Can a "broken" appliance use an outrageous amount of energy?

Discussing an issue with a friend about a sudden very dramatic jump in kilowatt hours that continued for months. The only readily identifiable thing was a half-size refrigerator that was replacing an existing half-size refrigerator, both of which were old.

Is it possible for something to go wildly haywire in an appliance like that so that the usage jumps by hundreds of hours per month?

Sure, any number of things, depending on the appliance. Example for a refrigerator, perhaps the thermostat is broken so the compressor runs constantly. Or a bad seal might also cause the compressor to run constantly. etc…

Does the refrigerator look like this ? If so the spec says it takes 1.5 amperes.

For some comparison :

Assuming a power factor of 1, if the above refrigerator compressor ran for a whole month continuously, then you will use (110x1.5/1000)x24x30= 119kWhr.

Since your refrigerator is old - it may be consuming twice or thrice the above . So, if the usage is more than 350 kWhr, I would look for other culprits - otherwise, I think you have found the culprit.

I would highly recommend that you buy a device like “Kill a Watt” which can exactly help you find the problem. Although, I linked to the amazon store, the same or equivalent devices are available at most hardware stores.

While that’s possible, IME, if the compressor runs almost constantly, the fridge will turn into a freezer. Even if it’s doing so because of a bad seal (as opposed to a bad t-stat or other part) and seal that’s just bad enough to maintain proper temp AND keep the compressor running all the time, everything inside will be covered in frost and/or condensation. Furthermore, what tends to happen in these cases is that the coils freeze over and cause a whole new set of problems.

Basically, yes, a broken fridge can drive up how much energy you’re using but if it’s so much that it’s using, say, double or triple what it should be, you’ll probably notice the symptoms of it.

I’m not saying that’s not it, but your friend might want to look into other things as well. Is the furnace running more (if it’s gas, there’s two motors in there, if it’s electric…well, it’s electric), has the TV been left on while at work a few times by accident? I’m sure there’s some other things, but with the sudden jump, my money is on the furnace. It’s cold out, the furnace is getting used more, seems logical to me.

Anything with a motor that runs constantly will eat up huge amounts of energy.

A frequent service call finding of mine on well pumps is they can’t meet cut out pressure for a variety of reasons, I don’t get called out until the customer is impacted by the low pressure or the pump finally dies. Within 30 seconds of looking at the pressure switch I ask ‘what have your power bills been like’ I get answers such as ‘They’ve been really high for the past 6 months, you think it’s related?’ Why yes it is…

In my area a 1/2hp motor running constantly will cost about 6 dollars a day.

The record was a 2HP running for 6 years which was also causing basement flooding that they’d done thousands of dollars in landscaping in an attempt to resolve it never realizing what the actual problem was.

May I ask where you live ? 1/2 hp motor in a day will consume about 9 kWh. 6 dollars for that much powere works out to 67c / kWh.

The highest price for power I see from the EIA website is about 35c for Hawaii. So I was wondering why you were paying twice the price of Hawaii where you live ?

A 240v 1/2 HP submersible motor has an amp draw of about 6amps per leg. That’s 1440 watts or 34 kWh a day. $.15 a kWh. So about $5 a day.

Maybe I got the math wrong?

I once owned an electric dryer whose timer quit working. I would turn it on and it would continue running until I remembered to open the door. I’m ashamed to admit this, but I didn’t have to pay for electricity so I really didn’t worry too much about it.

The same housing complex used old window AC units and some of them had to run at their maximum settings to put out even a little cold air. I bet that they ate up a lot of watts but as the residents didn’t have to pay for the electricity, we didn’t care.

A friend of mine had an INSANE spike in her power bill. She lived out in the country (a little, we aren’t talking back woods) and had very heavy duty fencing, etc. It ended up being that b/c the readers couldn’t get to the meters (it was about when everything started to switch to smart meters). Because access wasn’t easy, the power company was going off the initial smart meter readings. It turned out theirs wasn’t set correctly or something. They finally got the power people to come out, physically read it, get it re-aligned correctly and corrected her bill. It took several months to get it fixed though.

This was probably about 10 years ago so probably doesn’t apply here.

There could be two things wrong here :

  1. 240v 1/2 HP motor should draw between 2.3 amp to 3.2 amp when running. The 6 amps you quote is the startup amps - and although the startup amp is high, remember it has a low power factor. So that would give you 240x2.7x 24x.15 /1000= $2.3 per day (assuming pump consumes 2.7 amps)

  2. You maybe quoting the pump horsepower as the motor horsepower. A 1/2 horsepower pump will typically require a 2 horsepower motor. (Yes pumps have about 25% efficiency). If that is the case then your dollar spend is correct - but please remember you are running a 2 hp motor.

Whereas, OTOH, I once lived out in the country (way way out in the backwoods) and one day the meter just plain quit running. My next electric bill was about half what it normally was, and the bill after that was exactly $0.00

I called the power company and reported that (being too damn honest for my own good). It took several calls for them to send somebody out. I ended up getting about six months of electricity for $0.00 a month before they finally replaced the meter.

Sometimes you win a few! How about that.

Here you go centripro motors are what Goulds pumps are running these days.

That is funny! That’s what THAT is! :smiley:

I once dealt with a guy who had been getting free cellular phone service for three years due to a system error. He still would be if he hadn’t escalated to me when the rep refused to give him a better discount on an i-phone. He seemed genuinely unable to understand why his claims to have been a loyal customer for years were cancelled out by the fact that, not having ever paid us for anything, he wasn’t in fact a customer.

Because that power has to turn to heat, the offending device would have to have increase in heat density , which is an increase in temperature… it would be warmer.

Basically, if it was your toaster or your light bulb, it would be glowing white hot and catching fire.

But the fridge has a much larger surface area, and is designed to get warm at the back (and also the sides, if the element is under the skin . ) , If it feels warmer than normal, it may well be to blame.

Another possible is the washing machine, if it was set to a high temperature but changed to only use cold water ? It might be that.

I’ve recently started taking notice of my fridges power consumption, after long suspecting it was quite a heavy user, I borrowed a kit from local council to check a few things! It’s a Whirlpool ED25DQ Thirstcrusher (Which I think was a U.S market model, using an E17 globe, and I had to remove the doors to get it into my house!) (It’s in Australia now though!)
Over the last week, I would say I’ve only noticed it with the compressor not running once a day at most, with the meter idling around 35 Watts. I glance at this Power Mate PM10A meter every time I go past, but it’s usually between 250-280W, jumping to 300+ as soon as the doors opened, I’m yet to do the maths, but I’m pretty sure it’s time for a new fridge!

However, it is working fine, the seals look good, and no excessive ice or condensation to be seen, and the plumbed ice and water dispenser produces comes in handy!

A friend bought a new home and was freaked out by his electric bills. For a few months he tried to figure out what was happening on his own. Even when he shut down everything he could, the meter was still spinning like a top.

He finally called an electrician. His heated walkways (which he didn’t even know the home had) were on. The indicator light on the switch was faulty. If he hadn’t figured it out, it would have become obvious when winter came.

I have a Kill A Watt device that you plug into the wall then plug the appliance into it. It tells things like the current wattage, voltage, and amperage being used. It also keeps track of how many kilowatts have been used. For example my PC used 13 KW in the last 1500 hours. My PC uses 1 watt in sleep mode and is using 35 watts right now.

If I don’t mention this, I’ll be pissed at myself: You might want to take a look at the outside of your property; I’ve heard too many stories of douchebag neighbors plugging their house into your electric supply (then burying the cord, natch). Just a thought.

Many local library systems have these available for check out, so no need to buy one.