The Straight Dope

Go Back   Straight Dope Message Board > Main > In My Humble Opinion (IMHO)

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 03-15-2009, 07:37 PM
AngelSoft AngelSoft is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2009
Can someone steal your electricity?

I'm in the process of moving into a new place. I'm taking my time and haven't actually been living there. Well I just got my electrical bill for the last month. $134! They're saying I used 3100 kilowatts of energy. My ass. I haven't been there! I've had the heater on at about 60 to keep the pipes warm but there's no way it racked up that much energy. The previous owners actually are in a dispute with the electric company right now. Apparently they were charged over $200 a month for electricity and they never used the heater at all. They used a wood stove.

I'm going to call them tomorrow but I have a feeling I'm in for a "tough shit" answer. I'm wondering if someone could be tapping into my electricity and using it on my bill. Is that even possible? I'm not looking forward to calling because I'm so non-confrontational it's not funny.
Reply With Quote
Advertisements  
  #2  
Old 03-15-2009, 07:52 PM
Patch Patch is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Aug 2005
Don't see why not. I've had someone splice into my Cable TV lines before so they could get free Cable. You just have to know what you're doing.

OTOH, can bad wiring lead to an excess draw of current that goes to waste? Remember that being mentioned in the book Red Dragon, but then, that was a fiction book.
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old 03-15-2009, 07:59 PM
Saintly Loser Saintly Loser is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Aug 2002
Absolutely. It can happen. Some years back, I lived in a small apartment building (four units) in Brooklyn. I discovered at some point that the landlord had wired all the common areas of the building (halls, stairways, the basement) into my meter.

That was just the first of several things that caused me to withhold rent, him to attempt to evict me, us to end up in landlord/tenant court, and me to be awarded six rent-free months (after which I moved out, of course).
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Old 03-15-2009, 08:11 PM
Harmonious Discord Harmonious Discord is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 1999
You could have a bad meter. There are a number of things that could be wrong. It could be on your end. Did you just heat with one circuit? What is the amperage and voltage of the heating circuits?

You can calculate the maximum power continuous use would have consumed for the billing period. A couple heaters that are 2000 watt units would use 4 kilowatts per hour. 4 time 24 hours is 96 kilowatts 96 times 30 days is 2880 kilowatts. That would be a typical heater load for a 20 amp 220 volt circuit.
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old 03-15-2009, 08:31 PM
Bam Boo Gut Bam Boo Gut is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2006
Turn off your main breaker and then check to see if the meter is still spinning.
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Old 03-15-2009, 08:35 PM
troubledwater troubledwater is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2006
If you do call the power company, ask if they have a department that investigates theft. It could be called loss mitigation or revenue protection or something like that.
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Old 03-15-2009, 08:37 PM
AngelSoft AngelSoft is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2009
Quote:
Originally Posted by Harmonious Discord View Post
You could have a bad meter. There are a number of things that could be wrong. It could be on your end. Did you just heat with one circuit? What is the amperage and voltage of the heating circuits?
Wow I have no idea what any of that means ... I guess it's time to do the tried and true "call my daddy" method of dealing with things like this...


Quote:
Turn off your main breaker and then check to see if the meter is still spinning.
Ooohh good idea. I can do that I'll give it a shot tomorrow.
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Old 03-15-2009, 08:37 PM
Kansas Beekeeper Kansas Beekeeper is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Feb 2004
Just have the electric company pull the meter and see what all goes off.
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Old 03-15-2009, 11:12 PM
Snnipe 70E Snnipe 70E is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Turn everything off in the house. now if you have an ols style meter go look at it is the wheel still turning? If so you are consuming power. No you may have a frige that is running or something else. Turn the breakers one at a time and check the meter. Do that until you find which circuits are consumming power. If you are still consuming power turn main breaker off. If you are still consuming power then something is wrong.

You may have a faulty appliance.

I do not know about your house, but an electric of 10,000 KW will consume 3600 KW in a month with a 50% duty cycle. So if your house is uninsulated it is possable.
Reply With Quote
  #10  
Old 03-16-2009, 05:38 AM
Harmonious Discord Harmonious Discord is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 1999
The point of my my post was showing you could have used that much power. Having somebody else calculate how much power your heating can use, is easier on both of us, so let's have a cheer for your daddy.
Reply With Quote
  #11  
Old 03-16-2009, 07:36 AM
Annie-Xmas Annie-Xmas is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: New Jersey
Posts: 30,439
Tenants spl;ice into the common area electrical wires quite regularly. And we've seen cases of tenants whose electricity is included int he rent run extension cords to tenants wose electricity is not included in the rent.
Reply With Quote
  #12  
Old 03-16-2009, 10:10 AM
crazyjoe crazyjoe is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
Try this: read the numbers on your meter. Then read the numbers on the statement. Make sure they match. It is very possible that one of your neighbors is pulling your meter to use on their house (they just pop out, I saw an electrician do this once while troubleshooting my power) and then replacing it when they know the meter reader is coming around.

A friend of mine who travelled a lot for his job had a $300 bill one month, and a $400 the next, even though he verified (during hte summer) that the AC was off before he left. Arouind here, getting a $300 electric bill means you have to be running something with a huge draw pretty constantly. My wife and 2 kids stay are home all the time and we've never had a $300 electric bill.

He eventually found out that someone weas swapping his meter around, and got $700 credit on his electric bill.
Reply With Quote
  #13  
Old 03-16-2009, 12:28 PM
iamthewalrus(:3= iamthewalrus(:3= is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2000
Quote:
Originally Posted by Annie-Xmas View Post
Tenants spl;ice into the common area electrical wires quite regularly. And we've seen cases of tenants whose electricity is included int he rent run extension cords to tenants wose electricity is not included in the rent.
Just to be jerks, or what?
Reply With Quote
  #14  
Old 03-16-2009, 05:29 PM
AngelSoft AngelSoft is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2009
Well we found out what's going on. I had my brother come over to help me out and after concluding my electricity was not being stolen, we decided to try and narrow down the culprit. When he first came over, he had noticed the meter was spinning like crazy. But when he went out for us to do the 'testing', he noticed it was going at a very slow, normal pace. It basically took about 10 seconds to go from 10 to 20. Well while we talked on the cell phones (me inside, him out), I turned on the heater. Suddenly the meter went crazy. The same amount of time it took for it to go 10 kilowatts or whatever the measurement is, it went 80. So yeah...I have a holy heater from hell in regards to energy consumption.

This is not a happy result for me since I can't afford a brand new heater but I can't leave the heat off since it's still pretty cold at night here and I have a baby. He changed the filter and said it might help a little but...ehh...I'm not being too optomistic.

Last edited by AngelSoft; 03-16-2009 at 05:30 PM..
Reply With Quote
  #15  
Old 03-16-2009, 06:06 PM
pudytat72 pudytat72 is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Dec 2004
Posts: 650
on a day when it is windy outside, light a candle and walk around your house holding the candle in front of electrical outlets and light switches and windows. If you see the candle flame moving, you have air leaking into your house.
(I was amazed at how much air was blowing in) I went to the hardware store and bought some "Insulating socket sealers" (foam pads that fit inside electrical outlets and light switches to block air flow. You unscrew the cover, slap the foam pad in place and screw the cover back on. Easy to do and can make a big difference.
Air leaking around windows may require caulking to fix
You might want to have a heating company come out and do an energy evaluation. You might be able to get an energy efficient heater and qualify for a tax rebate (if you are in the U.S.) and lots of heating companies here in Texas are running deals like extra insulation, and no payments/no interest for one year. (and some guaranteeing 30-60% savings on your energy bill-I saved 30-40% on my energy bills with my new heater/air conditioner.
Reply With Quote
  #16  
Old 03-16-2009, 06:11 PM
HongKongFooey HongKongFooey is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2008
Quote:
Originally Posted by AngelSoft View Post
This is not a happy result for me since I can't afford a brand new heater but I can't leave the heat off since it's still pretty cold at night here and I have a baby. He changed the filter and said it might help a little but...ehh...I'm not being too optomistic.
What type of heater are we talking about here?
Reply With Quote
  #17  
Old 03-16-2009, 06:19 PM
AngelSoft AngelSoft is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2009
Quote:
Originally Posted by HongKongFooey View Post
What type of heater are we talking about here?
Umm old? I'm not at the house right now so I can't check but my brother said it wasn't a heat pump and was a heat coil (?).
Reply With Quote
  #18  
Old 03-16-2009, 06:34 PM
HongKongFooey HongKongFooey is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2008
I'm asking because there a lot of electrical types here who may be able to let you know if your power draw is normal or suggest a way of improving it. If it's an electric furnace for instance it just might be a power hog. If it is an electric furnace replacing the filter will certainly help it work more efficiently.
Reply With Quote
  #19  
Old 03-16-2009, 06:39 PM
AngelSoft AngelSoft is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2009
It's definitely an electric furnace, I remember him saying that. God I feel like such an idiot when it comes to these things. I hate feeling ignorant.
Reply With Quote
  #20  
Old 03-16-2009, 06:48 PM
HongKongFooey HongKongFooey is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2008
Quote:
Originally Posted by AngelSoft View Post
It's definitely an electric furnace, I remember him saying that. God I feel like such an idiot when it comes to these things. I hate feeling ignorant.
None of this were born knowing this stuff (we just act like were ). Electric furnaces tend to use a lot of power. Hopefully replacing the filter will help. It may be worth your while to have it serviced professionally, there are some switches known as sequencers in most units which affect their operation. Some other good suggestions in the thread for checking for heat loss throughout the house are worth following up on.

Last edited by HongKongFooey; 03-16-2009 at 06:49 PM..
Reply With Quote
  #21  
Old 03-16-2009, 11:04 PM
Kevbo Kevbo is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2005
Check the seal around your 'fridge door. Also, make sure the light winks out just before the door closes...if the light stays on, you not only pay for the power to light the bulb, but also the power to pump the heat from the bulbs out of the 'fridge.
Reply With Quote
  #22  
Old 03-16-2009, 11:17 PM
AngelSoft AngelSoft is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2009
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kevbo View Post
Check the seal around your 'fridge door. Also, make sure the light winks out just before the door closes...if the light stays on, you not only pay for the power to light the bulb, but also the power to pump the heat from the bulbs out of the 'fridge.
I actually thought about the fridge too. It's old enough that you still have to defrost the freezer. But the seal's so tight you have to give it a good bit of effort to open the door. I can check the light thing though. I'm also going to look around for any cold air leaks. I'm also going to see about getting the heater serviced. Thanks so much for all the help everyone. Although I kinda wish it had been someone stealing the power.
Reply With Quote
  #23  
Old 03-17-2009, 12:56 PM
NicorGasMan NicorGasMan is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Aug 2008
http://www.usatoday.com/money/indust...y-thefts_N.htm
Reply With Quote
  #24  
Old 03-18-2009, 07:24 AM
czarcaztic czarcaztic is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Nov 2003
Quote:
Originally Posted by Snnipe 70E View Post
I do not know about your house, but an electric of 10,000 KW will consume 3600 KW in a month with a 50% duty cycle. So if your house is uninsulated it is possable.

Huh? Fhat the wuck?
Reply With Quote
  #25  
Old 03-18-2009, 08:27 AM
Leaffan Leaffan is online now
Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2005
Location: Ottawa Valley, eh.
Posts: 15,164
Is the hot water tank electric too? Those things can consume a lot of energy.

I am in an area with no natural gas, therefore I too am on electricity for heat and water.

Two suggestions: Buy an insulated blanket for your water tank and turn the water temperature down as low as you possibly can. Mine's at 135 F although I'm sure I could get by with a lower temp, but the dishwasher needs hot water to function properly. Secondly, use the wood stove! I put one in a few years back and my furnace run-time is one third of what is was before I installed the stove. Wood isn't free, but it is more cost effective than electricity if you can buy a number of face chords at a time.
Reply With Quote
Reply

Bookmarks

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 02:31 PM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2014, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to: cecil@chicagoreader.com

Send comments about this website to: webmaster@straightdope.com

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Publishers - interested in subscribing to the Straight Dope?
Write to: sdsubscriptions@chicagoreader.com.

Copyright 2013 Sun-Times Media, LLC.