My dads been pulling the last of his hairs out over this.

The past two years around this time, the electric bill jumps to about $300 when typically it’s around $100.

Nothing has changed, we haven’t acquired any new appliances ( all kitchen appliances are relatively brand energy efficient appliances ) We have one LCD TV that’s rated at something like $20 annually.

Dad and wife suspect someone is somehow siphoning power.

When the the main breaker is shut off, the meter stops spinning.

We’ve been selectively unplugging drier, washer, fridges, stove etc. Water heater is gas. We have central AC and it hasn’t run much at all as well.

Any ideas on how to troubleshoot this aside from selectively unpluging devices ?

  • What location and what utility company? May 20 '20 at 22:05
  • 4
    Have you compared your bills in fine detail and read all the fine print? - ie, you're 100% sure there is something to troubleshoot here, and not that you get an estimate on normal bills and once a year your account is synced with 'actual usage' or other annoying accounting practice? May 20 '20 at 22:14
  • 2
    Is there a true up in rate? Does the electrical bill show a corresponding uprise in the amount of electricity used. May 20 '20 at 22:15
  • "around this time" It only happens in the spring ? and lasts for how long ?
    – Alaska Man
    May 20 '20 at 22:17
  • 1
    Has your dad been playing MORE video games now that he can’t go anywhere due to the Coronavirus?
    – Lee Sam
    May 20 '20 at 22:29

Contact the electric company. Find out when they do physical meter readings, versus merely projecting your estimated usage. I bet it's in May.

If you have a smart meter that communicates via powerlines, then my theory is blown. But you said your meter spins, and smart meters don't do that.

  • 3
    You could also learn how to read the meter on a daily basis and record the reading. It's a little tricky on old style meters, but can be done. Do it the same time each day, then try and associate other events going on with the readings. I did that for a while after I got a solar array, just out of curiosity and was surprised by how much just doing a few loads of laundry could affect daily usage. May 21 '20 at 1:51
  • @GeorgeAnderson -- vented dryers are pretty piggy from an energy-usage standpoint, not just by drawing a bunch of power themselves, but due to the fact they depressurize the house too May 21 '20 at 4:40
  • @ThreePhaseEel YEAH! I've noticed that just from electrical usage. I heat with gas so no effect on space heating electrical costs. I also have a decent sized wood working shop and when I'm out here with a major project going on, my electrical use can easily double in a day! May 21 '20 at 13:20

If it's actual use, I'd suspect a spring-time event (the running of the sump pump, particularly) rather than that someone steals power but only in May (or April, depending how your bills map to when the power was actually used.)

If there is a sump pump, and it normally does nothing, but runs a lot in the spring...

  • I sincerely doubt a sump-pump could make anywhere near the difference the OP mentioned. A typical sump pump would draw about 1,000 watts. Even if the OP had a river in his/her basement / crawl and it was running 24/7 it wouldn't add that much. (Math: 30 days per month times 24 hours per day = 720 hours. That would mean 720 KW hours at say $.10 per KW which is $72. And that assumes it's running 24/7. Not knowing the run time or power rate are confounding variables that should be explored, but still blaming the excessive power use on a sump pump doesn't seem reasonable. May 21 '20 at 2:00

It depends on what your heating system is, and when the bill increase happens. If you have central forced-air heat pump with natural gas backup, it could be that over the winter your heating system is almost exclusively using the natural gas (which these days is much cheaper than electric). However, when it gets warm enough outside, it will switch over to the heat pump which is more efficient (from an energy-consumption standpoint), but shows up on your electric bill instead of your gas bill. So, you are basically having a transfer of heating costs from your gas bill to your electric bill (your gas bill should go down in a commensurate fashion, assuming your electric and gas companies don't do estimated readings, as was noted earlier).

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.