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  1. #1
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    Default Power meter faulty? Any utility gurus in the house?

    I think I have a faulty power meter to my house.My power bills just seem to be getting steadily higher each month.From Summer of 2003 to the end of January 2004, it has went up dramatically.We called to complain, but we got the usual excuses, " It's winter, it's the holidays etc..."Problem with that is, I use propane for heat, I didn't run any Christmas lights, and I've been practically living in the dark and cold.Although I run propane, my stove has a fan, but it comes on only a few times. Even then, it's only on when we're awake for 5 or 6 hours in the evening before bed.Everything is shut off during the day when everyone is gone to work and school.We might run a load of laundry each night.I originally bought this house from my parents, and they use to run electric heat almost non-stop in the winter, and air conditioners 24/7 in the summer... And their bill wasn't even as high as mine now!I run air conditioners in the summer too, and my bill isn't as high as it is now.???I paid my bill in December 2003, and practically shut everything off in January to verify if it was actually my usage or a bad meter. I ran everything at its minimum. Well, January's bill came along, and it went UP! Now here's another kicker:I estimated February's usage, and it's going to be approx. 10 kw/h per day LESS than January...(I figured the same amount of days used)And I DIDN'T change anything - My usage was relatively the same. How can this be????I've even went as far as removing half the light bulbs. The kids are pretty good about keeping the lights off too (with me at attention of course)Any ideas? I'm going to formally request a power meter calibration. My meter has been in this house for ever. I'm guessing 20+ years.I've read some web sites (various power companies) that older meters usually SLOW down with age. Is there any truth to this?I'm just about ready to use my .45 caliber adjusting tool on the meter!Oh and lastly...When I did call and complain, then said something about my meter being so old, that it may be 'obsolete' and they couldn't replace it.I've got an older 100 amp service. Today's standard is 200 amp (I think)My house is old, and if I even attempt to replace any circuit breaker box, or power meter box, the county would be on me like a bum on a baloney sandwich! I can guarantee they would make me re-wire the whole house.I would love to upgrade to a standard 200 amp box, but there's no way I can afford to buy all the permits, contractors etc... Isn't it the power companies' problem if the existing meter is obsolete?They own the meter... If they don't have the equipment to replace it, shouldn't THEY pay for whatever it takes to upgrade?Maybe I should use the magnet trick... LOL!I've seen a lot of those 'free electricity' hacks, and it all looks dangerous and stupid to me.H.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Power meter faulty? Any utility gurus in the house?

    It is extraordianarily rare that the meter is defective. It is possible, of course, but not likely.It is more likely that you have some problem with your wiring.If you don't want to hire a professional electrician to inspect the system, then you can try and turn off all electical using systems in your house, and see if the meter wheel is still spinning--and then start switching breakers off to see which ones affect the meter, and isolate the problem to specific breakers and circuits.It is always good at some point in time to have an electrician go thru the house, however, and balance circuits. You have two 110 V lines coming into your house, and the meter only reads one side or the other, whichever is higher, and your bill is based on that.Any 220 V items (like hot water) use both lines at the same time, but any high usage 110 outlets, (like maybe a hottub or space heaters or the like that are 110V) if they are on the same side of the service, can run up the bill higher than is necessary, and it really takes an electrician to determine this.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Power meter faulty? Any utility gurus in the house?

    HomerrMy brother went trough this (his was not old) they gave him all the run around. He went out in the ally and use his 45 on it, they put in a new meter and in 2 or 3 months sent him a credit for the bad meter! The magnet works if placed correctly, if in the wrong place it will speed up the meter! If you attempt this don't get caught! they really don't like it! I tested it once just to see if it would work, and I knew some people who use/d it.Richard

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Power meter faulty? Any utility gurus in the house?

    Homerr,My advice is to not tamper with your meter. Utilities frown upon this type of action, and tend to have these cases prosecuted to the maximum. Penalties can be substantial, as it is a federal offense.The utility I work for has service reps that will come to your house and perform an assessment of your electric usage. This is a free service. I have seen first-hand how they perform their assessment.Old meters (and I mean 'ancient') do fail, in that they usually slow down.It should be stated on your bill: the number of kw hours used, how many days in the billing cycle, and the cost per kwh. There are some additional costs allowed, too. For example, my electric company is allowed to charge a set amount per month for fuel costs and delivery charges. Typically, it is more in the winter months, for whatever reason. You can do the math.Occasionally, the meter will not be actually read by a meter reader. In that case, they will estimate your bill from previous usage history. Also, meter readers have been known to mis-read meters. One month, I was charged for 10,000 additional kwhs because of this type of error. My next bill was adjusted to compensate for that error.Be advised that when an older type meter needs replaced, the utility (speaking for MY company) will do whatever they can to assist. If there is an 'old' meter around that has been tested and verified to be accurate, there may be no need for you to do anything. However, if that is not the case, they will need to set a new meter. If your old meterbox will not accept the new meter, it is your responsibility to provide a new meter box.May not have been what you wanted to hear, but I hope I helped shed some light on it (pun intended).Good Luck,BrianPS, The old 'magnet' trick doesn't work. Electric companies have been on to that ruse forever. The components used in the meters today are plastic and/or aluminum, so the magnetic waves wouldn't affect it anyway.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Power meter faulty? Any utility gurus in the house?

    Homer, I don't know if this will help or not. But, I recently went through this and what we found out was that the pump for the well was running all the time. Electric bill doubled then tripled fixed the pump back to normal. If your on a well check it out.

  6. #6
    Rear Admiral JasonJ's Avatar
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    Default Re: Power meter faulty? Any utility gurus in the house?

    Check your hot water heater if it is electric. First check the two theromstats. Often they are set too high, and wastes energy. Second, as a hot water heater ages, it uses more energy, especially if there are deposits in it. Check for leaks, that'll raise the bill as well. My sister went through this a few years back, a new hot water heater cut her bill in half. I use wood heat, and my monthly bills are about $30, because I set the thermostats lower. At another house I had with gas heat, my bills got lower and lower, and it was discovered the meter for the gas broke. Because this went on over a year, they could only bill me for the average of the year prior, which was still low. The utility man came and restarted all the appliances, and I saw him jack my hot water heater thermostats way up, almost to max. I waited for him to leave and turned them back down. He was trying to screw me over, it was not cool...

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Power meter faulty? Any utility gurus in the house?

    i came across a situation once where a faulty appliance (a refrigerator) made the dial on the electric meter literally spin like a top. i found it by checking each appliance with everything off. also, the electric meter can go bad.so, my advise is to check appliances heaters ,ect. individually and cover that area first. then go after the electric company with a vengeance.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Power meter faulty? Any utility gurus in the house?

    This would be a good time to invest in a clamp on amp meter... bout $50 at radioshack or home depotto measure amperage, clip over one of the wires in the breaker box for each circuit.... quick way to see what circuits are drawing a LOT of power without having to turn everything off, and go visually inspect the meter...

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Power meter faulty? Any utility gurus in the house?

    with the clamp amp meter.. with the whole house fired up.. clamp meter around one leg of the fat feed wire.. write down readin'.. then clamp around other leg.. the two should be close in the amp number.. if way off..to fix.. move some breakers.. goin' down/vertical,, ever other breaker is on the other leg.. countin' down.. 1,3,5,7,9,11,ect.. 1,5,9 one/same leg.. 3,7,11 on the other..exact same on the other row..2,4,6,8,10...another way to think is one big fat wire is A PHASE .. the other is B..so readin' down order,, goes ABABABABAB ect..heavy up/load up the lesser leg to get the amps close to even # as possiable..by-the-way.. if your 100 amp service is holding,, ain't blowin'.. you don't havta have a 200 amp service.. bigger service ain't gonna help none..you'll just have a bigger service with more amps to spare..

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Power meter faulty? Any utility gurus in the house?

    Check and see if your state has a Public Service Commission or some sort of agency that can intervene on your behalf. Try turning your breaker box main breaker OFF and check the meter, it should be stopped. If not consider this story, a correspondent for a major news company was stationed in Italy, he rented a small apartment and his electric bill was off the charts, complaints to the electric company went nowhere, so one day he removed all the fuses and the street lights went off.

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Power meter faulty? Any utility gurus in the house?

    pretty wild..!!in rural england.. you still have to put coins in the meter for electric..

  12. #12
    Honorary Moderator Emeritus SpinnerBait_Nut's Avatar
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    Default Re: Power meter faulty? Any utility gurus in the house?

    Originally posted by crab bait:pretty wild..!!in rural england.. you still have to put coins in the meter for electric..
    I seen a bed once you had to put money in.


    "JUST KEEP ON, KEEPING ON"
    "Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, martini in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming "WOO HOO what a ride!"

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Power meter faulty? Any utility gurus in the house?

    Hey crab bait, touch the end of that big fat wire and you will be saying ...ABABABABAB
    OMC

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Power meter faulty? Any utility gurus in the house?

    LOL One More cast...!Thanks Crab...I know my breaker box isn't balanced. It looks more like a plate of spaghetti and a rat's nest in there!I'll get an amp meter and balance things out. If anything, it will look neater.Does anyone know if there is a web site that shows you the proper way to set a breaker box up?I'm curious how the 'pro' way should look like.Which breakers should be placed where etc...Thanks,H.

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Power meter faulty? Any utility gurus in the house?

    it should just look neat.. there's no special way/order for the breakers to be place.. it can be any whichway.. as long s your load is balanced..what could hang you up somewhat is the wires to the breaker are already cut-to-lenght.. an mite not be able to move them much.. especially down..or across..one other thing.. if say your 6 amps outta balance.. clamp around different breakers untill you find one with 6 amp draw.. move that one to the other phase to balance out.. or two 3 amp draw breakers.. understand..??

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Power meter faulty? Any utility gurus in the house?

    Got it Crab.... I've always liked working with the electrical aspect of a house. Well.. new construction anyway... Old stuff can get frustrating.Thanks!H.

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Power meter faulty? Any utility gurus in the house?

    If you're going to start swapping out breakers, might I add one suggestion?This would be a great time to label what breakers feed what. Don't know how many times I've opened a panel box to kill a circuit only to find the breakers are not labelled. (No, I don't have mine labelled in my house, either.... HEY BRIAN, take your own advise, lol).Just a tip...

  18. #18
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    Default Re: Power meter faulty? Any utility gurus in the house?

    A panel that is unbalanced will not affect your power bill. It is important to balance the load so that both legs carry thier share of the load.Your meter measures wattage (power. Amperage x voltage = watts. So it does not matter if you use 30 amps at 115 volts or 15 amps at 230 volts, the wattage and cost will remain the same. There is only one factor that will raise your bill and that is you are using more energy. Power meters can fail but they always fail in your favor. It is theoritically impossible to speed up. Your meter is a POWER meter not an amp meter.

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Power meter faulty? Any utility gurus in the house?

    UPDATE:Ok, my box was definitely out of balance, but not by much. I typically don't blow any breakers, so I opted NOT to move any circuits around at the moment.I really want to rip that box out, but I think I would open a huge can of worms if I did.Some other interesting findings though:First:When my hot water heater ISN'T on (but power to it) the meter runs backwards just a tiny bit.What causes this? And would that turn the dials back?Second: My main breaker doesn't kill everything in the house. Some things are wired around it.Is this because it was originally wired wrong, or because it's just an old box? Shouldn't a MAIN breaker do just that? Kill it all?Lastly:My hot water heater was set on 130 degrees.I set it down to 100. How much savings can I expect?The only power-munchers are the hot water heater and the dryer when I turned everything off and then back on - one at a time.The meter was dead cold when I turned everything off, so there isn't a problem with that aspect of it.We might do 1 load of laundry a night, and 2 or 3 baths. So how why is my bill so high? ($200+ range) And again... I use NO electric heat.Thanks for all the help guys,H.

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Power meter faulty? Any utility gurus in the house?

    1) When the water heater is the only breaker on? And I take it this is an electric heater? The only thing I can think of is a ground fault through one of the heater elements. How is your hot water working anyway? Is it possible one of the elements is out?EDIT: Oh, it ran backwards??? That in fact implies that you're running power into the grid. See number 2) You may have a 'Stealing Power' attempt gone wrong!2) That's very very wrong. Call an electrician.3) Mabey $10 or $15 a month.Do you have any dripping fawcets?

  21. #21
    Supreme Mariner roscoe's Avatar
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    Default Re: Power meter faulty? Any utility gurus in the house?

    100 degree hot water? Brrrr!!!I have warning label on my faucets. "Caution!! This is REAL hot water" Nothing should bypass the main box, with the possible exception of a line that feeds another box, i.e. for the garage.Is someone??(teenager) using hot water to do the laundry??If you buy the cheap powdered detergent like me, you can dissolve the detergent in a half gallon of hot water, then ad it to the cold water in the washer.Is the next door neighbor running an extension cord over to your place?




  22. #22
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    Default Re: Power meter faulty? Any utility gurus in the house?

    The water heater was replaced when I bought this house from my parents in 1999/2000.Since then I have replaced almost all plumbing and fixtures. There is a new pump in the well, all new pipe etc... Even a new pressure tank.There is no leaking water as far as I know.I had to replace a heater element about a year ago, but when I did, I replaced them both with stainless steel elements. The factory elements weren't the best.I have my own well, and hard water that comes with it, so I'm guessing that the minerals are wreaking havoc on the tank anyway.My parents ran their tank for 20+ years before I replaced it.I haven't noticed any water heating problems, so I can assume the elements are fine?And no, my neighbors aren't an issue. I live in the country. My closest neighbors are quite a ways off.I'm still wondering if the meter itself has a problem. I'm formally requesting a re-calibration or replacement of the meter.Thanks,H.

  23. #23
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    Default Re: Power meter faulty? Any utility gurus in the house?

    Really, the only reason your meter should run backwards is if you're putting power into the grid.It would be the first time I've heard of it, but I agree, get the meter checked!Tell them that it runs backwards sometimes. That'll get their attention!140+ degree hot water is the only way to go.

  24. #24
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    Default Re: Power meter faulty? Any utility gurus in the house?

    So, if I'm putting power back into the lines, would that run my bill up?H.

  25. #25
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    Default Re: Power meter faulty? Any utility gurus in the house?

    have you checked your voltage with a meter? You said you live out in the country. Could be a low voltage problem. Check it with no load then check it with the water heater and/ or electric dryer runnung. it should only drop a couple volts....if any. Things work alot harder when low on voltage. Its a common problem in rural areas. I'v also run across it caused by a bad transformer at the pole. Does the meter continue to run backwards or just for a minute?

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