clicking on. The 0.2kWh stuff is probably the dehumidifier plus whatever I used with the kettle, etc. I had my desktop on a little in the evening too.


kdms

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Re: electricity impaired - can't figure it out
« Reply #15 on: August 01, 2013, 05:42:30 PM »
Hmm.  I do use the online tracker and the July 29th breakdown (I can't access the 31st for some reason) is a good deal higher than what your breakdown looks like. 

We must have missed something somewhere....I'll have to go through each room thoroughly and check for quiet, sneaky appliances...like the UPS's I just remembered in a back office, and others I've found at random times that my toddler has plugged in so he could look at the 'pretty lights'.

I'm also going to doublecheck their calculation of the delivery charge....$1 of delivery charge for roughly every $1 of electricity seems a tad high, and it wouldn't be the first time they've made a mistake on the bill.

daverobev

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Re: electricity impaired - can't figure it out
« Reply #16 on: August 01, 2013, 07:39:43 PM »
Isn't it just a percentage though? The more you use, the more delivery you pay.

So you can just go.. oh, my total bill is my electricity used x 1.873 or whatever. I guess our bills have always been within $10 of the previous one so I don't have that much to go on...

Or, I guess it's per kWh. So delivery is +x cents per kWh, regardless of when the kWh is used?

Anyway. If you have a high baseline (ie, EVERY hour uses 1+ kWh) I'd suggest, one day, unplugging EVERYTHING for a couple of hours - do it at 11:55 and plug back in at 13:05 if you like! - and see how low your baseline goes. If you have high usage that hour, even with nothing running - literally nothing - then you know you have a problem!

backyardfeast

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Re: electricity impaired - can't figure it out
« Reply #17 on: August 01, 2013, 10:26:54 PM »
Going online to check your hourly usage would be really helpful--should tell you at least what your baseline is when no one's home.  36kwh/day does seem high; even with our well pump and septic pump and me at home all day at the moment, our usage averages more like 10-15 kwh/day.  But that's with one fridge and one freezer, so that could well be the culprit, depending on how efficient and large they are.  I hear you on the storage space, though!  And sometimes when I get uptight about usage, hub reminds me that baking that roast still only cost 25cents or something, lol.

You have been really thorough!  You don't mention your lighting, but I assume you have switched over to cfls/leds?  Washing laundry in cold water is good; laptops rather than desktops; the little things do add up.  But checking your usage for outlier days--guests staying? or billing errors? is a really good idea.  You could also keep track of when you're using what (like turn on the tv to watch for a couple of hours), one thing at a time, and then log on to see what kind of spike each thing causes.

Good luck!

Micheal

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Re: electricity impaired - can't figure it out
« Reply #18 on: August 01, 2013, 10:46:20 PM »
If you have westar I feel your pain, they are actively trying to raise the prices again.  You may want to check into your appliances and see how efficient they are, an inefficient fridge can suck power, as will a hot water heater with old electronics.  The cost to replace these items may be worth it for the savings.  If you do have westar they have a program where they will install a kill a watt in your home for free to monitor your ac but you can hook multiple things into it, and may be worth looking into.

kdms

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Re: electricity impaired - can't figure it out
« Reply #19 on: August 06, 2013, 02:51:50 AM »

Or, I guess it's per kWh. So delivery is +x cents per kWh, regardless of when the kWh is used?

Anyway. If you have a high baseline (ie, EVERY hour uses 1+ kWh) I'd suggest, one day, unplugging EVERYTHING for a couple of hours - do it at 11:55 and plug back in at 13:05 if you like! - and see how low your baseline goes. If you have high usage that hour, even with nothing running - literally nothing - then you know you have a problem!

This is correct...it's calculated per kWh.  I haven't been able to get into their online explanation of how it's calculated, yet, because right after my last post that particular link came up as broken and 'we're sorry for the inconvenience...please try later.'

I've taken this week off as holidays so it'll be a little more difficult to gauge what a typical usage should be, as I typically use a lot of power tools on projects when I've got time to relax ;), but one of this week's projects is taking down a wall with power outlets in it so the intention is to turn off the entire house at the panel (overkill for the outlets, but it'll at least show if something's leaking besides the appliances) for a two-hour period in the middle of the day and see what happens.  After that I'll do the same thing and turn off everything except the water tank, and so on and so forth, and we'll eventually either track down the culprit, or have fodder for a real argument with HydroOne.  The online tracker is showing huge inconsistencies from one day to the next during weekdays when nobody's here and we've got to figure out what's happening.

We left on Friday night for a three-day camping trip and evidently there was a party happening here all day Saturday with every appliance in the house going full tilt - usage was higher than Friday, when I was home and using the washer and stove and oven to get ready for the trip.

36kwh/day does seem high; even with our well pump and septic pump and me at home all day at the moment, our usage averages more like 10-15 kwh/day. 

You don't mention your lighting, but I assume you have switched over to cfls/leds? 

Well and septic here as well, and I'm really starting to wonder if the extra appliances are the culprits, despite the testing we did.  One of my other projects this week is to rearrange all food storage and see if I can get everything into the two bigger appliances and cut out one fridge and one freezer for most of the year barring the height of hunting season...and perhaps provide some motivation for DH to actually do something with the hides being kept frozen (do something with these before they defrost and rot....).  We're changing lightbulbs as they burn out, and have more than 3/4 of the bulbs changed, but as mole people, it's going to take a while to change them all.  :)

theSchmett

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Re: electricity impaired - can't figure it out
« Reply #20 on: August 07, 2013, 09:10:51 AM »
It sounds like you have a good methodology for figuring out the problem, namely, trying to isolate the issue.

I would also recommend checking things like the coil on the back (or bottom) of the fridge for caked on dust, and whether or not your electric hot water heater needs a draining/flushing or further maintenance. 

I just did a LOT of upgrades in my home, replacing electrical devices with gas, and getting a new refrigerator.  I wish I had done it more slowly so I could better break out the savings per upgrade. The early numbers show that my bills are down from over $100 a month, to around $30 when the (new central) AC isn't on. We replaced a very old electric dryer, a 10yo+ (and poorly maintained I am sure) hot water heater, and an electric stove.

Another big gain, although it doesn't apply during the summer, was the new gas furnace, switching from oil. The fan is much more efficient, and runs at slower speeds, and the wintertime electric bill seems to have come down more drastically than the spring (non AC season) one.

Best of luck sorting this out - please fill us in when you do!

theSchmett

Eddy Moore

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Re: electricity impaired - can't figure it out
« Reply #21 on: August 11, 2013, 05:27:26 PM »
My theory is that you cannot save big energy by being uncomfortable or "cutting back:"  those are band-aid fixes and your house is telling you there is a deeper problem.  The fact that you need a dehumidifyer at all is also telling you there is a problem.   I live in a very hot muggy climate and run AC as much as I need (currently 75 degrees inside; heat index has been over 100 four times this week), but average less than $50 per month electric bill because the house and ductwork are fairly tight for an old (1917) home, the attic is properly insulated and the AC unit is highly efficient.   My bills are less than half what they were 5 years ago and I run the AC more.  The Kill-o-Watt can only take you so far because (1) it does not measure your biggest uses (things that are wired in like central AC and the water heater and (2) the culprit is likely not only in the appliances, but rather in fixable structures in your house, like cracks that may be behind baseboard trim or around plumbing penetrations.  If you really want to know what is using electricity, get a TED (The Electricity Detective--$200).  It will graphically show REAL TIME whole-house electric usage on your computer or SmartPhone.  MORE IMPORTANTLY, get a BPI- or HERS-certified energy auditor who will do a blower door test (with duct blaster if you have central heat or air!) and generate a report for you.  Probably $300-$450; your utility company may help pay for it.  But you cannot diagnose the probelm until you understand it.  Leakage in the home and in the duct work are likely culprits.  Even if the attic is insulated, it may be done wrong (i.e., insulated over big leaks in the tops of the walls, or missing kneewalls).  When you get a properly certified professional to establish a plan, then you will have a route to a comfortable home with low energy bills.