Huge ONE-DAY spike in electric bill

My electric bill for August jumped $120 from the previous month. When I called the utility company about it, here is some of the info I got:

[*]My average daily usage is 31 to 59 kWh

[li]There were three days my usage spiked:[/li][/ul]
Aug. 7 - 130 kWh
Aug 11 - 1,022 kWh
Aug. 23 - 125 kWh
[li]If a meter goes bad, it slows or stops. It doesn’t speed up[/li]
[li]They verified that the correct meter was read[/li][/ul]

Does anyone have any idea what could have caused such a huge spike on Aug. 11? I was home all that day and night, and there was absolutely nothing going on to cause such power use. No construction, no guests, no nothing.

I have two outdoor outlets, so it is possible someone “stole” electricity on that day, but I was home and didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary. If someone did jack into an outlet that day, what on earth could he/she have been using to run up my daily usage by more than 17 times??

I think even if I went crazy and ran every appliance in my home at once, it doesn’t seem like it could increase my usage 17-fold!

Could it be a glitch in the meter? It was an actual reading, not an estimate. Since the utility company gets a daily reading from it, I’m assuming it’s some type of smart meter.

I need information in order to see if I have a “case” to bring to the utility company. Please, if anyone has any ideas, tell me! Remember, this is ONE DAY’s use that spiked, not the whole month.

I’d say it’s impossible.
1,022 KWH at 240v is 4258 A•hr or 177A for 24 hours.

What is your panel rated at? 200A? That means you’d have to be pulling 88% of the maximum load possible for 24 hours. Even if your oven (70A breaker) was drawing all 70A all day, that’s only 403 KWH.

What is the rating on your panel? Maxing out a 200 amp panel for 24 straight hours is 1152kwh… I’m sure you’d have problems if you actually used 1022kwh in a single day.

ETA what beowulff said

August 11, did they verify they didn’t lose a decimal point?

Nothing that you did could cause you to use 1022kWh in a single day; it’s absurd. Even if someone were stealing your power, it’s unlikely they would be using that much. A potential explanation is a neighbor with a big marijuana grow operation, but then why would they steal your power for only one day?

Probably true for a mechanical meter, but it sounds like you’ve got a digital smart meter. There are all kinds of interesting failure modes that could cause such a device to give wildly incorrect readings in either direction.

The probable explanation is almost certainly that your meter is broken. Get on your utility company’s case and have them replace it. If they are reluctant, ask them to explain how a single household could use a frickin megawatt-hour of power in a single day.

Thanks so much for your answers, everyone! Obviously I know very little about this kind of thing. You are all helping to educate me.

How should I approach the utility company? Besides asking/insisting that they replace the meter, how do I ask them to adjust the bill? What should I say? I’m afraid they won’t admit to any fault in their reading or process.

Although I could always quote Friedo and ask them to “explain how a single household could use a frickin megawatt-hour of power in a single day.” :smiley:

Excellent point, BigT, thanks!

Thanks for the info, Emtar KronJonDerSohn and beowulff. I appreciate learning from everyone here.

Utilities are most likely regulated by the state. If the utility company won’t investigate, you should call the regulators for help. They’ve dealt with this before.

Aug 11 is probably one of the following:

A. 102 kWh, which means it somehow got multiplied by 10 (i.e. decimal point moved)
B. 122 kWh, which means a zero somehow got inserted.

Someone or something screwed up.

The Aug. 7 and Aug. 23 numbers are still suspicious, though. Over 100kWh a day is very high for a residence, even with some air conditioning turned on. Average residential usage in the US is around 30kWh per day (which aligns with the OP’s reported average daily usage.) Even if you doubled that for the summer you still don’t get into triple digits.

I’m curious how the meter works. A mechanical meter never shows how much I used on any given day; it shows how much I used from the starting point until now. The only way to know how much got used on any given day would have been to record the reading at the beginning and end of that day. If someone did make such recordings on each and every day, and we have a list of what the meter reading was at 12:01 AM of each day, then neither of Crafter_Man’s suggestions are possible.

How smart is your smart meter? My local utility has a phone app you can download that retrieves your meter’s data from the utility company. I can review hourly electricity usage in my home for every day of the past year or so. If you’ve got a smart meter, chances are your utility company has something similar. As has been pointed out, you’d have to be near your home’s max possible power consumption for the entire 24-hour day to consume as much energy as they are claiming; my hunch is that there was a single glitch some time during that day that might have caused the meter to record brief (and truly impossible) megawatt-level power consumption. If so, that would be a good logic bomb to throw at them.

Just the Aug. 11 reading alone is sufficient grounds to challenge. Make them prove that the meter isn’t faulty. If this is a public utility go to your state officials, your congressman, and the media if necessary. You can easily make it cost more than $120 for them to deal with this. And there is definitely someone at the utility who can make that $120 disappear with a keystroke, which is what they should do if you just call them.

To give you an idea of what they contend you are using on your heavy days:

Lets say August 7 and 23 are about 80 kWh over your daily average. So you are using over 3,000 extra watts every hour of these two days. Maybe, apart from all your usual stuff, you had a large air conditioner running flat out all day, or a medium clothes dryer. Perhaps 10 computers with monitors or two burners on the stove. Were all 12 TV sets on?

As for August 11 I don’t see how you could possibly draw that much current without ever tripping the circuit breakers unless you have over 200 amps in the individual circuit breakers and somehow managed to evenly load every circuit.

You could get some unusually high numbers if the reading isn’t done at the same time every day. If, for instance, the reading is usually taken at 6 AM, but on one day it isn’t taken until 6 PM, then that day will look like a day and a half, while the next day will look like only half a day (or even more extreme, depending on precisely when the times are and your pattern of usage). Are the days immediately before and after the two smaller spikes significantly lower than typical?

This still doesn’t account for August 11, though. That one is definitely a fault in the meter (or in the billing system downstream from the meter) of some sort. And really, once we’ve established that there’s definitely a mistake in the system, we should resolve that known mistake before we even start to address the lesser anomalies, because it may well be that fixing the known problem (whatever it is) will fix those, too.

Do you arc weld as a hobby? Do you have a cyclotron in your basement?

At my house in the woods, the meter guys will not want to drive down the dirt road, or the grass is to high, and they make up a number.

Still, part of making up numbers is making up reasonable numbers that don’t get immediately investigated.

Some of the fellows are not the sharpest stick in the pile.