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Thread: PSE&G usage doubled the last two months

  1. #1
    DIY Junior Member Zenica's Avatar
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    Unhappy PSE&G usage doubled the last two months

    Hello,

    I came across this forum in a Google search for an explanation of how my PSE&G electric
    bill has sky rocketed. I'll start with September of 2011 vs 2012 thru January of 2012 vs 2013.
    The household changes for 2012 are, my in-laws stayed with us from September 26th through
    January 7th 2013 & my son was born October 25th of 2012. The storm known as Sandy struck
    October 29th knocking out power until November 7th. The only changes to consumption aside
    from two extra bodies are the 2x wipe warmers, 1x bottle warmer, 1x baby swing and 1x baby
    monitor. The two wipe warmers are rated at 12v @850mAh, the swing is 12v @9 watts and the
    bottle warmer is 12v @ 350watts.

    The wipe warmers are on 24/7 while the bottle warmer is used as needed, roughly every 3 hours
    for 6 minutes. The swing is on an avg of 15 hours a day, it has music he likes to sleep to.

    I have read that a short in the ground cable or other PSE&G cable could be causing this increase
    but could I prove it? and wouldn't that short have to be on my side of the meter? The meter is
    attached to the house so this seems unlikely. I do have a second fridge that for about 7 months
    has been leaking water inside the unit rather than out to the pan. The temperature settings for
    this refrigerator are kept on the middle setting. It is a second fridge so it is in the garage, an area
    normally cold in the winter, if that could be impacting it's run time.

    What baffles me is that December, when the in-laws were here, is lower than January and my wife's mom
    cooked all the time and of course, more demand on the water heater. Now that they have left, we
    have not had time to cook so it has been take out from Boston Market or Cheesecake Factory every
    night in January yet the bill climbed. How can this be? How bad would the garaged refrigerator have
    to be running to suck up over 767kW? Mind you, I lowered the damn thermostat!

    When I call PSE&G, what should I tell/ask them to probe for areas that could implicate their equipment
    as the fault, if it truly is their equipment. If it isn't, my next guess would be the heat pump but that
    was installed in 2010 by the Home Depot and is a SEER 14 unit that has been running fine. What could
    I ask/tell the contractor that installed it to determine if the auxiliary heat strips are faulty? or coming
    on more frequently than really needed.

    Any help will be greatly appreciated as a $585 electric bill in December and a $718 bill in January has
    me very alarmed for the February bill. This is a 25 year old 1400sq foot townhouse with only 2 walls that
    face the outside, it's not a 3000sq foot 80 year old house with drafty windows!



    This is an average of PSE&G rates; $0.116845 per kWh.

    September 2011
    Total kWh used: 1025
    Avg outside temp: 72

    September 2012
    Total kWh used: 768
    Avg outside temp: 71
    Thermostat setting: 76
    --------------------------
    October 2011
    Total kWh used: 920
    Avg outside temp: 66

    October 2012
    Total kWh used: 908
    Avg outside temp: 61
    Thermostat setting: 74
    --------------------------
    November 2011
    Total kWh used: 1362
    Avg outside temp: 53

    November 2012
    Total kWh used: 1623
    Avg outside temp: 46
    Thermostat setting: 74
    --------------------------
    December 2011
    Total kWh used: 1957
    Avg outside temp: 46

    December 2012
    Total kWh used: 3360
    Avg outside temp: 43
    Thermostat setting: 75
    (lowered to 71 when I saw this bill)
    --------------------------
    January 2012
    Total kWh used: 1914
    Avg outside temp: 34

    January 2012
    Total kWh used: 4127
    Avg outside temp: 35
    Thermostat setting: 71
    Last edited by Zenica; 02-03-2013 at 10:46 AM. Reason: Fixed sentence structure

  2. #2
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    A frig that is draining may mean several things: the door seals could be leaking, or, possibly, the defrost cycle is stuck on. Older frigs are often MUCH more energy hogs than the newer ones.

    Do you have an electric water heater? Have you checked your water usage? You might have a leak and you're dumping a small, but constant amount of heated water possibly into the ground? Any spots around the foudation that seem wet(ter) than normal?

    It's unlikely that the meter is defective, but it does happen.

    There are some plug in devices, sort of like an extension cord, that you can use that will tell you how much power whatever is plugged into them is using. One I'm familiar with is Kill A Watt Electricity Usage Monitor. If you do a Google search on that, you can find various versions.

    What kind of heating system do you have? If it's a heat pump, and that's not working properly, it may be switching to the emergency resistance strip heaters (i.e., electric heaters), and that will be MUCH less efficient than a properly working heat pump.
    Jim DeBruycker
    Important note - I'm not a pro
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer; Schluter 2.5-day Workshop Completed 2013, 2014

  3. #3
    DIYer, not in the trades LLigetfa's Avatar
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    Do you get domestic water from a well? Maybe you have a leak and the pump is running much longer than usual.

  4. #4
    DIY Junior Member Zenica's Avatar
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    Hi Guys,

    Thanks for the replies.

    Just now I checked how fast that disc in my meter rotates around using the black line as a baseline.
    With lights and everything else plugged in with the exception of the two refrigerators, it took 54 seconds
    for the disc to rotate. The HVAC and water heater were also breaker'd off.

    With only the HVAC turned back on (and running) the disc rotates around in 2.3 seconds. Is that normal?
    Does it indicate the use of strip heaters?

    I do not have well water....so no pump. My water heater is in the basement and there are no leaks. The
    only water leak to occur January 6th was in the main line coming into the house but that was outside and
    before the water meter.

  5. #5
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    You still haven't said what kind of HVAC system you have. On some thermostats, you can enable or disable the 'emergency' strip heaters. The only HVAC systems that have strip heaters are heat pumps or an all-electric heating system. It's obvious that your heating system is drawing a lot of power when on...now the question is why and if that's normal. Many heat pump system only need the resistance heaters when it is quite cold out, OR you've used a setback, and the amount of temp rise needed is excessive. If the heat pump is not working well, it may need the resistance, backup heat strips all the time, and this could easily add a lot to the electricity bill.
    Jim DeBruycker
    Important note - I'm not a pro
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer; Schluter 2.5-day Workshop Completed 2013, 2014

  6. #6
    DIY Junior Member Zenica's Avatar
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    My apologies, I overlooked that...

    Yes, it is a heat pump. A Trane 14 SEER system installed in 2010. I measured the discharge air
    from the vents and after the HVAC cycled three times, the average reading 95 degrees Fahrenheit.

    My thermostat is a White Rogers and I do not see an option in the menu to disable the strip heat.

  7. #7
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    Is it obvious that the compressor is running when there's a call for heat? If it is heating, and the compressor isn't running, then it's using the strip heaters, and not the heat pump. This could easily use 3-4x as much electricity verses the heat pump during operation. Also, while I don't know on that particular heat pump, when the outside temperature is quite cold, and it has been these last two months on occasion, the heat pump may not even try to come on, and it is relying on the resistance heaters, at least when it is super cold out.
    Jim DeBruycker
    Important note - I'm not a pro
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer; Schluter 2.5-day Workshop Completed 2013, 2014

  8. #8
    DIY Junior Member Zenica's Avatar
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    You're a god damned genius.

    The heat was on in the house but I touched the metal lines going into the air handler and they were ambient temp cold.
    I looked at the outside heat pump and it was not running.

    Man...I am pissed.

  9. #9
    Nuclear Engineer nukeman's Avatar
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    It could be many things. Was the outdoor fan running at the time?

    The compressor may not run for several reasons:

    1. The t-stat in the house was switched to emergency heat. In this case the outdoor fan and compressor would be off and the heat would only be with the heat strips.

    2. The compressor is locked out due to low pressure or some other safety measure (you may have a leak in your refrige lines and the refrigerant leaked out). The low pressure switch causes the compressor not to run to avoid damage.

    3. The compressor has failed. This could be caused by a bad install (especially if your system uses R-410A). These systems need a nitrogen purge when brazing the lineset (to avoid oxidation that can form and be washed off later and cause problems). The system also then needs to be pumped down to under 500 microns (strong vacuum) and held there before releasing the refrigerant through the system. If the installers failed to do this, the moisture in the air within the lineset reacts with the oil that is used for R-410A and creates an acidic condition and damages the compressor.

    4. Loss of power to the outdoor unit (tripped breaker, bad connection, etc.).

    5. Some systems have an option to lockout the compressor below a certain temperature. This is often used when you have maybe a heat pump and a gas furnace (or oil or some other fuel type). The heat pump may be less expensive to run than the other fuel when it is mild out, but once the temperature drops below a certain point, you can lockout the compressor and use the gas furnace instead. This probably isn't your problem since it seemed to behave correctly last year.

    Make sure your t-stat is not in emergency heat mode. I assume that the outdoor fan is running, so that eliminates a couple possibilities there. The next thing would be to get some HVAC guys out there to see if it is a failed compressor or something else. The compressor should still be under warranty (assuming they didn't do anything during the install to void it). The labor may or may not be covered. The labor depends on the installer. It may not be covered at this point. Just a warning...the cost for installing the compressor will be high. It may cost nearly as much as a new outdoor unit (installed) even if you get the compressor under warranty. It is a labor intensive process to replace the compressor.

  10. #10
    DIY Junior Member Zenica's Avatar
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    Thermostat is/was not in "auxiliary" mode or emergency mode.

    Compressor fan not running.

  11. #11
    Nuclear Engineer nukeman's Avatar
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    Okay. I would check the breakers in the panel to see if any are tripped. There should also be a disconnect outside (usually a grey box on the wall next to the outdoor unit). See if it is switched to "ON". Some have a pull out connection insead. If that is what you have, make sure it is fully seated.

    Beyond that, I would call the HVAC guys out. There is some debugging that you could maybe do, but it can be dangerous (220v, etc.). Since it is a newer unit, you also don't want to mess something up and void the warranty. Let the installers figure it out. Although, they may have taken shortcuts on the install, so they may not be the best guys to troubleshoot, but you will have to start with them to see if you can get the labor covered. If they won't cover labor, you may be able to switch to another company and they may still be able to replace the parts under warranty (but usually the installing company handles warranty work). You would still be on the hook for labor, though.

    It may be something simple like a breaker, bad connection, etc. A bad run capacitor could also cause the compressor/fan not to start. Usually, though, you will still hear a click/buzz as it tries to start the fan and compressor. I had this happen on my old AC unit. I replaced the capacitor myself for $20.

    Hopefully, it will be a simple fix.

  12. #12
    DIY Junior Member Zenica's Avatar
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    The breakers in my main electric panel are all good.
    I did check that box outside, it was poorly done so it isn't clear how
    to remove the cover but looking under it I can see two giant pull out
    fuses.

  13. #13
    In the trades Dana's Avatar
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    Sound like it's time to either read the installation manual to figure out how to debug the beast or to call a pro. With any type of heat pump space heating you can expect monthly usage to soar whenever you're not getting the performance advantage of the pump actually working, and 4000kwh/month when the outdoor temp averaged 35F would not be unusual for resistance heating (auxilliary power strips) for a small to mid-sized code-min house.

    The heat pump is by far your biggest power load, and should be the primary suspect whenever you see a huge spike in monthly power use. Even if every outlet in the house had a bottle warmer plugged into it the average draw wouldn't hit that of a normally working heat pump in winter (but the peak draws might be the same order of magnitude.)

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