DIY Message Boards
Faulty electricity meter?

This topic can be found at:

Apr 11, 2013, 03:37 PM
Faulty electricity meter?
My neighbour has electricity bills higher than anyone within a block, and this in a modern condo complex in which the houses are similar. She has a 1-bedroom, ours is 2-bedroom and we have twice as many people living here, but her bill is 50% higher. Nobody can see that she is doing anything to cause this. Is it possible that her meter is faulty? How can one check that? Thnaks very much.
Apr 11, 2013, 05:17 PM
A quick call to the electrical supplier in your area will get you a temporary test meter for a short period of time. The electrical utility gets calls every day about possible faulty meters and while it is possible, it is very, very rare. This is a free service and will quickly answer if the meter is functioning correctly or not.

Then, after she finds out that her meter is OK (yup, I'm that sure of the result), she can start tracking down the more likely causes of high electric usage. In no particular order:

1. House layout - If her unit is on the end and yours is in the middle, then there you go - you've probably found the answer. Three exposed walls vs only two will use much more energy to heat and cool.
2. Insulation - The attic is most important. Check to see that there is enough insulation there.
3. Windows and doors - Look for tight seals and non-fogged thermopane glass.
4. Thermostat settings - If your heat is on 70 and hers is on 74, then again - you've found more than enough reason for the higher electric bill. Even a few degrees makes a huge difference.
5. Basic maintenance of high-use units - Has the H/A unit had an annual service? A dirty unit will be much less efficient. Same for the water heater (if it's electric). A two-element water heater with one burnt out element will use a huge amount of electricity to try to keep up with it's preset settings. Also consider the age of the units - a new high efficiency heat/air unit will cost as little as one third to operate compared to one that is 15 years old or older. The new units are so much more efficient that it becomes a no-brainer to upgrade as the payback time is so short.
6. Thermostat part two - Some people will try to save electricity by turning their heat off or way down when they are away from the house during the day. What they don't realize is that many heat units (like heat pumps) are designed to go into emergency heat mode if the set temperature and the ambient temperature differs by as little as ten to fifteen degrees. That means that if she drops the T-stat to 50 when she goes to work in the morning and then bumps it up to 70 when she returns home that it will go into emergency heat for several hours. An hour or two of emergency heat (which is direct electrical resistance heat) will cost more than a whole day of normal heat pump use.
7. "Normal" usage - Does she take long, hot showers? Full tub baths? Burn lots of lights? Lots of ironing? Hair dryers & curling irons? Maybe a space heater? Too much of anything will cost you in the electric bill.

I would highly recommend that she call your local electrical utility and have them put on a test meter for a week or so. Then, like I said above, the test results will confirm that she needs to look elsewhere. You'll find the answer in one of the categories above.

Apr 11, 2013, 06:01 PM
Does she leave electrical appliances like a tv and radio on even when out of the room? I'm surprised how many people do this; I've been in homes where people have both on in the background even when several guests are present. One person even left the radio on when she went out.

I know others who leave either a radio or tv on for the dogs, to keep them from getting lonely.

Same with computers; one guy I know leaves his on all day long, even when he's watching tv.

It's also surprising how many people leave lights on in rooms even when the rooms are empty.
Apr 11, 2013, 08:39 PM
Are there lights for the landscape or surroundings? Or an electrical entry gate system? Someone has to pay for that electricity, maybe it's hooked to go through her meter -- and wallet. Maybe a look at the main breaker box might raise some questions.
Apr 12, 2013, 08:58 AM
It may may a regional thing but requesting a meter test requires an awful lot of prodding of the supplier by the homeowner. Usually involving calling the PUC to intervene. But if you are sure about the power use being a phantom use issue, well worth it.

Popeye only reached for the Spinach can as a last resort...
Apr 12, 2013, 12:25 PM
to start with, she should get a Kill-A-Watt device profiler. you plug your whatever in the KAW outlet, plug in the KAW, and first time you use it, set the power cost per KWH from your bill. you can come back in a day and see what that thingie cost you, and will cost over a month.

that is an eye-opener for a lot of people.

you can't do that with water heaters, dryers, ranges, and other 240 volt appliances. but you can control usage of them all by flipping the breaker for a day, mark down the meter readings, turn them on, mark down the meter readings, and re-read the meter the next day yet.

the electric water heater, particularly near end of life, is the hog of the bunch, because it's always running, cycling, reheating the same water in the tank. vampire usage on the dishwasher, range, media system, computers, etc. is also a surprise to folks... in the typical house, it's like a 100 watt bulb running 24-7-365. this is two KWH a day with the usual dozen vampires supping at the outlet for standby/immediate-on service. 60 KWH a month.

that's real money. call it 30 bucks for what looks like a pilot light, every month.

This message has been edited. Last edited by: swschrad,

sig: if this is a new economy, how come they still want my old-fashioned money?
Apr 27, 2013, 05:46 PM
ya'll are going to think i am crazy but this DID happen
a friend, was living at the end of a road. his transformer was a small one that served only his small trailer
his bills were moderate. every thing right with the world
then, 2 houses were built close to him and the elec service came off his transformer.
his elec bill jumped up $250 a mth. with him not using any more than he had been
a call to the power company was made and he was dismissed as a worrisium fella. shut up and pay yer bill
so he did what any rational mississippi country boy would do. he shot the transformer with a 30-06
blew it all to he() the power co. came out and replaced the thing with 2 big ones mounted on a platform
his bill went back down
i know the meter reads at the house and has nothing to do with the transformer. but this happened
was it overheating of the service wire? who knows*****?v=vn7bkncf1_E
Apr 27, 2013, 07:14 PM
Frodo, that's a good one. Thanks for the laughs.

This message has been edited. Last edited by: GardenSprite,
May 08, 2013, 04:25 PM
Hi razorboy,

Another thought that will lead to higher electrical costs on her condo is if the there any circuits in her condo electrical system that have been extended and service an adjacent condo. In this case she is paying for the electrical costs used by an adjacent condo. Only by carefully checking by an reputable electrical contractor of her entire electrical panel and all circuits could such a problem be found. It would also need to be corrected such that all shared circuits found be split such that each condo be fully separate electrically with no shared circuits.

This problem would be an issue from the time the condo was first built or a tenant made changes on the sly to lower his electrical costs.

Some thoughts to consider.

Good Luck!
May 08, 2013, 06:44 PM
frodo, LOL. not that I'm saying a wild pole pig is valid hunting or anything, but everybody else's ground probably came through this poor guy's meter (and house.) they probably never grounded that pole pig, and it was a single-ended thing. fire hazard of the biggest sort.

I can see no other way that scenario would occur.

PS --pole pigs are bad eating,and the oil could be toxic if it was an old one.

// edit // or somebody stole the pole's ground wire to feed a habit...

This message has been edited. Last edited by: swschrad,

sig: if this is a new economy, how come they still want my old-fashioned money?
May 15, 2013, 03:28 PM
Thanks for all those relies and suggestions. I'll advise when the verdict is in.