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We recently got a nearly double electrical bill during the previous cycle. I, wrongly, assumed it was just a fluke and my family had left some things on longer than they were supposed to. This billing cycle we got a bill 320% of our normal bill!

While I was at work, I had my wife try to identify where the power draw was coming from by shutting off all the breakers and enabling them one at a time until one was identified. She found a breaker (we'll call it 17/19 for the purpose of discussion) that was drawing a LOT of energy. It spins about 4x times the speed of our kitchen breaker, which has a new 'fridge on it. However, we have no idea what the 17/19 breaker even powers! It doesn't seem to turn off any lights or heaters. We have it off for now, but I'd really appreciate some suggestions of how to figure out where that circuit goes. Also, how it could be drawing so much energy! Some sort of short?

The house was built in the mid-60s and we're the recent 2nd owners. We lived in the house for about 6 months before this started happening.

  • Since you call it "17/19", I'm assuming that it's a dual-breaker (looks like two separate breakers but with the handles tied together). This is a breaker for a 240V load. This could be central heating (if electric), central air conditioning, water heater (if electric), clothes dryer (if electric), baseboard heaters, an so on. Without seeing it, there's no way to know. I highly doubt it's any kind of a short as that much current would produce enough heat to cause a fire. I suggest you call an electrician. – DoxyLover May 8 '15 at 20:47
  • You don't mention where you live, but when I bought a house in a cold climate, there was a switch in the garage that seemed to do nothing, it wasn't connect to any lights or outlets that we could find. Finally we noticed a significant difference in power usage when the switch was on -- after further investigation, we found that it led to heat cable laid in all of the rain gutters around the house (to prevent them from freezing over). That switch was turning on around 1500W worth of heat cables. (over $150/month if left on 24x7) – Johnny May 8 '15 at 20:55
  • We're in Seattle, I don't think it's that; especially because it just started happening out of the blue. – WebMasterP May 8 '15 at 23:33
  • What is the overcurrent rating of the breaker (the number on the handle(s))? Has anything changed recently? – Tester101 May 9 '15 at 0:10
  • It's a double pole 20A breaker. Nothing changed -- when my wife tested it with nothing else on, it caused it to spin incredibly fast. Tonight, I just checked it again by turning it back on and we didn't see an increase in speed tonight. I'm going check again tomorrow during the same time of day. – WebMasterP May 10 '15 at 4:46

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