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sarahama 03-07-2009 12:09 PM

Excessive electric usage indicated! Help!
I'm single and conserve energy, yet my usage is 2,300 kilo for 28 days in a small one bedroom, surrounded by other apartments and having only one wall exposed to outside elements. I live in an apartment that was built in 2006. My highest usage in a similar apartment was 600 kilo in the middle of winter. I have been tracking usage daily and I use 80-90 kilo compared to the 12-16 kilo that is the daily average in 15 other apartments in my apartment complex. I use this amount without heat or air conditioning on. The electric company tested the meter and found it to be working fine. I had a renters advocate test all the appliances for usage. They found no problem. We suspected the water heater, because I turned the water heater "breaker off" and the usage went down to 12 kilo per 18 hours with the heat set for 66 degrees. (It was very cold so other apartments used 19.8 kilo in these 18 hours). My landlord replaced the water heater thinking this could be the problem. No change. When I turned the main breaker off for the whole apartment for five hours, the meter did indeed stop, so its the correct meter. I tried using nothing in my apartment (no lights,etc) except for leaving the refridgerator and water heater on and I still used 67 kilo in a day. What do you recommend?

dcb 03-07-2009 01:08 PM

do you have your own meter? I would shut everything off (heat, water heat, radios, etc) and make sure it stops turning completely. If you can't shut everything off and make it come to a complete stop then either you are missing something or someone is "borrowing" power from your circuit.

sarahama 03-07-2009 01:53 PM

I have my own meter, and I've been checking the meters for 15 other apartments; comparing these to my reading. No apartment has exceptionally low electric usage, so I'm probably not paying for someone elses electricity. The renter advocates here (HAND) tried unplugging everything in the apartment except they missed the two small smoke alarms that have batteries in them. They indicated a very small electric reading, but didn't seem concerned about it. My landlord got here 1/2 hour before HAND came, so I don't know I if he could have shut something off first. This apartment complex does not have any additional laundary facility, etc. and it does have a separate house meter that uses 7 kilo daily, probably for hallway lights. I would like to try your suggestion, but I can't figure out how to turn the water heater off. Do I need to unscrew the panel that's on the water heater? to find the switch?

almightybmw 03-07-2009 02:07 PM

To shut the water heater off goto the breaker panel, and find the one labeled "water heater." If no such thing exists IN your apartment, the building is violating code requirements. It should look dark gray, with plenty of space around it for access. Shouldn't be too hard to find.

2300 does seem rediculously high. I've done the all electric apartment before, but never broke 800kWh.

sarahama 03-07-2009 02:30 PM

I live like a miser; no TV, stereo, no fish tank, etc. I don't have any electronic entertainments. I did turn off the water heater breaker before for 18 hours and that's when my apartment finally indicated a reasonable amount of energy consumption (12 kilo instead of 65 within an 18 hour time period). Could something be connected into the water heater breaker specifically? Regardless, it would be an interesting experiment if I unplugged everything and turned the water heater breaker off.

larryrose11 03-08-2009 12:36 PM

You should be able to unplug most things in you space, with the exception of a few things. If you disconnect the main breaker, the meter should stop moving if there is no problem. Assuming the meter does stop, then every appliance should have a nameplate power draw when in operation. With the meter not moving and water heater off, (It should have a vacation setting) record the meter reading. Turn on 1 circuit at a time, and let it run for 60 seconds, turn it off, and read the meter.

Power = (final meter reading - initial meter reading)/(time in hours).
If the meter reading is in kW-hrs, then power is in kW and so on.

There is another type of meter with a wheel, which may be either Watt hrs or kWatt hrs. For these types, just count the revolutions in the 60 seconds, and use this as the (Final - Initial)

This power calculated must add up to everything on that circuit, and should add up to the total of the nameplate power of everything on that circuit assuming everything is running. If not, then some devise is faulty.
It may be as simple as the fridge is going bad and not cycling on and off as it should.

hummingbird 03-08-2009 02:19 PM

There's something fishy in your water heater's wiring/grounding - that's why the fault stayed even after the heater change.

It could also be a leak somewhere in the hot water pipeline downstream from the heater. (or an inadvertent connection to a neighbor's hot water plumbing ??).

You must have very limited points of use for hot water - Kitchen sink, wash basin and shower are most likely points ... Why don't you forget about the existing heater, hot water plumbing and heater wiring and run something like this from a separate high current socket?

This type of tank-less instant electric water heater will help you cut out the problem rightaway. If not feasible, please go through 1. hot water plumbing for hot water leak 2. heater wiring for leaks and grounding issues. You must get an answer with this. Good luck!

Ryland 03-08-2009 02:29 PM

You shouldn't have such a hard time tracking this down, you might try calling an electrition and seeing if they have a clamp type amp meter that they can come and test each breaker to tell you what it's load is.
It does sound like it's your water heater, maybe you have a water leak? do you get a water bill for your apartment as well? your water heater should keep water hot for 4-5 hours after it's turned off, if it's cold within an hour or so then you have a hot water leak and your water heater is basically always on.

sarahama 03-09-2009 09:35 PM

Update. My landlord is in denial. I tested electric use once again with my new water heater installed by the landlord. After a day of letting the water heater work I experimented. Results: With "only" my water heater breaker on and no usage of hot water (24 hours), my average was 3.2 kilo per hour. With the water heater breaker "off" and all other breakers on (24 hours), my average usage was .33/hour. What this means is I'm using 2,150 kilo per month and spending $174 plus tax to run my water heater (3.2 kilo X 24 hours x 28 days x .081/kilo). I do not have the financial resources to remedy the situation myself or continue to pay for this electricity, however I will seek whatever legal resources are available. It could very well be one of the issues readers have mentioned.For now my option is to leave the switch off and get used to cold showers.

dcb 03-09-2009 10:04 PM

Do you like shower 30 times a day or something? ;) $172 seems like a lot.

Just for giggles, I took a random street view of bloomington, landed right at uncle festers front door, looked kinda interesting, especially on mondays :)

TestDrive 03-09-2009 10:09 PM

Send a formal letter of complaint to your landlord via Certified, Return Receipt Requested USPS Mail and keep a copy of the letter for your records. The letter should outline the tests you've already done. The copy of the letter and the return receipt will serve as proof of when the landlord knew about the problem if/when you end-up in small claims court.

Try calling your utility company. Ask for their ombudsman. Explain the situation and how you've tested. Be sure to mention you think someone is hijacking your electricity after it goes through the meter! Get contact names and if possible a case number or something similar. (Again in case you end up in small claims court.) Hopefully the power company will come out and resolve the situation for you with out charge.

Good luck.

Andyman 03-09-2009 11:43 PM

Your terminology is a little confusing. Your water heater is averaging 3.2 kilowatts or 3200 watts. The meter measures kilowatt hours which is kilowatts times hours. The water heater uses about 77 kilowatt hours each day or about 2300 KWH each month. I would check to see how much power the water heater is designed to draw when it is working. If it is less than 3200 watts then something else must be taking power on that circuit.

I suggest that you try turning off the water heater by using the controls on it. Then watch the meter. Then you can find out whether the problem is the water heater or something else on the same circuit.

One way you could reduce the power consumption a lot is to keep the water heater off most of the time. Just turn it on a couple of hours before you take a shower and then turn it off after your shower. If you take one shower per week that shouldn't be too inconvenient. If you are running out of money you can't take too many. If you need some hot water for washing dishes you can heat it on the stove instead of using the water heater.

If you decide to keep it on for your convenience, I suggest using some pipe insulation for the hot water pipes so the water heater doesn't need to heat your apartment as much. Also turn down the thermostat control on the water heater to the lowest temperature that is sufficient for comfortable showers.

I think the most likely problem is that your water heater is sending water to some other apartments so it has to run almost all the time to keep the water hot.

jjackstone 03-10-2009 12:14 AM

It sounds as though you have tracked down your problem. I agree with Hummingbird, you have a wiring problem or someone is tapping into your power. Since the water heater has been replaced(and I am asuming the new water heater has a new filament) then the heater is pretty much eliminated.
Get an electrician in to check the wiring and bill your landlord. I have actually seen, in the past, a failing circuit breaker that would cause more current(and hence power) to be pulled than should have been.

sarahama 03-10-2009 12:47 AM

Your comments and humor " :) " are much appreciated. Also, thanks for a correction on my terminology. The energy rating on my new water heater is 4773 kwh/year which seems reasonable. I'm not serious about taking cold showers, but I will be turning the water heater on only to take a shower for now on. I have found that 2 previous tenants in this apartment had the same problem! Thanks for some good legal advice as I will pursue this situation until it is remedied.

hummingbird 03-10-2009 12:49 AM

What I am amazed at is the HUGE amount of electricity being consumed... Typically if a water heater consumes this much continuously without sufficient running water, it would boil the water and blow the roof off to smithereens. It is explainable only when there is a thermostat in picture... and when the thermostat is in picture, it would limit your consumption to a small duty cycle.

If all this electricity is getting converted into heat, it HAS to show up somewhere... Else, as already being doubted, you have a case of theft at hand.

dcb 03-10-2009 01:03 AM

It's pretty easy to check though, asking the electric company to investigate is a good idea. They might have some doohickey that can image with radio signals everywhere a circuit goes.

sarahama 03-10-2009 01:33 AM

If someone is using my electricity, I wonder what they're going to do when I shut the water heater breaker off for a week " (: " .

dcb 03-10-2009 01:55 AM

I had a weird outlet in an apartment once (old house converted). It wasn't on any breaker for any of the apartments (in the known breaker locations), didn't seem to affect the meters, and refused to blow even upon brief (and stupid) application of a deliberately shorted out plug. Nothing like living in the third floor of an old wooden house with unfused circuits in it to give you a warm fuzzy :)

Are there a lot of college kids in your building?

Clev 03-10-2009 02:18 AM


Originally Posted by sarahama (Post 91820)
If someone is using my electricity, I wonder what they're going to do when I shut the water heater breaker off for a week " (: " .

Get a 30-day trial membership at the local gym and shower there for a month. I bet the problem will be resolved by the time you turn that breaker back on. (You can also have an electrician specifically trace out the wires from the water heater circuit breaker to the water heater and verify there's nothing else on the circuit. Might cost you $100, but will pay for itself the first month.)

TestDrive 03-10-2009 02:38 AM

One and a half other thoughts. If a local paper or radio station (Indianapolis would be local) has a consumer advocate, contact them. If you happen to be an IU student, the university may have a student consumer advocate???

Ryland 03-10-2009 11:31 AM

you can also call your renters building safety office and explane to them that your land lord is not fixing what appears to be either a short in the building that could be fire hazard or a leak in the water pipes that would be a sanitary issue.
whatever it is it sounds like you are not able to find the problem so you need to have someone else find it, but there is a problem and it's alot of energy that is going some place.

sarahama 03-11-2009 01:38 PM

The Plot Thickens,
My landlord is blaming the electric company and a faulty meter! The electric company tested it, said the test came out fine. They refused to replace the meter. SOOO, my landlord continues to use this as the excuse for the high electric costs.

MazdaMatt 03-11-2009 01:43 PM

I think your landlord is growing pot in the basement.

Funny 03-11-2009 01:51 PM


Originally Posted by MazdaMatt (Post 92112)
I think your landlord is growing pot in the basement.

Speaking of being green...
The landlord is being a cheap PITA. If it were me I would send a certified letter to the guy and turn off the breaker for a week or two. Perhaps if you had a multimeter you could trace the problem yourself, just a thought. Please keep us posted.

MazdaMatt 03-11-2009 01:54 PM

Do you have direct access to the hot water heater breaker and does it have a seperate switch? If you kill the breaker and kill the switch, then you can measure the resistance across the lines... anything but an open circuit says that there is something else on the breaker taking your power... probably pot. :p

dcb 03-11-2009 02:33 PM


Originally Posted by MazdaMatt (Post 92116)
... probably pot. :p

Grow lights had occured to me too, though I doubt the landlord would be so brazen (he stands to lose everything including the building). Figured it would be a tenant who knows a spot about wiring.

sarahama 03-11-2009 02:37 PM

Some good advice. Well, I'm going to be gone soon for about a week and the water heater breaker will be off during that time. I have someone coming into take care of my cat while I'm gone so I will have her make certain that my water heater breaker remains off. When I return I will ask other tenants if they've had any electrical problems in the past week.

MazdaMatt 03-11-2009 02:37 PM

Better tell that to the hundreds of thousands of other people making billions of dollars from it... never know :)

Water heater breaker off solves the problem. Water heater is new. There MUST be something else on the line, or a constant hot water leak. Is the water bill in check?

sarahama 03-11-2009 02:53 PM

I told the landlord that I was shutting the hot water heater breaker off and he told me he thought that was a good idea. Perhaps there is a hot water heater leak as the water is only luke warm after a couple of hours. I called the electric company again and they said they would consider replacing the meter, and asked me to contact them after my week of experimenting with the water heater breaker off. I don't think its the meter, but I told them replacing the meter was the only way to stop my landlord's excuses. When I return from vacation I will move the legal process forward. It will be a week or so before I have any new information to post.

dcb 03-11-2009 02:53 PM

I do have to give your landlord some credit. He did replace a water heater. Even though he might not know how to solve it conclusively, he did expend some money and effort. You might want to note everyones meter readings before and after you go, just to get a bigger picture.

dcb 03-11-2009 02:58 PM

Oh, and if you have an old 120 volt electric clock (analog or flippy numbers) or can get one for a couple bucks at the thrift store, I would try and plug that into the water heater circuit if possible, set it for noon before you leave, and see if it has moved away from noon when you get back (i.e. someone has turned the circuit back on).

Ryland 03-11-2009 04:10 PM

before you leave for a week you should also write down the number on your water meter, it's in cubic feet (around 8 gallons per cubic foot) so you can tell if you used water while out of the house as well, but it sounds like hot water is being dumped!
how long have you lived there?

Halfhourearly 03-11-2009 05:55 PM


Your water heater's rating of 4773 kwh/year would indicate that you might use around 400 kwh/month and at say.. $0.10/kwh you would be spending $40/month and for a normal family that's about right. You should expect more like $20 - $25/month. There is no question that something else is drawing current through your water heater's breaker. I agree that you should turn it off for a longer period to ensure that your theories all check out. When your water heater cuts in it will draw enough current to be to make your bill $500/month but it's actually off 90% of the time. So you doo need to test with everything else off for a long stretch.

sarahama 03-11-2009 07:04 PM

What would have been interesting is shutting the water heater off, but I was told it's wired directly and there's no plug. The only way to shut it off is through the breaker. I will definitely record everyone elses meter readings before and after I go. The landlord pays for the water, so there isn't any meter or way to know how much water I'm using.

trikkonceptz 03-11-2009 08:36 PM

Why not purchase a timer for your water heater? I installed one for my heater recently and boy 1 month later and there is a big difference in my electricity usage.

Also, if you live alone, shut the breaker off all day every day, flip it on 30 minutes before you shower and shut it off after you are done.

Trust me I just replaced my water heater and it literally took 20 minutes from fill time to hot water, those suckers heat water fast.

Also if you are concerned about water leakage, shut the valve off too at the water heater, it has to be there at the cold water inlet.

Good luck.

Ryland 03-11-2009 08:38 PM

you can also turn off the water valve to your hot water heater, let it sit for 15 minutes or so then turn it back on listening for leaks, trace all pipe runs from the water heater to the shower, sink, kitchen sink, and see if you find any signs of water leakage, it sounds like you are loosing a few gallons an hour, so it's kind of like leaving your sink dripping hot water, or is that the problem? does your sink drip?

Krayzie 07-16-2009 04:42 AM

no updates to this thread? i would really like to know what the real problem was

jonathan150cc 07-16-2009 10:27 AM

No joke. I just read this whole thing. It's like a dramatic thriller. I'm waiting for the climactic ending.

sarahama 07-17-2009 09:33 AM

Stuck in the Situation
Here's the update on this situation. When I turn on the water heater breaker for taking one shower a day, my electric bill is $60. Admittedly, sometimes I have forgotten to turn it off again. This is still ten dollars higher than other people's bills and I never run my air conditioner. But it beats a $170 electric bill for the month if I leave the water heater breaker on.

Basically, I have to sign a new lease here because I can't afford to move. I'm a grad student here and moving would cost $700 for a moving vehicle and new deposit. :(

We do have a social service program here "Hand", but I\'m concerned contacting them will cause a non-renewal of my lease at the end of this month. I may contact them regardless because I\'m concerned about a possible electric problem causing this. If I turn my water heater breaker on while the washer and dryer are in use, the breaker for the dryer automatically trips off. Is this an indication of something dangerous?

When I\'m ready to leave this place, I will make a big issue out of this problem. I believe this is one example of land lords taking advantage of their tenants and thus far I believe they have taken advantage of the past three tenants who have rented this particular apartment. The last tenant said they had the same problem and said the tenant before them had a problem with the electricity. All apartments are the same here and I know that the electric costs in this unit are more than twice, often three times that of any other apartment here. All one has to do is compare the accumulative usage on the meters or ask the neighbors.

sarahama 07-17-2009 09:54 AM


Thank you for your post. I did try to trace the pipes and look for leaks, but did not locate anything. I can hear water running near the wash machine when I first turn it on, but after a time nothing is heard.

I will say that this is a 50 gallon tank and when I turn it on for one hour only, the water isn\'t much more than luke warm. With one hour of heating, I have to take quick showers or it turns cold. Someone told me that it should take no more than two hours to fully heat a tank and I see that a post was made earlier from someone who is able to heat their water in 20 minutes with their new water heater.

At two hours of heating, it\'s hot but completely runs out of hot water if the bath tub is filled. I wonder how many gallons of water a bath tub takes?

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