Question about my kWh usage and electric bill?

Discussion in 'General Electronics Chat' started by nittfan, Aug 1, 2012.

  1. nittfan

    Thread Starter New Member

    Aug 1, 2012
    Hello. I am a homeowner and not in any way familiar with electronics, etc. I am continually puzzled by my electric bill, and have a few questions if anyone would care to comment. We have an all electric home, however, we do burn wood in the winter as our primary source of heat. We were with PP&L (PA) as our electricity supplier our entire life, until just recently. My question does not really pertain to PP&L or our recently changed supplier. My question pertains to our electricity bill and reducing our kW usage.

    We have switched out nearly all of our standard, incandescent bulbs to the so called energy efficient, compact fluorescents. We recently purchased a GE hybrid water heater and keep it on hybrid mode all of the time. We wash many of our clothes, etc. in cold water, we purchased a convection, countertop ("toaster") oven which runs on 110, and very, very rarely use the 220 oven.

    We do have a few "energy hogs" in our home; a 220 out-door hot-tub (on a single, 2 hour cycle per day) and a 220V pool pump (also on only 1/2 day). Also, although our refrigerator is small, it is about 12 years old and most likely not efficient by today's standards.

    We are on a 12 month "budget" bill, to offset high costs in the winter due to our heating system (which, by the way is ceramic storage heaters). In the winter we keep our thermostats set at approx. 69F for 20 hours per day and only boost it a bit in the evenings (to about 71-72F); we use the wood burner to provide most of the heat. We do have an built-in electric heating mat in the sunroom floor (500 square feet) which was built into the concrete beneath the tile upon construction. I suspect this floor heating system is very energy inefficient, so we kept it set at only 62F last winter, making up for the heat loss with a supposed energy efficient, fluid filled register type space heater.

    Our most recent bill for July/'12 from PP&L was for 1974 kWh and an average of 66 kWh/Day, at 7.993 cents per kWh.

    As an experiment, we have shut the hot-tub off for the entire next billing cycle, which will end on Aug. 5th. We also were away on vacation for 8 days during this billing cycle and the water heater was on vacation mode for these 8 days, unplugged multiple appliances (including a plasma t.v.), and no other major appliances such as a clothes dryer, AC, etc. were used during this period. Our home is not large - approx. 1,800 to 1,900 square feet, and we have only used one window AC for 6 evenings (10 hours each evening) for this entire month.

    While we have seen a decrease in the kWh used over this past year with all of the changes we have implemented, we still pay an outrageous amount of money compared to other people I know who also have all electric homes. I have a co-worker who lives one mile from me. Their home is all electric (heat pump in winter), they run the central AC all day long, have 2 small children (so more use of the washer/dryer, TV's, video games, etc.) and the most they have ever paid for electricity is $130/month in the dead of winter, while we are paying $270/month on a budget payment from the same supplier!?

    I expect to see a large decrease in the kWh used this past month due to the complete shut down of the hot-tub and 8 day vacation. If I do not, can I demand that PP&L come inspect our transformer for leaks, etc?

    One final thing. We have an in ground pool. If you sit on the concrete and place your hand on the metal ladder you can often feel a "sting" or "buzz", especially if you have any small cuts or nicks on your skin, or if you are a woman and shave your legs! I am not the only one who can feel this! I was told by the pool contractor that this was "normal" and that "in ground pools are big conductors of ground current"? The pool was grounded when it was built and I also had an electrician come and put an extra grounding rod & wire next to the pump switch 2 years ago.

    I know this is long and I appreciate anyone who took the time to read it and to respond.

    Thank you!

  2. mcgyvr

    AAC Fanatic!

    Oct 15, 2009
    an electrician can easily come in and put a current probe around each circuit. A kill-a-watt can be used on an outlet to give outlet based readings. Its easy to track it down..

    A "budget" bill IMO is never a good idea.. It costs you more to do that I'm sure.

    You've got a frigging pool and a hottub and are surprised by a high electric bill.. ha ha

    Oh and BTW 1974 kWh x $.08 = $158... Why $270 bill??? most likely your budget plan is whats screwing you..
    How many kwh is your neighbors based on his $130 bill? Is he on this "budget" plan too.

    You burn wood as your primary source in the winter then why have a budget plan..It should be LESS in the winter.

    wall insulation? leakage,etc.. can contribute drastically to high bills..
    square footage of your home compared to your neighbors?
    AC unit SEER rating?

    There are hundreds of contributing factors..
    Unless I'm actually in your house checking everything with a current meter its all just random guesses..
    #12 likes this.
  3. mcgyvr

    AAC Fanatic!

    Oct 15, 2009
    oh and a tingle in a pool is a SERIOUS issue. You need to get a qualified electrician in ASAP.. Maybe the bonding wire from the ladder is missing or corroded/gone.
    lights in the pool?
    You can take a voltmeter (AC setting) and drop one end in the water and the other end to a ground and you shouldn't see any voltage.. If you do there IS a problem.. I bet you will see a few volts.. Get it fixed

    Don't go in the water!!!!

    Get an electrician ASAP.. And not the asshat you had before.
  4. JohnInTX


    Jun 26, 2012
    The 'stickiness' you are feeling sounds like leakage current. When you are touching the ladder, you are conducting current from the charged ladder to earth ground (where you are standing). A properly grounded pool will conduct any leakage currents to ground through 1) a properly grounded electrical box and 2) the extra ground wires, not through you.

    You should consult a qualified electrician. He may find that the pool system ground is connected to neutral at the box (which can raise the 'ground' potential above real earth ground). If you have a digital voltmeter, set it to AC and measure the voltage between the ladder and ground (stick the probe into wet ground where you are standing). Anything other than 0.00V is a hazard.

    I don't understand the comment about 'big conductors of ground current'. The stickiness you are feeling is because the water/ladder in the pool is at a different potential (voltage) than the 'ground' you are standing on and your body is conducting current to ground. If the pool is such a big conductor of ground current, how about conducting that current to ground??

    Make sure your underwater lights, etc. are not leaking and the circuit is protected by a GCFI (which interrupts the supply when just such leakage is detected). All of the metal devices (pumps, heater etc) should have a large, bare copper wire strung to each one as a backup ground. This will connect to the electrical box ground connection. The ground spike is a backup as well as a local ground reference.

    I would encourage you to get this resolved before you get back into the pool.

    As for your bill, don't know. Reducing usage should reduce cost of course but there can be lots of variables these days, particularly with smart meters.

    Beat me to it mcgyver, and I agree with your evaluation.
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2012
  5. #12


    Nov 30, 2010
    Measuring and calculating the loads will take more than an hour by a QUALIFIED person. Expect to pay for his time but also expect him to point out exactly where your money is going. I'm amazed at how much some electricians don't know! The last one I talked to didn't even know that insulation temperature rating is part of his job. Finding an electrician that actually knows how electricity works can be frustrating but that's what you need. Good luck.
  6. debe

    AAC Fanatic!

    Sep 21, 2010
    Wish our power was only 7.993c/Kwh. We pay 28c/Kwh & about to rise considerably:eek:

    Active Member

    Aug 8, 2011
    Most "Power Companies" use the "BUDGET PLAN" to insure cash flow "THEIR WAY" , taking a mid to high average ( usually the high) of your usage over a given period and base billing you for that.
    Something else to look at on your bill is if there is a "FUEL ADJUSTMENT CLAUSE" , this is not necessarily directly related to FUEL, if you take the trouble to do the research you will most likely find that the utility and your states "PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION" have gotten together and worked out a deal whereby the utility can use this clause to back bill the rate payer(you) for what they call "emergency repairs" to their generating stations/transmission lines, something that should be part of their "O&M" (operation & maintenance) cost (good luck getting that fixed) .
    I do agree with the others, find a "GOOD ELECTRICIAN" to check out your usage and the pool situation.
    One "OTHER" thing, read your meter YOURSELF the same day (hopefully within the same hour) that the company read's it (hard to do with more company's going to "remote" or wireless" meter reading) and compare that to the billed readings, many company's tend to "ADJUST" their read dates for just after high usage period's (holidays, hot spell's, ect. ) in order to up the numbers a bit.
  8. #12


    Nov 30, 2010
    I've been watching that here in Florida for quite some time. August seems to be about 34 days long here because of the higher rates for "over 1000 KWh per billing cycle".
  9. MrChips


    Oct 2, 2009
    66kWh per day and 1974kWh for the month of June 2012 seems not bad for PA to me. I'm using half as much.

    Your biggest energy hogs will be:

    Clothes dryer
    Clothes washer
    Dish washer

    plus hot tub, pool pump (which we don't have)

    I would think you're about average.
    Check your electricity bill and you will find that you are paying for more than just raw electricity. So it works out to much more than $0.08/kWh.
  10. WBahn


    Mar 31, 2012
    Others have dealt with the pool safety issues.

    The problem isn't going to be a "leaky" transformer, since your meter is on YOUR side of the transformer.

    I used Budget Billing with Colorado Springs Utilities and was extremely happy with it. There was no additional charges to use it. They charged me the average of my last twelve months bills and in some months I owed them and in some months they owed me. Every year they recalculated based on the average over the prior twelve months and then adjusted that amount, up or down as needed, by the present balance divided by twelve.

    Don't try to compare rates, because there are lots of other factors at play. For instance, many utilities that have low rates also have a daily access charge that you pay just for having service. Personally, I find this completely reasonable provided the income split between access and use is reasonable. Others put nearly everything into the usage rate. What you need to do is take your TOTAL electric bill (the bill for that month, which should be indicated on the bill even if you are using budget billing) and divide by kWh used.

    You might try this: Go to your service panel and shut everything down. Then go and see if your meter is turning at all (this may or may not be easy to determine on your meter type). If it is, call the utility company and report it.

    If you're using electric heat, that's usually pretty expensive heat. Electricity is high quality energy and using if for heating seldom makes economic sense. We're on propane (hardly cheap) and it is far less expensive then using electricity.

    Keeping your house at 69F is pretty high if you are focussed on saving energy. We keep our thermostat set at 50F when we are gone and 60F when we are here. We also try to rely on wood and it usually keeps the actual temperature at about 65F. On really cold days (well below 0F) and the small wood stove can't keep up, we just all where thick bath robes and are very comfortable.

    As others have noted, your pool and hottub are likely big contributors to your bills.
    Bernard likes this.
  11. #12


    Nov 30, 2010
    When I told my electric company the meter was still running with the mains turned off, they told me that is "normal". OK. Cheating me is normal.

    So I broke all the seals and complained about the voltage regulation. After the a**hole finished accusing me of stealing from them and calling me every kind of slime he could think of, he replaced the meter with one that didn't run with all the breakers turned off.
    strantor likes this.

    Active Member

    Aug 8, 2011
    Relative to my earlier post:
    If you do not have one of the new "Smart Meters" that can be read from a distance and if you want to know when the meter is read.
    Cut out a circle of cardboard or non-clear plastic and tape it over the front of the meter (where the dials show the kwh used) using scotch magic tape, use only a couple pieces of tape (top and bottom so that it's easy to get off to read the meter (this IS NOT illegal even though some meter reader's (usually company people) might try to tell you so) it just means that they have to do a bit more work to read the meter.
    If your meter is situated so that you notice it when you come home so much the better, but eyeball it daily until you get their pattern or just leave it in place so you know when it's being read.
    In the event your utility doe's give you a hard time about your "COVER" , just tell them you have a neighbor who gives you a hard time about how much power you use or don't use, most will will just shake their head and grin and walk off.
  13. #12


    Nov 30, 2010
    I just look at the "Read Date" on my bill. I guess some power companies don't provide that information.

    Active Member

    Aug 8, 2011
    Depending on how your utility doe's it's posting, there can be up to a three day (or more) difference between when the meter was actually read and what's shown on the bill.
  15. MrHam

    New Member

    Jul 20, 2012
    From the original post it sounds like all of the heating is using resistance heating. The hot tub 2 hr per day cycle is for the filter pump, the heater will be turning on whenever to maintain the set point temperature. same for the pool if it is heated. what is the status of the pool and hot tub in the winter?

    My utility uses "automatic" meter reading, when I pay my bill I send in the meter reading.
  16. ramancini8

    Active Member

    Jul 18, 2012
    I would check the insulation and ducting first thing because these are the biggest sources of energy loss in a house.