Electric meter question

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comptalk

Electric meter question

Post by comptalk » Mon Aug 02, 2010 3:39 am

I try to understand why my utility bill is so expensive each month. Granted, I know New York more expensive than most other states, but should a 4000 sq. home using around 1200 kwh a month cost around $500.00 a month? I am only one person, and the lights are off when not used. AC is at 78 - 80. In the winter, the heat is at 68, and the bill rises to 700.00 a month.

I called the utility company and asked the last time the meter was tested. They said 2001. I asked if it could be replaced, they said yes, but generally the old ones are better than the new ones.

What do you guys think? My father thinks I should keep the old one and not open Pandoras box. But, I just do not understand nor comprehend why my bill on only 1200 kwh is so damn expensive. It should be half I would think.

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Post by Grandpaboys » Mon Aug 02, 2010 5:21 am

$500/1200=.42 cents per kwh, here in texas I pay .12 cents per kwh. which would be 1200x.12=$144. What is your charge per kwh?
Good Day | GP

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Re: Electric meter question

Post by Ron » Mon Aug 02, 2010 5:42 am

comptalk wrote:I asked if it could be replaced, they said yes, but generally the old ones are better than the new ones.
Speaking of the old, mechanical meters it is true that they did wear as they aged and did tend to show less than actual used, which affected your bill downward, slightly. I don't know if that's the situation with the newer electronic meters.

You may want to review this thread, which is a similar discussion:

http://www.bogleheads.org/forum/viewtop ... 1280738131

- Ron

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Post by NAVigator » Mon Aug 02, 2010 5:46 am

Here is the average cost of electricity in New York state;

Monthly Average Retail Price Per Kilowatt-hour of Electricity To Residential Consumers

The cost is high. Also look at the added taxes, delivery charges, fuel surcharges, etc. That can be a significant part of the total bill.

Have you considered getting a energy use monitor that you can use on each of the devices in your home; refrigerator, freezer, computer, etc?

Some power companies offer an energy audit. This might be worth it to help identify the energy culprits. I seriously doubt that the meter would be at fault.

Jerry
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Post by sjb19 » Mon Aug 02, 2010 6:03 am

The amount used seems reasonable based on your house size.

I have no idea why it's so expensive though. I used about the same amount in my townhouse in MD last month and the bill was around $175.

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Post by jjg247 » Mon Aug 02, 2010 6:44 am

4000 sq feet, for one person? I know nothing of your lifestyle, but do you need/use that much space?

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Post by Ron » Mon Aug 02, 2010 7:04 am

jjg247 wrote:4000 sq feet, for one person? I know nothing of your lifestyle, but do you need/use that much space?
Lifestyle should have nothing to do with it, IMHO. Different folks have different requirements/needs. Hey, it might be a converted warehouse that h/she also as a studio, also for their work/business in addition to living areas.

The question is the cost of the usage of 1200 kwh a month cost around $500.00 a month.

I responded in the other thread, but for comparison purposes I'm 90 miles west of the OP and for July (a very warm month in our combined area), my usage/bill was: 1399 - Total KWH/$151.83. And that was for only 2400 sq. ft.

I paid less for more, due to rates, taxes, etc.

I would also check if the property is classified as industrial, where rates would be a bit higher. Since the OP stated NYC, there's a great mixture of different living/working properties.

The OP has a logical question.

- Ron
Last edited by Ron on Mon Aug 02, 2010 7:32 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Post by JMacDonald » Mon Aug 02, 2010 7:14 am

Hi,
It appears to me that your AC/Heating unit is the possibly source of your high bill. I would check that out first before I changed the meter. You are cooing and heating a lot of space.
Best Wishes, | Joe

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Post by infecto » Mon Aug 02, 2010 7:29 am

The question is not how to reduce 1200KWH per month but why you are paying so much $/KWH. I would call the electric company to confirm you are getting charged the correct rate. There is not much you can do if it is the correct rate. Your usage based on your home size is not unreasonable.

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Post by nisiprius » Mon Aug 02, 2010 8:25 am

I agree with others, $0.42 per kwh seems wrong. Our last bill... dividing the bottom line by the total kwh--that is, including both the fuel charge (plus) and the discount for timely payment (minus)--we actually paid 14.4 cents per kwh.

http://www.eia.doe.gov/electricity/epm/table5_6_a.html

says $0.19 per kwh is residential average for New York State.

You can buy a meter, brand name "Kill-A-Watt," that measures electricity usage for... wow, I paid $30 for mine but the price seems to be down to $20. It hasn't done anything much for me but be a time-wasting geek toy, but if you're serious about this, the first place to start is to get real data.

The big catch is that the Kill-A-Watt works with standard 3-prong outlets--you plug it into the outlet, then you plug the device-to-be-measured into it--so it won't help with applicances that are hardwired in, or don't have accessible plugs, or use 220V.

But I agree with J. MacDonald. When you are trying to figure out where the power goes, don't worry too much about "frivolous" usages. Concentrate on these things:

a) Above all, things that are "always running" or "almost always running."
b) Things with big motors that need to work hard.
c) Things that get hot.

Weird stuff does happen. Ages ago there was a story in the paper about a couple who moved into a house, found a light switch that didn't seem to do anything, flipped it a few times and forgot it. It turned out--this is what the story said--that it was controlling a bank of "photographer's floodlights" in some more or less hidden room in the house. In retrospect, Gro-Lux sounds more likely than "photographer's floodlights."

I also read a story about another couple who had inexplicably high electric bills, finally got so fed up they pulled the main fuse--and the streetlights went out.
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Post by tdhg566 » Mon Aug 02, 2010 9:14 am

I can't imagine how you came to pay $0.42/kwh, or 3-4 times what I pay and over twice the NY average someone mentioned.

PLEASE let us know how this turns out. Inquiring minds want to know.
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Post by Ron » Mon Aug 02, 2010 9:27 am

nisiprius wrote:In retrospect, Gro-Lux sounds more likely than "photographer's floodlights."
And what's wrong with going green? :lol:

- Ron

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Post by JMacDonald » Mon Aug 02, 2010 9:52 am

Hi,
I don't what the rates are in NYC, but average rates may not be the way to look at this. SCE charges me electricity by tiers. The more I use the more I pay. I looked at my bill; and if I used 1200 kwh in a month, I probably would be paying $0.31 a kwh. My bill is very clear on what tier I am being charge. Here are the tiers for SCE: http://www.sce.com/CustomerService/bill ... -rates.htm
Best Wishes, | Joe

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Post by tdhg566 » Mon Aug 02, 2010 10:18 am

JMacDonald wrote:...average rates may not be the way to look at this. SCE charges me electricity by tiers. The more I use the more I pay. I looked at my bill; and if I used 1200 kwh in a month, I probably would be paying $0.31 a kwh. ..
Everyone has a rate plan with tiers of some sort. It's absolutely a valid way to do rough comparisons of plans and total usage. It's only when we're discussing the cost of the NEXT kwh that the specifics of a plan and the cost of tiers and break point locations are important.

For example, I just received a bill (6/24-7/24) for 1,445 kwh and the bill, including transmission surcharges, was $183.59, or $0.127/kwh. I could further lower this a couple of ways, like signing a longer contract, accepting e-billing, etc.

But there's no universe I can imagine where I would pay $0.31/kwh, much less $0.42/kwh. If you live in such a universe, you have my sympathy.
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comptalk

Post by comptalk » Mon Aug 02, 2010 10:25 am

Never said .42 kwh. Its about .144 with delivery and the utility. The bill is so confusing it is hard to get a correct read. I crunched some numbers, and in the late spring / summer / and early fall months, I use approx. 2100 kwh. In the late fall and winter, I use 900 kwh, but get hosed in the nat. gas @ .80 CCF. The delivery for the nat. gas is .26 CCF.

I am looking into solar or partial solar for the home. I have base board heat, so solar powering the water heater should take the edge off that for the winter months.

In terms of use, I really only use one room. The big things that could be eating into the electricity are A/C, ceiling fans (4 of them), fridge, washing machine (wash every other day), dish washer, and metal halide outside lights (6 of them). I mostly use a laptop, which is one 24/7. Every few days, I use a desktop.

Recently moved out of NYC to orange county. Work from home. Most newer homes in the area are around 4000 sq. ft. in several acres.

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Post by tdhg566 » Mon Aug 02, 2010 10:42 am

comptalk wrote:...The big things that could be eating into the electricity are A/C, ceiling fans (4 of them), fridge, washing machine (wash every other day), dish washer, and metal halide outside lights (6 of them). I mostly use a laptop, which is one 24/7. Every few days, I use a desktop...
Normally one would order your appliances, high to low usage, this way:

a/c
fridge
ceiling fans (highly depending on how much you run them)
with everything else, including inside and outside ornamental lighting, largely immaterial

BUT your metal halide outside lights sound suspicious. Those pupplies are at least 150w each if they're pole or house lights for area/security lighting. ?do they stay on all night? Six of them would be a full kilowatt, 10 hours a night times 30 days would be 300 kwh. That's a lot.

When we moved into our new house recently, the builder had left 100w bulbs in two chandeliers (9 bulbs). That's a kwh for each!!!!!!!! One got CFLs immediately, the other (on a dimmer), is only turned on for formal meals, which don't occur that often.

So while individual lights don't use that much power, certain fixtures and long running outside lights can really spin the meter.
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Post by infecto » Mon Aug 02, 2010 10:51 am

comptalk wrote:Never said .42 kwh. Its about .144 with delivery and the utility. The bill is so confusing it is hard to get a correct read. I crunched some numbers, and in the late spring / summer / and early fall months, I use approx. 2100 kwh. In the late fall and winter, I use 900 kwh, but get hosed in the nat. gas @ .80 CCF. The delivery for the nat. gas is .26 CCF.

I am looking into solar or partial solar for the home. I have base board heat, so solar powering the water heater should take the edge off that for the winter months.

In terms of use, I really only use one room. The big things that could be eating into the electricity are A/C, ceiling fans (4 of them), fridge, washing machine (wash every other day), dish washer, and metal halide outside lights (6 of them). I mostly use a laptop, which is one 24/7. Every few days, I use a desktop.

Recently moved out of NYC to orange county. Work from home. Most newer homes in the area are around 4000 sq. ft. in several acres.
Then you need to reread your bill and provide more information. You said $500 and 1200KWH.

Is it possible you have a plan setup where you pay a standard amount per month?

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Post by masteraleph » Mon Aug 02, 2010 11:05 am

As a note for those discussing the NYC case-

For reference, my NYC bill had a total charge of 23.35 cents/KWH last month (including taxes and surcharges, but not including the flat basic service charge).

This is at about 750KWH used for the month.

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Post by comptalk » Mon Aug 02, 2010 11:10 am

The metal halide lights are more for security than anything else. They go one at dusk go off at dawn. Shouldn't be an issue, as they are on in the winter too. Doesn't make much of a dent. As my bill for electricity is like 200.00 for delivery and the utility.

I asked O & R (con-ed) for an energy audit, they said they do not do it. They gave me a list of places that offer it. Each wanted anywhere from 300 - 500 for an energy audit. The house and appliances are only 8 years old. That is a lot for an energy audit.

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Re: Electric meter question

Post by nisiprius » Mon Aug 02, 2010 11:48 am

comptalk wrote:but should a 4000 sq. home using around 1200 kwh a month cost around $500.00 a month? I am only one person, and the lights are off when not used. AC is at 78 - 80. In the winter, the heat is at 68, and the bill rises to 700.00 a month.
comptalk wrote:Never said .42 kwh. Its about .144 with delivery and the utility. The bill is so confusing it is hard to get a correct read. I crunched some numbers, and in the late spring / summer / and early fall months, I use approx. 2100 kwh. In the late fall and winter, I use 900 kwh, but get hosed in the nat. gas @ .80 CCF. The delivery for the nat. gas is .26 CCF.
???? I'm totally confused.

1) Is your heat gas or electric?

2) Are you saying you get a combined bill, natural gas and electricity on the same bill? Because if not, if you are heating with gas, I don't see why your electric bill would rise in winter.

3) If you are one person living in 4,000 square feet, how is your heat and A/C distributed and controlled? Is there any possibility you could, say, shut off the vents into the infrequently-used rooms and only keep a part of your house really comfortable--the rest chilly but not freezing in winter, hot but not suffocating in summer? Do you have or can you install a "zone system" to regulate different temperatures in different parts of the house?

4) How well is your house insulated?

5) If you think it's matters that your inside lights are "off when not used," then I think it must matter that you have six security lights on all night.

Anyway, fussing about the electric meter is the last thing I'd worry about. Oh, one little thing--have you read the meter yourself just to make sure they're reading and reporting it correctly? I'm not talking small errors, I'm talking reality check on some totally weird error, like a clerical error that reports someone else' meter on your bill.
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Post by comptalk » Mon Aug 02, 2010 12:09 pm

Yes, gas and electric is on the same bill. Heat is natural gas. AC is electric. Since the land is so large, illuminating the house is a better idea so I can see whats going on outside. There is no reason to leave hall lights on when not being used. However, you have a lit up house on all sides, chances are, people will stay away. It has worked well. Cameras are also another deterrent that has worked immensely.

AC is distributed through two units through two main zones. Heat is distributed through five zones. Even with the vents closed, which they are, I was told that would make the AC work harder as the hotter rooms would consistently raise the temperature. Is this true?

Electricity is down in the winter and fall is because the AC and fans are all off. In the summer, I keep the house @ 78 - 80 with fans on in the rooms I use; as well as the great room and kitchen. Vents are closed off in the rooms not being used. In the winter, the thermostats in each none used room are brought down to 60. In the rooms I do use (my room, office, kitchen, living room), the thermostats are set to 68.

Meter has been checked and it is working okay. New AC unit has been installed for the upstairs, which, since its brand new, should be more efficient. Its a 4.5 ton unit. The second AC is for the downstairs and is a 2.5 unit. Its 8 years old. First one was replaced due to the fact it died.

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Post by Yuba » Mon Aug 02, 2010 12:30 pm

You need to provide breakouts of cost of electric vs cost of nat gas on the combined bill. I suspect the issue is the actual "gas cost recovery" is variable month to month and that will have a dramatic impact on your natural gas bill.

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Post by bdpb » Mon Aug 02, 2010 8:42 pm

comptalk wrote:New AC unit has been installed for the upstairs, which, since its brand new, should be more efficient. Its a 4.5 ton unit. The second AC is for the downstairs and is a 2.5 unit. Its 8 years old. First one was replaced due to the fact it died.
A 4.5 ton unit seems like it may be a bit oversized.
Aren't there inefficiencies to oversizing the AC?
Have you had the same pattern for many years or is this a new issue?

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Post by tdhg566 » Mon Aug 02, 2010 8:50 pm

bdpb wrote:...Aren't there inefficiencies to oversizing the AC?
...
Yes. It cools too fast and doesn't remove enough moisture so you don't feel as cool.
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Post by ryuns » Tue Aug 03, 2010 1:19 am

In this case, I think the most effective approach is to hire an energy auditor to uncover EXACTLY what it is that you're using your energy on and how to address it. http://www.getenergysmart.org/SingleFam ... ipate.aspx

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Post by djw » Tue Aug 03, 2010 11:13 pm

Once upon a time, I rented an apartment in a 4-unit building.
I noticed my electric bill increase significantly in July.
I had a small fan, but the adjoining apartment had a window A/C unit.
I complained to the utility which sent a man out and determined that they'd been billing the wrong meter for the wrong apartment for many years.
My bill dropped substantially.
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Post by Valuethinker » Wed Aug 04, 2010 4:37 am

comptalk wrote:Yes, gas and electric is on the same bill. Heat is natural gas. AC is electric. Since the land is so large, illuminating the house is a better idea so I can see whats going on outside. There is no reason to leave hall lights on when not being used. However, you have a lit up house on all sides, chances are, people will stay away. It has worked well. Cameras are also another deterrent that has worked immensely.

AC is distributed through two units through two main zones. Heat is distributed through five zones. Even with the vents closed, which they are, I was told that would make the AC work harder as the hotter rooms would consistently raise the temperature. Is this true?

Electricity is down in the winter and fall is because the AC and fans are all off. In the summer, I keep the house @ 78 - 80 with fans on in the rooms I use; as well as the great room and kitchen. Vents are closed off in the rooms not being used. In the winter, the thermostats in each none used room are brought down to 60. In the rooms I do use (my room, office, kitchen, living room), the thermostats are set to 68.

Meter has been checked and it is working okay. New AC unit has been installed for the upstairs, which, since its brand new, should be more efficient. Its a 4.5 ton unit. The second AC is for the downstairs and is a 2.5 unit. Its 8 years old. First one was replaced due to the fact it died.
You are using baseboard heat (which is very, very expensive relative to gas heat-- 3 to 4 times at least) and you are using 6 big outside lights (150 watts each?).

150 watts X 8 hours = 1.2 kwhr. So that would be about 50 kwhr per month (more in winter).

Note I've assumed 150kw, if they are bigger than that, more power. It may be a good idea from a home security point of view, but it may be what is costing you the money.

I cannot reconcile your consumption with your cost (your electricity bill with all add ons should be c. 22-25 cents/ kwhr it looks like). Either the meter is wrong, or the utility calculation is wrong.

The savings calculator on the right hand side below can be used to elicit an estimation of their usage (put in your model in the spreadsheet).

http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?fus ... gw_code=CA

The difference may be the fact that your gas is on the same bill as electric?

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Post by rustymutt » Wed Aug 04, 2010 6:45 am

Kansas: We have a 4800 sq feet home and gas and electric combined never exceeds $250, in the hotest/coldest month. AC is set at 74, heater at 70. I've had insulation added in the attic, and new windows installed.
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Post by comptalk » Wed Aug 04, 2010 7:03 am

The AC unit was just replaced and is the same size that came with the home in 2002. It does a decent job. The other one, for the downstairs, which is half the size, isn't that good. Since I am usually only in my room and the office, downstairs is set at 81 and the master bedroom and the adjacent office is set at 79.

The lights, again, are negligible. The electric cost in the winter is like 150.00. Its in July and August it really sky rockets to 500.00. Last month, it was 360. So, a pretty big jump. This year, the avg. temp is 8 degrees higher than last year. Hence, I've been told the AC has to work harder and thus it is more expensive this year than last.

The base board heat, I have been told, is actually cheaper than the alternative by several HVAC techs.


Still do not understand why utilities are SO much higher in the northeast than anywhere (aside from California + Hawaii)?

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Post by tadamsmar » Wed Aug 04, 2010 7:57 am

Have you spent any time on your utility's web site?

Mine has lots of advice on how to cut your energy bills, and tools for analyzing bills. Also they have rebates for duct sealing and (IIRC) energy audits. I had my ducts sealed and got the rebate.

Have you ruled out duct leaks?

Have you ruled out other leaks, poor weatherizing?

The electric baseboard heat is perhaps less expensive because you only use a few rooms and each room has a separate baseboard unit with its own thermostat.

Do you check your filters monthly and replace them when they are dirty?

Could you just turn off one of the HVAC units?

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Post by bdpb » Wed Aug 04, 2010 8:26 am

comptalk wrote:The AC unit was just replaced and is the same size that came with the home in 2002. It does a decent job. The other one, for the downstairs, which is half the size, isn't that good. Since I am usually only in my room and the office, downstairs is set at 81 and the master bedroom and the adjacent office is set at 79.

The lights, again, are negligible. The electric cost in the winter is like 150.00. Its in July and August it really sky rockets to 500.00. Last month, it was 360. So, a pretty big jump. This year, the avg. temp is 8 degrees higher than last year. Hence, I've been told the AC has to work harder and thus it is more expensive this year than last.
Replacing an AC unit with the same size is not the correct way to replace
the AC unit. A tech should do a load calculation to determine proper
sizing.

If your costs are high in July and August and that's when you run the AC,
I would focus on the AC.

Is it possible someone else is stealing your electricity?

This may be very difficult, but can you turn off the AC for a month to
see if there are any changes? Or maybe just a week if you want to
record usage numbers from the meter. Record the meter reading once
a week for a couple of weeks and then turn off the AC and read it
a week later and see how they compare.

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Post by Valuethinker » Wed Aug 04, 2010 8:31 am

comptalk wrote:The AC unit was just replaced and is the same size that came with the home in 2002. It does a decent job. The other one, for the downstairs, which is half the size, isn't that good. Since I am usually only in my room and the office, downstairs is set at 81 and the master bedroom and the adjacent office is set at 79.

The lights, again, are negligible. The electric cost in the winter is like 150.00. Its in July and August it really sky rockets to 500.00. Last month, it was 360. So, a pretty big jump. This year, the avg. temp is 8 degrees higher than last year. Hence, I've been told the AC has to work harder and thus it is more expensive this year than last.

The base board heat, I have been told, is actually cheaper than the alternative by several HVAC techs.


Still do not understand why utilities are SO much higher in the northeast than anywhere (aside from California + Hawaii)?
On the baseboard as the other poster notes, it must be a whole house issue v. a couple of rooms. Because baseboard can cost 2-3 times what gas heating does (normally gas is much cheaper than electricity, per unit of energy. Gas furnaces turn c. 80% of that energy into heat, baseboards turn 100%).

It might be your AC is simply too large, but it looks like the AC is the thing that is doing it. Too large an AC will 'cycle' on and off too much.

Another issue may be insulation (lack of), draft proofing and/or location of your house (absence of tree cover etc.). A leak test and analysis of your insurance might be quite useful.

You can get roofing materials that reflect the light. Studies have shown that even in NYC, this will save money: you lose in the winter (less heating) but the proportionate gain in the summer (when the sun is higher in the sky, the days are longer, and the cloud cover less) offsets this by enough (as much as 10:1).

Again without using an electricity meter it is hard to know.

On utilities this is complex-- I am not sure there is a clear answer. It has to do with deregulation (Texas, also deregulated, also has relatively high rates) and with high cost structures (high land costs etc mean it is hard to put in new utility lines, zoning and local objections mean it is hard to build power plants).

Acid rain and other restrictions meant that NE utilities have generally not built coal plants-- gas has become a larger part of the picture (and gas plants are relatively new). In the Midwest and the US southeast, a lot of electricity is generated by very old coal plants: the capital costs are entirely written off, and the 'sunk costs' of building those plants were paid by utility customers 30-40 years ago. So, in effect, the utility is just paying the variable cost of fuel and operations, and passing that through to the market.

NY also imports power from Quebec (long distance power) which will be fairly expensive.

I should add there is a 'NIMBY' problem in that long distance power lines are usually blocked by local interests. So the NE cannot easily benefit from cheaper power from the Midwest (and, at peak times in summer, that power just isn't there).

I guess a big part of it is simply that everything in the NE (land, labour, property taxes etc.) costs more and that is reflected in utility rates.

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Post by Valuethinker » Wed Aug 04, 2010 8:35 am

bdpb wrote:
comptalk wrote:The AC unit was just replaced and is the same size that came with the home in 2002. It does a decent job. The other one, for the downstairs, which is half the size, isn't that good. Since I am usually only in my room and the office, downstairs is set at 81 and the master bedroom and the adjacent office is set at 79.

The lights, again, are negligible. The electric cost in the winter is like 150.00. Its in July and August it really sky rockets to 500.00. Last month, it was 360. So, a pretty big jump. This year, the avg. temp is 8 degrees higher than last year. Hence, I've been told the AC has to work harder and thus it is more expensive this year than last.
Replacing an AC unit with the same size is not the correct way to replace
the AC unit. A tech should do a load calculation to determine proper
sizing.

If your costs are high in July and August and that's when you run the AC,
I would focus on the AC.

Is it possible someone else is stealing your electricity?

This may be very difficult, but can you turn off the AC for a month to
see if there are any changes? Or maybe just a week if you want to
record usage numbers from the meter. Record the meter reading once
a week for a couple of weeks and then turn off the AC and read it
a week later and see how they compare.
You'd get a good estimate just doing this for 24 or 48 hours. Enough to see if that is what is making the difference.

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magellan
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Post by magellan » Wed Aug 04, 2010 2:57 pm

Valuethinker wrote:
bdpb wrote:Is it possible someone else is stealing your electricity?

This may be very difficult, but can you turn off the AC for a month to
see if there are any changes? Or maybe just a week if you want to
record usage numbers from the meter. Record the meter reading once
a week for a couple of weeks and then turn off the AC and read it
a week later and see how they compare.
You'd get a good estimate just doing this for 24 or 48 hours. Enough to see if that is what is making the difference.
Actually, it's not that hard to measure instantaneous electricity consumption right at the meter. It's very easy with mechanical meters (with a spinning dial). I think it's also possible with newer electronic models, but you might have to do some digging online to see exactly how to do it.

Here are the steps to calculate instantaneous electricity consumption with a mechanical meter:
1) Determine the rate of electricity usage that one rotation of the disk on your electric meter represents. This is usually called the Kh factor and it should be printed somewhere on the power meter (mine is 7.2). Wikipedia explains this at the end of this section on mechanical electric meters.

2) Turn on or off any loads to control what you are measuring. You'll have to decide how much hassle you're up for. The most reliable approach is to turn off everything at the breaker box except what you want to measure and make sure that load is on. For measuring big stuff like central air, you could probably just get a baseline reading with the ac off then another reading with it on. This assumes that there aren't other big loads switching on or off while you're measuring.

3) To take a measurement, count how many seconds it takes for the mechanical disk on the meter to complete a full revolution. If you have an electronic meter, it may simulate the rotation of the dial with a flashing led (google your meter's model number).

4) Once you have the time in seconds, you can apply the following formula:

Watts per hour = (3600 * Kh factor) / seconds-per-revolution
For example, if I turn off all the breakers in my house and just run the central AC, it takes 8 seconds for the disk on the meter to complete a revolution.

That yields: (3600 * 7.2) / 8 seconds = 3240 watts per hour

For my well pump, it's: (3600 * 7.2) / 16 seconds = 1620 watts per hour

Finally, my oil burner is: (3600 * 7.2) / 80 seconds = 324 watts per hour

For really small electric loads, you might want to count the time for 1/2 or 1/10 rotation and multiply the time by 2 or 10 to save time. Doing this reduces accuracy, but all of these measurements are rough estimates anyway.

Finally, if you happen to have a kill-a-watt meter, you can test the accuracy of your electric meter (and your calculations). To do this, turn off all your breakers and take a measurement for a large plug-in load with the kill-a-watt meter. A toaster or window AC would probably work. Next, take the measurement using the technique above and compare the results.

Jim

Topic Author
comptalk

Post by comptalk » Wed Aug 04, 2010 5:37 pm

tadamsmar wrote:Have you spent any time on your utility's web site?

Mine has lots of advice on how to cut your energy bills, and tools for analyzing bills. Also they have rebates for duct sealing and (IIRC) energy audits. I had my ducts sealed and got the rebate.

Have you ruled out duct leaks?

Have you ruled out other leaks, poor weatherizing?

The electric baseboard heat is perhaps less expensive because you only use a few rooms and each room has a separate baseboard unit with its own thermostat.

Do you check your filters monthly and replace them when they are dirty?

Could you just turn off one of the HVAC units?

ORU.com is basically useless. The support is even worse. Bunch of androids reading ready made responses off the screen to my questions. I do keep the temps at recommended levels though. 78 in the summer 68 in the winter. I can turn the second one used off in the main floor in the house, but the temp in the house outside the master bedroom, basement and office would hover around 90. I was told having a house that hot is not good. Causes mold and such to grow.

Topic Author
comptalk

Post by comptalk » Wed Aug 04, 2010 5:40 pm

Valuethinker wrote:
comptalk wrote:The AC unit was just replaced and is the same size that came with the home in 2002. It does a decent job. The other one, for the downstairs, which is half the size, isn't that good. Since I am usually only in my room and the office, downstairs is set at 81 and the master bedroom and the adjacent office is set at 79.

The lights, again, are negligible. The electric cost in the winter is like 150.00. Its in July and August it really sky rockets to 500.00. Last month, it was 360. So, a pretty big jump. This year, the avg. temp is 8 degrees higher than last year. Hence, I've been told the AC has to work harder and thus it is more expensive this year than last.

The base board heat, I have been told, is actually cheaper than the alternative by several HVAC techs.


Still do not understand why utilities are SO much higher in the northeast than anywhere (aside from California + Hawaii)?
On the baseboard as the other poster notes, it must be a whole house issue v. a couple of rooms. Because baseboard can cost 2-3 times what gas heating does (normally gas is much cheaper than electricity, per unit of energy. Gas furnaces turn c. 80% of that energy into heat, baseboards turn 100%).

It might be your AC is simply too large, but it looks like the AC is the thing that is doing it. Too large an AC will 'cycle' on and off too much.

Another issue may be insulation (lack of), draft proofing and/or location of your house (absence of tree cover etc.). A leak test and analysis of your insurance might be quite useful.

You can get roofing materials that reflect the light. Studies have shown that even in NYC, this will save money: you lose in the winter (less heating) but the proportionate gain in the summer (when the sun is higher in the sky, the days are longer, and the cloud cover less) offsets this by enough (as much as 10:1).

Again without using an electricity meter it is hard to know.

On utilities this is complex-- I am not sure there is a clear answer. It has to do with deregulation (Texas, also deregulated, also has relatively high rates) and with high cost structures (high land costs etc mean it is hard to put in new utility lines, zoning and local objections mean it is hard to build power plants).

Acid rain and other restrictions meant that NE utilities have generally not built coal plants-- gas has become a larger part of the picture (and gas plants are relatively new). In the Midwest and the US southeast, a lot of electricity is generated by very old coal plants: the capital costs are entirely written off, and the 'sunk costs' of building those plants were paid by utility customers 30-40 years ago. So, in effect, the utility is just paying the variable cost of fuel and operations, and passing that through to the market.

NY also imports power from Quebec (long distance power) which will be fairly expensive.

I should add there is a 'NIMBY' problem in that long distance power lines are usually blocked by local interests. So the NE cannot easily benefit from cheaper power from the Midwest (and, at peak times in summer, that power just isn't there).

I guess a big part of it is simply that everything in the NE (land, labour, property taxes etc.) costs more and that is reflected in utility rates.
The baseboard heat is heated by a natural gas boiler, not electric.

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Post by NateW » Wed Aug 04, 2010 6:18 pm

Something is not right. $500/1200 KW-Hr. gives an eltricity cost of over 40 cents a KW-hr. The highest I ever saw was about 20 cents a KW-hr. What is your electric rate? After the electricity charge, what taxes are added?

1200 KW-Hr does not seam out of the realm for a 4000 square foot house. What fuel do you heat with?

--Nate

Topic Author
comptalk

Post by comptalk » Wed Aug 04, 2010 6:30 pm

I read the bill wrong. It was 2300 kwh.

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Post by tadamsmar » Wed Aug 04, 2010 9:10 pm

comptalk wrote:
tadamsmar wrote:Have you spent any time on your utility's web site?

Mine has lots of advice on how to cut your energy bills, and tools for analyzing bills. Also they have rebates for duct sealing and (IIRC) energy audits. I had my ducts sealed and got the rebate.

Have you ruled out duct leaks?

Have you ruled out other leaks, poor weatherizing?

The electric baseboard heat is perhaps less expensive because you only use a few rooms and each room has a separate baseboard unit with its own thermostat.

Do you check your filters monthly and replace them when they are dirty?

Could you just turn off one of the HVAC units?

ORU.com is basically useless. The support is even worse. Bunch of androids reading ready made responses off the screen to my questions. I do keep the temps at recommended levels though. 78 in the summer 68 in the winter. I can turn the second one used off in the main floor in the house, but the temp in the house outside the master bedroom, basement and office would hover around 90. I was told having a house that hot is not good. Causes mold and such to grow.
Actually, ORU.COM links to some info and programs that might help you.

At the bottom of this page there is an operation checklist and a maintenance checklist for AC units:

http://www.oru.com/energyandsafety/thep ... ioner.html

On that new unit you have, failure to perform regular maintenance can void the warranty.

By clicking around a bit I found this performace evaluation program that might be helpful:

http://ww2.njcleanenergy.com/residentia ... rgy-star-r

Topic Author
comptalk

Post by comptalk » Wed Aug 04, 2010 9:22 pm

Maintenance was just performed on the older unit. Maintenance does not need to be performed on the new out of the box unit. It was just made on March 2010. Checked the link, and NJ incentives are not available in NY.

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Post by tadamsmar » Wed Aug 04, 2010 9:29 pm

comptalk wrote:Maintenance was just performed on the older unit. Maintenance does not need to be performed on the new out of the box unit. It was just made on March 2010. Checked the link, and NJ incentives are not available in NY.
I also installed a new unit recently and the warranty said regular maintenance was required.

Topic Author
comptalk

Post by comptalk » Wed Aug 04, 2010 9:33 pm

tadamsmar wrote:
comptalk wrote:Maintenance was just performed on the older unit. Maintenance does not need to be performed on the new out of the box unit. It was just made on March 2010. Checked the link, and NJ incentives are not available in NY.
I also installed a new unit recently and the warranty said regular maintenance was required.
No doubt.

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Post by IndyInvestor » Wed Aug 04, 2010 9:34 pm

Yes, the old ones are better. I have a good friend who works for Edison.

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Post by tadamsmar » Wed Aug 04, 2010 9:43 pm

You could probably save some by switching to time of use rates:

http://www.oru.com/programsandservices/ ... ofuse.html

Time of use rates are generally better if you are all electric, but I have gas heat and I still save money using time of use rates. Are your range, water heater and dryer electric?

You might be able to shift some power usage to off peak. But it's not unusual for people with high bills save by changing to time of use rates without putting any effort into changing their usage patterns.
Last edited by tadamsmar on Thu Aug 05, 2010 6:43 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by DSInvestor » Wed Aug 04, 2010 10:13 pm

comptalk wrote:I read the bill wrong. It was 2300 kwh.
What was the total cost for the electricity for that 2300 kWh?
What was the total cost and usage for gas?

If 2300kWh cost you $500, that's an average of $0.21 per kWh. You may benefit from the Time of Use plan suggested by tadamsmar. The peak rate (noon-7pm) is 19.889c/kWh and drops down to 7.1c shoulder peak rate and 1.28c/kWh off peak (9pm-10am) but I'm not sure what the all in price would be.
The cost for your electric supply is shown on your energy bill as the Market Supply Charge. The cost for O&R's delivery of that electricity is listed on your bill as Delivery Charge. This portion of your bill is where the TOU rate applies. Typically, 53% of the annual residential bill payment is for Market Supply Charges, with 45% covering O&R's delivery costs and 2% going to government taxes.
If 19.89c is the peak rate for delivery charge representing 45% of the bill, does this mean the all-in peak rate is actually 44c if you add in market supply charges and taxes?

You indicated that your electricity cost is $150 in the winter and jumping up to $500 in the summer time. $150 may be quite a lot for electricity considering you've got gas heat. I suspect the security lights may account for quite a bit of that, especially if you're not getting a low off peak rate of 1.28c/kWh.

For example, if each security light is 150W and there are 6 of them, that's 900W. If they're on 10 hrs a day, that's 9kWh per day or 270kWh per month. If you ran those lights in California as a PGE customer, those 270kWh would cost you anywhere from $32 to $108 depending on what other usage you have and if you exceed the baseline usage. See this PDF file showing tiered rates of $0.11 to $0.40/kWh, where $0.40 is the per kWh charge for usage above 200% of baseline:
http://www.pge.com/tariffs/tm2/pdf/ELEC_SCHEDS_E-1.pdf

Here's a webpage for PGE's baseline:
http://www.pge.com/myhome/customerservi ... nderstand/#
For San Jose, baseline is 12.1kWh per day or 363kWh per month. If those security lights were installed in San Jose, they would consume most of the baseline. Using a central AC on top of the lights would certainly drive the total usage above the baseline trigger higher electricity rates for the usage above baseline.

Here's a link showing some power usage for equipment:
http://www.dieselserviceandsupply.com/P ... Chart.aspx

24,000 BTU (2 ton) central AC starting wattage 4950W, running wattage 3800W
40,000 BTU (3-4 ton) central AC starting wattage 6700W, running wattage 6000W.

Here's a website that has a calculator that shows how much each type of appliance costs to run after you enter the cost of electricity:
http://michaelbluejay.com/electricity/howmuch.html

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Post by tadamsmar » Thu Aug 05, 2010 11:37 am

Some relatively easy things to do:

1. On a hot day notice if your compressor outside is running all the time and is frosted up. This can happen if you are closing lots of the registers. Closing more than 20% of the registers can harm the AC system.

2. Get someone to at least make a cursory check of the duct work to see if there are any gross leaks. It would probably pay off to get them sealed, but at least do a bit of checking.

3. Check windows and doors and any other holes for gross leaks. Check under the sinks. Check the attic door.

4. Close the vents on any fireplaces during the summer.

5. Clean the heat tranfer coils on the fridge.

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