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  • Being Robbed?

    I recently retired from the military and purchased my future retirement home in Houlton Maine. My wife and I are working to restore the home making plumbing and electrical updates through-out the house was built 1860's. So lots to do =).
    Anyway here is my delema We have been getting hughe bills for electrical for instance we were up there for three days and on the third day I shut the main breaker off to the house and we returned to my job with the government in DC. I just recieved the electric bill for those three days it shows 115 KW of use!!!

    Could somebody please tell us?

    Is this even possible in any way?!?

    The electric hot water heater was not in use as the water and heating system were previously drained and winterized.

    we only light the rooms we are in.

    We had two oil filled radiators we used for heating the two bedrooms but that was the only major power consuming items we used during our three day stay in the home.

    We are always getting crazy bills for electric and when we challenge them they always smugly say "well that's what the meter says..."

    Please help at this rate I will never be able to retire to this home.

    Thanks,
    Dwight D Appleby
    SFC USA (ret)

  • #2
    Re: Being Robbed?

    Just throwing a few ideas out there to help debug.

    You can get a watt-hour meter online that is a plugin type, like this:
    http://www.thinkgeek.com/gadgets/travelpower/7657/
    You could turn everything off but one circuit, and then use light bulb or something to see if the two meters agree on how much is used.

    Another possibility is there is a load you aren't aware of. You could try turning on circuits one at a time, to figure out if one of them makes the dial spin while you think everything is off. This is free, so it doesn't hurt to try it first.

    Good luck.

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Being Robbed?

      Hi Dwight,
      Welcome to the forum and thank you for your service to our country. Now on to the KW usage.
      There is a device, called "Kill-A-Watt," meter. It is available on-line from about $18 to around $24. You plug a device (those two room heaters you're using) into the Killawatt, then plug that into the wall. It will give you a reading as to how much power you are pulling through one of those. Multiply that result by two since you have two of the critters. Also, measure each one. One may be pulling more than the other. You can use that device on ANY plug-in device/tool, etc. in your home, so check other things also. Do you have an older refrigerator or freezer that is on while you are working? Those can draw a ton of power. How many room lights are on while you work? Are you using some large 500w work lights to do the remodeling? What power tools are you using? Table saw, routers? etc. etc. I just went and checked our bill and we're pulling about 25 KW per day without any electric heaters going right now. For three days, that's 75 KW, with your two heaters going (and believe me, if you are running them constantly, they are pulling a big load for three days), and that would probably account for the state of your bills. How old is the wiring in the house? Is it the old knob and tube? How old are the light switches and what state are they in. About the only light switches that really cut all power in a circuit are the spec grades. Anything else will have voltage leak across the terminals and you might have 50-60 transient volts bridging the contacts. And that amount will not light the light bulbs, but that will boost your energy usage. Instant -On TV's will also draw a load even if they are not turned on and you're watching. There are many many things in a house that will draw current, and you aren't even aware of it. But back to the heaters, I think you've got your culprit. And you have to have heat, so what are the options? Are there any outbuildings with electricity? Might want to check that out too. Good luck, and don't be afraid to come back and ask some more questions. I still have some more ideas to throw out there.
      Cheers,
      Jim Don

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Being Robbed?

        I wish my bill was for 115kw of use, in three days.
        the average for three days here is about 150 kw, and no electric heat, or AC for that figure, if I use electric heat or AC, the amount can easily be, 250kw for three days,
        I do have a well and some refrigeration,

        yes for three days that does sound like a lot, of use, with electric heaters it may not be tho, on our rates that would $9.20 approx,

        like said is it possible there is another box some where? a well? If there is a underground line it could be leaking, a heat tape that is wired in some where else, even a lamp under the building to keep some heat in the pipes.

        what is your minimum use fee, for example where I am the minimum use fee for my place is $65 a month, if I do not use a KW or 10,0000 Kw, now they way they work it here is that if I use that much electricity it is just billed as power usage, but if I use less than that the fee for having it come to me is going to be $65 a month regardless, and in our contract after 10 years I think it is the fee goes to actual use and monthly fees for service, the system I deal with is a coop and the minimum fee is for paying for the lines meter poles and etc, and a number of years ago I had three phase added to my place, so the new minimum fee was placed on, Now I use much more power than that so I never have a problem,

        another thing that could be happening, is your power sold on a sliding scale,

        I do not know the rates, but if you use less than X amount you pay Y per KW, if you use over X amount you pay Z rate, so the less you use the more you pay per KW or the more you use the less you pay per KW, and it is possible since it is only a "vacation cabin" they may have a rate for that too.
        Maine rates
        http://www.state.me.us/meopa/electri...ent_rates.html

        Current Electric Rates ( ¢ per kWh )
        Utility, Delivery, Supply Rate,(standard Offer) Total kWh Rate
        Houlton 02.116 ----05.387-------------------------- 07.503

        for the 115 kw your bill should be about $8.63 or broken down about $2.88 a day for electricity, or about $86.28 a month, if I am reading your rates correctly and the information on the site is correct. which if your heating with that I really do not see that as all that high, I figure ever stock tank heater I plug in cost me a dollar a day here, so two heaters $2 a day + lights and some other. NOW I may have made a error in my math or read or interpreted some thing wrong, but the rate you have if the web site is correct is on the low side of power costs, and the usage is not out of line with heaters pluged in IMO,

        a 1000 watt heater, running for 24 hr would be 24 KWH, 24KWH,x .07503 =$1.80 so if you have two heaters that in it self could easily be 48 KWH in a day x 3 days, = 144 KWH
        a page that will explain how one can estimate your power usage,
        http://www.cipco.org/energyAppliance.asp
        Kilowatt Hour:
        kWh A unit of work or energy equal to using 1,000 watts for one hour. Your bill is computed according to the number of kWhs that you use.
        Last edited by BHD; 11-03-2008, 04:18 PM.
        Push sticks/blocks Save Fingers
        ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
        "The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good."
        attributed to Samuel Johnson
        ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
        PUBLIC NOTICE: Due to recent budget cuts, the rising cost of electricity, gas, and oil...plus the current state of the economy............the light at the end of the tunnel, has been turned off.

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: Being Robbed?

          All of these are great ideas. Thanks for the help.
          The Water Sewer and Electric are all billed by the same outfit in Houlton Maine "Houlton Water Company" we have owned the house for about 18 months now we have had water and sewer bills averaging in the 4 to 6 hundred dollar range. and our electric works out to about the same when my family was living there full time and this was with my wife and daughter flushing the toilet once a day and showering once a week. We had a plumber check out the house to find what might be the cause of such sky-high bills and all he could find was a slight trickle in one of the toilets in the guest bathroom we shut off the water to that bathroom. and still the bills are rediculous compared to our neighbors.

          I'm not one to talk conspiracy theories but we can't help but feel as if we are being exploited.

          My goal was to retire from my second carreer and live up in New England the rest of my days... but I find that even though the house cost us less that $220,000 (you can't buy a condo for that down in DC where I work)
          the water sewer and electric are more than triple what I was paying while living in my house in Maryland.

          My Commander said I should order a "Power Survey" where some third party consumer affairs outfit comes in and investigates the situation to determine if the figures are accurate?

          Has anyone ever heard of such a thing?

          Whom should I contact?

          Thanks,
          Dwight

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: Being Robbed?

            Originally posted by dwight2008 View Post
            All of these are great ideas. Thanks for the help.
            The Water Sewer and Electric are all billed by the same outfit in Houlton Maine "Houlton Water Company" we have owned the house for about 18 months now we have had water and sewer bills averaging in the 4 to 6 hundred dollar range. and our electric works out to about the same when my family was living there full time and this was with my wife and daughter flushing the toilet once a day and showering once a week. We had a plumber check out the house to find what might be the cause of such sky-high bills and all he could find was a slight trickle in one of the toilets in the guest bathroom we shut off the water to that bathroom. and still the bills are rediculous compared to our neighbors.
            Our town will come out and test your meter. If it is found to be more than 2% inaccurate, then they replace it for free. If it is within 2%, then you have to pay. You can probably get a feeling if it is way off yourself with a large bucket and a hose bib.

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: Being Robbed?

              Um... what is a hose bib? and how do I conduct this analysis please?

              Thanks!
              Dwight

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: Being Robbed?

                Originally posted by dwight2008 View Post
                Um... what is a hose bib? and how do I conduct this analysis please?

                Thanks!
                Dwight
                Where you connect a garden hose. When you are not using any water, make sure that your meter isn't spinning. Then fill up a container of a known size. Compare the before and after measurements on your meter to how much water you expected to use.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: Being Robbed?

                  on the water shut off ever thing, and see if the meter is still registering any flow, the some thing is not right, it could be a underground leak some where before it gets to the house if the meter is at the street or could a neighbor have tied in to your line or some thing odd, like more than one house being feed off your meter, for that kind of cost hiring a good plumber to check out everything would well be worth the cost, even a main line replacement would look cheap compared to what you report is the cost of no one there,

                  do They show the reported gallons of usage? Pay on gallons of use?

                  or is it a flat fee for water and sewer?

                  I have heard of electronic read meters getting crossed and them reading the wrong address,

                  get the town to shut the water off at the curb (for three weeks your gone or what ever time you select), and see what or how much the bill is? if some thing is crossed or some one else hooked on your line as well, then you should get it figured out fairly fast, if there is a underground leak some where, that should give some indication as well, as there should not be any water use if the curb stop is shut off, the other possibility is if there is muliplyer on the meter, (electronic read, and it is the wrong unit and it indicating much more use than what is there).
                  Push sticks/blocks Save Fingers
                  ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
                  "The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good."
                  attributed to Samuel Johnson
                  ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
                  PUBLIC NOTICE: Due to recent budget cuts, the rising cost of electricity, gas, and oil...plus the current state of the economy............the light at the end of the tunnel, has been turned off.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: Being Robbed?

                    on the water rates, http://www.hwco.org/water_system.htm
                    I do not know if your referring to a monthly bill or a quarterly bill, as the company page says they bill every three months, so I do not know if your saying $400 to $600 a month or a quarter, (I am guess per quarter as the web page says).

                    your rates are:
                    water, base rate is $30 plus an additional $2.50 per additional 100 cubic feet of water after the first 1200 cubic feet,

                    sewer is based on water usage, of 54.48 base and $4.50 per additional 100 cubic feet,
                    and appears sewer is based on water usage.

                    so a combined cost of $84.48 base of 1200 cubit feet, and $7.00 per additional 100 cubic feet,

                    a cubic foot of water is about 7.48 gallons of water, http://wiki.answers.com/Q/How_much_w...n_a_cubic_foot

                    so you can use up to 8976 gallons (1200 cu ft) per three months for the cost, of 84.48 so a $400 dollar bill would indicate one used, an additional 4500 cubic feet, in that three month period, for a combined cost (sewer and water), of $7.00 a hundred cubic feet or 748 gallons, ( $400-$84.48=$315.52/ $7.00 {100 cuft)= 45 units of 100 cubic feet, or 4500 cubic feet) so the total use of 1200 cuft and 4500 cuft, for a total of 5700 cubic feet, X 7.48 gallons per cubic foot, should = 42,636 gallons, in a three month period,

                    so for a $400 dollar bill one should have used, 42,626 gallons / 90 days, would indicated about 473 gallons of use per day, or 19.73 gallons an hr, 1/3 of a gallon per min.

                    a $600 bill would give indication of 64,058 gallons of use and / by 90 days would indicate about 771 gallons per day of use, or 29.65 gallons per hr, or about 1/2 gallon per min.

                    IF I did my figuring correctly,


                    AVERAGE CONSUMPTION PER DAY PER PERSON = 70 GALLONS
                    http://www.wsscwater.com/service/WaterUsageChart.cfm
                    chart for figuring drips in to gallons of use,
                    http://ga.water.usgs.gov/edu/sc4.html


                    average water use per day, by city, (includes irrigation of parks and golf courses)
                    http://bcn.boulder.co.us/basin/local/use.html
                    Push sticks/blocks Save Fingers
                    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
                    "The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good."
                    attributed to Samuel Johnson
                    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
                    PUBLIC NOTICE: Due to recent budget cuts, the rising cost of electricity, gas, and oil...plus the current state of the economy............the light at the end of the tunnel, has been turned off.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: Being Robbed?

                      one more thing see what the units are on the meter are, (the web page talks in cubic FEET),
                      if yours is in gallons instead of CU, FT, are they doing the proper conversion. in the billings, example if you go back up to the $400 dollar example, of using 5700 cubic feet, now if that is gallons instead of cubic feet, that bill should be about, 5700 / 7.48 gallons to get cubic feet, should be 762 cubic feet, of use, or just a base rate of $84.48 as one did not use even there allotted 1200 cubic feet,

                      If that is the gallons instead of cubic feet, 5700 /90 days,= 63.33 gallons a day/ 24 hr= 2.6 gallons an hr, or a hefty drip rate of about 30 to 40 drips per min out of one faucet, or a toilet that is not perfectly sealing on the flapper or the float not holding,

                      Drip calculator,
                      http://ga.water.usgs.gov/edu/sc4.html

                      If you want to check if the toilet is sealing put a number of drops food coloring or dye in the tank and see if it ends up in the bowl before it is flushed,

                      http://www.portlandonline.com/water/...125184&c=30640
                      http://www.greenyour.com/home/bathro...ilet-for-leaks
                      Push sticks/blocks Save Fingers
                      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
                      "The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good."
                      attributed to Samuel Johnson
                      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
                      PUBLIC NOTICE: Due to recent budget cuts, the rising cost of electricity, gas, and oil...plus the current state of the economy............the light at the end of the tunnel, has been turned off.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: Being Robbed?

                        Yes Dwight our local utility company saw you coming and decided to bill you a “ridiculous” amount more than you neighbors. It is policy to "rob" people that move to the area. The rest of us in Houlton get our electricity and water for free since we figure you will pay are bills for us.
                        BHD did a very good job explaining why your electric reading of 115 KW for three days is about right. Don’t bother acknowledging that you were not being “robbed” on your electric bill; just infer that they are “exploiting” you for water and sewer.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: Being Robbed?

                          Hello Dewight,

                          Let me give you a couple of hints about dealing with our wonderful electrical supplier CMP.

                          I once had 8 fish tanks(all with 1500w or more heaters), an older then dirt fridge, A washer and dryer I remember using as a kid and an old cook stove.
                          our light bill was around $100 a month.

                          After deciding we were paying too much we got brand new fridge, washer/dryer, and cook stove. Got rid of all but one fish tank. Replaced all the light bulbs with the energy efficient ones. Stopped using a fan to drowned out noise while sleeping.
                          We did all this before the next months meter read date. When the bill came, no change as expected but after another month passed still no change. After the 2nd month STILL no change.

                          So I called CMP and told them I was NOT paying the bill until they sent a rep to my home to justify why it was so much. The CSR was helpful and did a sort of energy audit over the phone. Then she tried to make excuses like "maybe your well pump was struck by lightning" Nope, "its heating season now, maybe your furnace is using a lot of power" Nope at the time we heated with wood only. " maybe your hot water heater is running a lot" nope we used a K-1 fired HWH. Every excuse she came up with I shot down. She passed me to a supervisor and I told her the same, I was refusing to pay the bill until they sent a rep.

                          The next bill that came was $42.50 after no change on our part for over two months. why the sudden change??? who knows.For years the bill hovered around that same amount.

                          My buddy took off for two weeks one month so he shut the power off at the outside main breaker. When he got his bill for that month it was the same. He called and they tried the same excuses. In the end they told him they estimated the bill that month and didn't read the meter. Yet his bill clearly said they read it not estimated. In the end they told him just to pay what he thought was fair so he paid half and they called it good.

                          Oh one other thing:
                          By law in Maine you can refuse to pay an estimated bill. They are not allowed to bill you with out reading the meter, but they still do it. The last time they attempted to estimate my bill I sent it back with a note telling them If they don't read my meter then don't send a bill. That was 4 years ago and EVERY 8th day of the month they come by.
                          You can also request your meter be read by appointment only if I'm not mistaken.

                          It just seams kinda fishy they way they operate. I don't trust them.

                          GOOD LUCK!
                          Welcome to Maine and welcome to the forum
                          INSIGHT PIPE is now Maine Drain Serving most of ME with no charge for travel! 207-431-6232 is nolonger a working # our NEW # is 207-355-1476
                          Sewer main snaking (roto rooting). Sink clogs. Sewer backup. Pipe inspection/locating. No Dig trenchless repair. Root clog removal.We are NOT to replace your local Plumber, as we do not do plumbing. WE ARE YOUR DRAIN CLEANING EXPERTS!!! www.sewermaine.com waterville winslow bangor augusta skowhegan fairfield pittsfield oakland

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Re: Being Robbed?

                            this is true you trust that they are looking at how much electric you use

                            you should read your meter each month and see if it matches your bill

                            welcome to the forum
                            Charlie

                            My seek the peek fundraiser page
                            http://observatory.mountwashington.o...nal&fr_id=1040


                            http://www.mountwashington.org/weather/conditions.php

                            new work pictures 12/09
                            http://public.fotki.com/hvachawk/

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Re: Being Robbed?

                              Hi and welcome to the forum. As others have stated do read and log your meters.

                              As for running two portable electric heaters, they may really be using more electricity than you may think. Normally a full size portable that runs on 120 Volts consumes about 1500 Watts. With 2 in use that's 3000 Watts or 3 Kilo Watt Hours per hour of run time. Now let's say it's good and cold so they run constantly for 3 days. 3 x 24 x 3 = 216 KW Hr. and that's just the two heaters. It's wild but people that heat with resistive electric heating really run up some monster bills in the winter.

                              My recommendation is to try to use some other method of heating the place if you can do so.

                              This may throw you but just to have service connected, I'm sure there is a charge. If you normally shut off all power when not there you really might do better to make your own power. This way you don't have monthly and useless (to you) service connection fees.

                              Comment

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