Where The Heck is the Juice Going?

December 23rd, 2006 by Potato

Life in the new house has been pretty good so far. Our first few utility bills have been pretty sobering though. The gas bill came first, and it was quite a bit higher than we were expecting, especially since it only covered a few days where we actually lived in the house, and most of that time was unseasonably warm so the heat was barely on.

Our electricity bill came yesterday, and it was even more of a shock. We really weren’t expecting the hydro bill to be too much more than it was in our old place. We have a few more lights, and a few more appliances (dishwasher, clothes washer/dryer), but other than that all our stuff is the same (computers, lamps, microwave, etc.) and the fridge and stove are pretty similar to our old ones. All the other new things in the house run on gas (water heater, heat). Yet somehow we roughly tripled our electricity consumption. And this was for a 12-day period where we only lived in the house for 4 of them!

It’s driving me batty trying to figure out what’s eating all the juice. Is it a faulty device somewhere? Does the fan on the otherwise gas-powered furnace really use that much electricity? Is the change from using mostly natural light in the day and having 4-5 incandescents on at night to using 1-2 incandescents during the day (the house doesn’t get as much natural light) and 6-10 at night really use that much more? (A quick calculation says that lights alone, especially since we’re good at turning them off when not in the room, should only be an extra 6 kWh/day or so; we’re trying to account for a difference of more like 30 kWh/day). Does a once-weekly run through of the dishwasher and washing machine really bump the daily average up that much? I happened to have a load of dishes to do so I checked: I ran the oven for about 20 minutes, and then the dishwasher plus whatever else in the house was on (a few lights, computers, but no TV or anything) and checked the meter on the side of the house. 3 hours with that consumption ran me 8 kWh, as compared to an average of 15 kWh for the whole day in the apartment…

Unfortunately, it’s really hard to keep up the morale to conserve when the bill is going to be astronomical no matter what. Why save 30 cents a day by turning off the lights when some mystery device in the house is just going to burn through $1.50 no matter what we do?

2 Responses to “Where The Heck is the Juice Going?”

  1. Potato Says:

    So after being gone for ten and a half days, I found 335 kWh of electricity usage on the meter when I got home. Before I left, almost everything was turned off: the heat was set below 10°C, all the lights were off, the microwave and printer and anything else that might draw “leak/standby current” was unplugged. Pretty much all that was left was the fridge, two security lights, and the web server.

    The fridge has an energuide sticker saying it’s rated for 635 kWh/year, so let’s say 11 days of usage should run in the neighbourhood of 19-20 kWh. The power supply on the computer is rated for a max of 230 W, but since it’s not really doing anything computationally intensive and doesn’t have any load on the USB power supply or drives (it’s been scavenged down to one drive), it’s probably more like 100 W (or less). Even at the full 230 W, 11 days would be 60.7 kWh (and it’s most likely less than 25 kWh). One of the security lights is just a 25 W bulb on a timer (6 hours/day), which is a paltry 1.7 kWh. The other is an outdoor sodium lamp in the midst of its death throes. Under normal operation, the sodium lamp should be on 24 hours a day and be fairly efficient (I haven’t been up on the ladder yet to see exactly, but those types of lamps should be in the neighbourhood of 40 W). However, this one is dying and flickering a lot, so it’s one potential source of the discrepancy. Let’s say that, in a fairly worst-case scenario, that lamp used 30 kWh (even though if it was working properly, it should be something more like 12). I hope that when the light goes out it’s using less power, but it could be that there’s a big spike when it warms up, and since it has to keep going through the warm up phase as it’s dying, that might use more…

    But other than that, there shouldn’t be anything else using electricity. The furnace & water heater are gas, though the furnace does have a fan to move the air (a point which may be negligable since the set point was so low and the weather was so mild). That brings us to a total of 112 kWh, assuming what should be the worst-case limits for the computer and outdoor security light (that worst-case scenario gives me wiggle room for things I forgot to include, like the TV I forgot to unplug, the LED christmas lights that were up outside, and the answering machine). Yet there’s over 300 kWh rolled up on the meter! I’m going to call the power company today to see if they can come up with any reason for this difference; it’s like somewhere there’s a row of eight or nine 100 W bulbs burning constantly, 24 hours a day!

  2. RKinski Says:

    How add your blog to yahoo database?