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Carpenterwannabe
Help, there is something wrong with the electrical system

This is a mystery that has been plaguing me for over 5 years. I own a house (about 1500 sq. feet) in a mid-Atlantic state that I rent to a family (mother and 4 kids). The house used to be a two-unit apartment building, which we converted to a single family home. The house was a total gut-job. The house is all-electric (water heater, HVAC, washer and dryer, stove, etc). Because it used to be a two-unit apartment, it used to have two separate meters and the electric company still has us listed as having unit A and unit B in their computer. According to the contractor, we only use the electrical connection to unit A and capped off the electrical connection to unit B. There is only one electric meter on the building now. The family that occupies the house right now is complaining about 5 figure electric bills. The last winter bill they received was a whopping $1,200 (for a one month period) and they just got their August bill and it was $1000! I’ve had three different electricians come to the house and they all give the electrical system a clean bill of health.

Before the tenants moved into the house, I did some minor renovation work in the house. I came in for two days, and the bill for that month was $100!! I spend that much a month for my own home. Also, the person who renovated the house did a shoddy job (we found out later that the tub drain wasn’t even connected to the sewer pipe - that was fun cleaining up the mess in the crawl space), so I have no confidence that the house was constructed the right way, and I have a suspicious feeling that something is not right with the electricity. Also, the tenants suspect that the energy eater is the HVAC system (it is a heat pump), and according to the HVAC technician, it is in good working order. Could one HVAC system suck up that much energy?

I’ve been doing some reading on the web and saw some articles on exposed wires that were never disconnected, improper connection to the electrical circuit that could leak electricity, etc. etc. I keep calling the electric company and they send out technicians out there, and each time, I get a report saying that everything is working properly. I will be hiring another electrician to do a thorough inspection of the electrical system. I know there is something wrong and want to make sure that the electrician is doing a proper job with the inspection. Can you all give me some advice on what to look for? Do we need to tear down walls/ceilings to do a thorough inspection? Or would looking at the electrical box and the outside connection be sufficient? Could it be that the electric company is charging the tenants for both Unit A and Unit B? This is the second sets of tenants that I’m losing because of the high bills. Can someone help?:eek:

Timothy Miller
Re: Help, there is something wrong with the electrical system

Howdy, what was the utility bill for the prior year per month maybe the utility switched from dollar cost averaging ( making each months bill the same) the bill to monthly actual use.
Leaking out electricity is not likely. Overloading due to improper wiring would trip breakers or cause a fire...
Compare the two units and see if usage is being billed correctly...

Carpenterwannabe
Re: Help, there is something wrong with the electrical system

Thanks for your reply. The utility bills were consistently high the last 5 years, and yes, I did check to see if it is an estimated bill, or a bill on a payment plan, and the answer is "no." You asked me to compare the two units, but the home is a single family home now (it used to be two units), so there is no way to compare.

Could it be that unit A AND B are connected to the same meter? Or maybe it is the HVAC system sucking up all that energy (exacerbated by the fact that the house is all-electric?)

Thanks again!

JLMCDANIEL
Re: Help, there is something wrong with the electrical system

Start turning every thing off and see if the meter is still running. A poor insulating job can cause a tremendous load on the HVAC. Are you on city water or a well? A water leak can cause a pump to run much more than it should and eat up a lot of electricity.
Jack

Carpenterwannabe
Re: Help, there is something wrong with the electrical system

The last electrician did just that. She turned off the power to the entire house, and the meter stopped. We use city water. Question: how would water get into the pump? The unit is located in the attic crawl space.

Timothy Miller
Re: Help, there is something wrong with the electrical system

How low is the ac/ being set?
The attic insullation would be where i would next look do you have R38 in attic?
Anyone steeling electricity late at night on an outside plug? ya a real reach....
Filters clean on the ac unit?
An energy audit might be money well spent with a thermo camera used to see where leakage of heat and a/c is happening...

Carpenterwannabe
Re: Help, there is something wrong with the electrical system

Thanks for your e-mails. From what I'm reading, it sounds like there may not be a problem with the electrical. I think it has to do with a combination of an inefficient HVAC, the house being all electric and the tenant's excessive energy usage (they have 4 teenage boys). I just signed up for an energy audit (luckily, my city offers this service for free). Thnak you all so much for the help. I know I can always count on you guys for good infomration.

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