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  • FIRST POST
    • BooJewels
    • By BooJewels 19th Oct 19, 11:24 PM
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    BooJewels
    Sudden leap in electricity use, seemingly after power cut
    • #1
    • 19th Oct 19, 11:24 PM
    Sudden leap in electricity use, seemingly after power cut 19th Oct 19 at 11:24 PM
    I reckon I'm pretty on top of things with my own energy use, taking monthly readings, checking every bill etc., but I have an issue that has me bamboozled just now and I'm hoping someone might have some ideas.

    I'm currently looking after an unoccupied family property, under an LPA. Three of us are attending regularly to do maintenance and clear the property with a view to selling it. We've gone to great measures to make the property look still lived in, with a gardener employed, lights on random timers, a TV simulator and other techniques.

    I take meter readings most visits and now we've cleared a massive heating/gas deficit, have lowered the monthly DD and got on to a more favourable tariff.

    All was going well, until something like 10 days ago when there had seemingly been a power cut between visits, causing clocks to be re-set, an issue with the burglar alarm and fuses blown. Since around the same time the electricity consumption has just about quadrupled. Not being resident, I can't pin it down tighter than that.

    When the house was occupied, usage over the previous 18 months averaged 5.55 KWh per day. In the period when it was unoccupied, it dropped to an average of 3.1 KWh and since around 25th September, a date I took a reading, it is now averaging 11.9 KWh per day.

    Heating and hot water are supplied by a combi gas CH boiler and there aren't any electrically powered heat sources - no immersion heater or tank. Heavy duty items like the electric shower simply aren't in use - everything that is in regular use either has been throughout, or is low wattage, like the fridge freezer, several plug in LED lamps, telephone answering machine, clock radio, broadband router etc. Heavier items like the toaster, microwave and kettle are used little enough for their weekly use to be around 1 KWh between them.

    Has anyone any ideas as to what to look out for - it seems the power cut (must have been transient, or neighbours would have rung about freezer contents and the like) must be related - but I can't suggest why or how. We checked every room last night to check nothing was running that shouldn't be and have listed each room and what uses juice and the rating, to try and ascertain anticipated use and the daily 3.1KWh readings sound about right. We have a regular departure checklist to ensure things are unlugged, thermostat at the right level etc., so I don't think we're missing anything and we're all perplexed by it.
    Last edited by BooJewels; 20-10-2019 at 7:14 AM. Reason: Tightened some grammar
Page 2
    • coffeehound
    • By coffeehound 20th Oct 19, 5:12 PM
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    coffeehound
    ... the meter uses whole units, no decimal places, so we'd have to watch it to see when it changed and then start the test - so not ideal, or probably very accurate.
    Originally posted by BooJewels
    It would be accurate enough to diagnose a gross metering error. Yes it might take up to two hours, but if you're there all day?
    • Robin9
    • By Robin9 20th Oct 19, 5:21 PM
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    Robin9
    If your meter is the old spinning disc type with the readings in clocks which go in different directions I think that has a 1/10 kwh dial. You can even time the dial.

    PS Why did Houbara get ppr'd. We will miss his knowledge of meters.
    Never pay on an estimated bill
    • Gerry1
    • By Gerry1 20th Oct 19, 5:50 PM
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    Gerry1
    When you first get there, run the electric shower until the meter increments one unit. If it's a 10kW job it'll take a maximum of just six minutes, so not onerous.

    Then unplug absolutely everything but leaving the main circuit switches untouched. Go out and have a coffee, go window shopping, a walk, surf the web in the library or whatever for a couple of hours. If the reading has incremented by 1kWh or more then you know there's something strange happening and you'll have to repeat the exercise, e.g. by switching off half the circuits at the consumer unit or fuse box.

    Run the shower again (should take the full six minutes) until the meter increments. Plug in a 3kW fan heater set to maximum, or a three bar electric fire, leave it for two hours and check that the meter increments by 6kWh or fewer. That should give you some clues about where to investigate next. Finally, restore normal conditions.

    BTW, what's the cooker? If it's a clever electric one with a timer or programmer it may have freaked out because of the voltage surge and be stuck permanently on with a low setting that doesn't make the whole unit feel hot.
    Last edited by Gerry1; 20-10-2019 at 7:28 PM. Reason: Typo
    • Gerry1
    • By Gerry1 20th Oct 19, 5:53 PM
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    Gerry1
    If your meter is the old spinning disc type with the readings in clocks which go in different directions I think that has a 1/10 kwh dial
    Originally posted by Robin9
    It's not that type:-
    Meter seems to be a very simple one with a digital numeric display only - nothing moves to indicate the level of power being used
    Originally posted by BooJewels
    • BooJewels
    • By BooJewels 20th Oct 19, 7:20 PM
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    BooJewels
    I would echo the advice to get a cheap clamp-on energy monitor and monitor real time consumption as you switch on/off appliances.
    Originally posted by glennevis
    Yes, I think I'm going to have to try something if a solution doesn't present itself easily.

    It would be accurate enough to diagnose a gross metering error. Yes it might take up to two hours, but if you're there all day?
    by coffeehound
    Yes, we tend to spend a long day, although the next day I'm scheduled there we have meetings and visitors, it might have to wait until the time after.

    When you first get there, run the electric shower until the meter increments one unit. If it's 10kW job it'll take a maximum of just six minutes, so not onerous.
    by Gerry1
    I hadn't thought of the shower for testing purposes - although I'm not sure that it's that powerful, but it is awkward as a walk-in and will probably end up with someone getting wet!

    BTW, what's the cooker?
    by Gerry1
    Gas hob and oven. Oven used once a week, hob not used for months. Neither are a clever anything.

    If your meter is the old spinning disc type
    by Robin9
    As Gerry pointed out, this one isn't unfortunately. Mine at home has a single spinning disc, which I mentioned, but that's not the property where the problem is.

    For the record, at the moment, I'm not suggesting it's a metering error, but that something was tripped or disturbed by the power cut (at least that's what we think it was) and is now gobbling electricity. I want to find and identify that. It's just a bit more complicated when it's not your own home (and it's cluttered) and you're not sure what is plugged in where and how it's wired. The fuse that blew confused us at first as they weren't physically close items that went off.
    • victor2
    • By victor2 20th Oct 19, 10:02 PM
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    victor2
    Many meters with a digital display that shows whole kWh also have an LED that pulses as partial units are used. Basically, the faster it flashes, the more electricity you are using. The flash may indicate just one Wh used, so it takes a thousand flashes to record one kWh. I know our such meter flashes quite rapidly when the electric shower is on. It might make it easier to see when a load is switched on or off.
    • BooJewels
    • By BooJewels 20th Oct 19, 11:35 PM
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    BooJewels
    Many meters with a digital display that shows whole kWh also have an LED that pulses as partial units are used. Basically, the faster it flashes, the more electricity you are using.
    Originally posted by victor2
    I was just starting to post that the meter doesn't have a flashing light (in that I haven't seen anything move or flash on it - and posted to that effect earlier) but decided to look at some of my photos of it to double check. It's clear that there's more to the meter at the right of my images, where it's covered by something.

    So I searched for the name on it hoping to find a user manual and found some photos (posted in the Energy forum here as it happens) and it does look to have an LED at the right, that I've not seen before. So I will need to check it more carefully at my next visit - it might well flash to indicate usage after all. My apologies for not checking that sooner. I've looked at it enough times, but wasn't realising that I was only seeing 60% of the unit. It's in a cupboard under the stairs and I'd just cleared enough stuff to give me line of sight of the numbers.
    • Talldave
    • By Talldave 21st Oct 19, 12:36 AM
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    Talldave
    In which case the led version of the Geo Minim+ will give you a live readout of watts being consumed which is accurate to what the meter's billing you for because it's counting the meter's LED flashes.

    It'll cost you around 40 but you could flog it again when the mystery is solved or use it at your own place.

    You can then kill circuits on the fuse box and a few seconds later you can see the consumption. You have to wait a while when you're down below 100W because the time between pulses gets so long! That should help find which circuit is esting so much and the detective work can begin!
    • markin
    • By markin 21st Oct 19, 3:06 AM
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    markin
    A freezer near a leaking roof would be the first thing to check and unplug
    • BooJewels
    • By BooJewels 21st Oct 19, 7:56 AM
    • 433 Posts
    • 281 Thanks
    BooJewels
    In which case the led version of the Geo Minim+ will give you a live readout of watts being consumed [...]
    You can then kill circuits on the fuse box and a few seconds later you can see the consumption. You have to wait a while when you're down below 100W because the time between pulses gets so long! That should help find which circuit is esting so much and the detective work can begin!
    Originally posted by Talldave
    Thanks. That's going to be fun! One of the reasons it took a couple of visits to suspect what had happened (i.e. power cut) was that when one bulb 'went' then another seemed to go next visit, they were separated enough for it not to occur that it was a blown fuse until we'd struggled trying several new bulbs in each light. There's no pattern to the fuses and they're not marked. So goodness only knows what each one controls. But we found a dymo labeller, so that'll be rectified.

    A freezer near a leaking roof would be the first thing to check and unplug
    Indeed. The roof near the freezer is the only bit that's solid, so it's not in immediate water jeopardy and there isn't a plug socket out there, it's wired through the wall to the inside. It's just that I can't easily get to it to open the door to empty it, to take it out of the equation completely. But we can certainly unplug it on the inside (when I identify which one it is) and see what difference it makes to the consumption.

    I know how ridiculous it all must sound, but I've been thrust into this situation without the opportunity for any sort of hand over or chance to talk about how things are set, so it's making it a perpetual journey of discovery. And not in a nice way. Thankfully, the other 2 older relatives that I have LPAs for have both been reassured by seeing how it works in practical terms and to know they've made a wise decision, but they're also now preparing the ground for me rather better and I've already had this sort of provisional handover with each of them. Plus it makes me fearful for what my own son might have to face in the future and I hope I can be better prepared when the time comes.

    Thank you everyone for your assistance, it's truly appreciated. I'm going away for a bit, but I will follow up on the various suggestions and will report back when I make some progress.

    I'm hoping that when my sister visits this week some time and reads the meter, it'll be back to normal consumption levels and it'll be because I've mis-read or written down the numbers wrong. Several times. I wish.
    • Gerry1
    • By Gerry1 21st Oct 19, 10:02 AM
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    Gerry1
    Unfortunately in this case it wouldn't be a good idea to use an energy monitor that counts the red flashes coming from the meter. There is a possibility, albeit probably quite small, that the meter has been damaged by the voltage surge from a lightning strike or whatever. If the meter is recording twice the actual amount, so will the flash counter, and you'll end up none the wiser and still be paying double.

    Instead, use the type of independent monitor where the sensor clips around one of the supply cables. Then it's time for a leisurely electric shower.
    • If the consumption results agree, then you can investigate what's drawing the excessive power, e.g. whether it's a dodgy freezer or a dodgy neighbour who's running their tumble dryer off an extension lead plugged in to your garage.
    • If there's a significant variance, then perhaps it's time to think about getting the meter tested.
    • Talldave
    • By Talldave 21st Oct 19, 10:23 AM
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    Talldave
    Gerry1 makes a very good point, the LED type reflect the meter's measurements very accurately- but if the meter's faulty the readings would be fictional too. A clip on monitor will measure independently, albeit a bit inaccurately at low consumption levels.

    We could do with our resident meter reading expert to advise on the likelihood of possible damage to the OP's particular meter....any clues as to their potential return?
    • BooJewels
    • By BooJewels 21st Oct 19, 12:30 PM
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    BooJewels
    I did have the same thought about inaccuracy when I was taking my own leisurely hot shower - if the meter were faulty, that is.

    Although I must admit, the idea of a faulty meter seems much less likely than an appliance coming on that we don't know about (maybe tripped coincidentally by cooler weather) or something tripping into activity, where it hadn't been before. I'm not sure that the lightning strike idea has much merit either.

    My own suspicion is that there was one of these momentary breaks in power that causes the lights to go off and back on and you then realise that your clocks need resetting. I really don't suspect anything more dramatic than that. They're building a new house next door, so maybe the power was put off when they were connecting up their own juice. They weren't working when I was there this week to ask.

    We'll make it a priority to address when we attend the property in 2 weeks (my sister will be in and check the meter in the meantime) and give it a decent level of attention, it only came to light as we were already dead on our feet, it was dark and we were packing up to leave - so not inclined to give it too much time.
    • Mister G
    • By Mister G 21st Oct 19, 1:28 PM
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    Mister G
    They're building a new house next door, so maybe the power was put off when they were connecting up their own juice. They weren't working when I was there this week to ask.
    Originally posted by BooJewels
    Where have the builders been getting their power from?

    You don't happen to have any outside sockets?
    • BooJewels
    • By BooJewels 21st Oct 19, 6:53 PM
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    BooJewels
    Where have the builders been getting their power from?

    You don't happen to have any outside sockets?
    Originally posted by Mister G
    I'm pretty happy that it isn't the case, they've had a generator and been really decent with us. No outside sockets. If they'd asked to use power, I would have said yes, as they've done things for us.

    When they first approached the family about their plans we were very sceptical and were expecting a bad experience, but it really hasn't been the case.
    • BooJewels
    • By BooJewels 3rd Nov 19, 7:03 PM
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    BooJewels
    I'm now back from my holiday and will be visiting the property again tomorrow and aiming to get to the bottom of this situation, which persists. My sister has been monitoring power use in my absence and it remains high.

    I just wanted to check one thing first though - I'd not seen it for myself as it was hidden, but it appears that the meter does have a blinking LED. At present, it blinks about every 8 seconds - which by my calculation is consistent with the increased rate of use, if the light blinks with every watt.

    My sister thinks she's narrowed it down to one particular plug, which we're not sure what it powers, as it's a heavy duty extension cable that runs through a wall - very possibly to this porch freezer and possibly an outdoor pump that we know about, but don't know where it is.

    When she unplugs it, the LED on the meter drops to blinking once every 60 seconds. Which if it is at 1 watt per minute, would be consistent with 1.5KWh/day usage - considering most of the timed lights weren't running at the time, so the rate would increase a little when they were.

    So is the timing of the LED blink a reasonable measure of the power passing through it - I'm going to assume that it's not a faulty meter for the time being, it seems a less likely scenario than other explanations? And is the rate of a blink per watt how it works? If it is and we eliminate this 'plug' (it's the only thing raising any suspicion at all as yet, everything else seems to be accounted for) it would save the need for the expense of any further testing equipment.

    The pump is something else I'm curious about - I know historically, it had a tendency to block and the owner was perpetually working on methods to stop it doing so - it's used to drain an area of garden prone to standing water. If it's blocked, but still trying to work, would that cause it to use excessive juice?
    Last edited by BooJewels; 03-11-2019 at 7:08 PM. Reason: Additional wording
    • Gerry1
    • By Gerry1 3rd Nov 19, 7:52 PM
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    Gerry1
    If you look closely, the LED will probably be labelled 1000 imp / kWh or suchlike. That would mean that after 1000 impulses (flashes) you've used 1kWh.

    A blocked motor could use an excessive amount of power.
    • BooJewels
    • By BooJewels 3rd Nov 19, 8:22 PM
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    BooJewels
    If you look closely, the LED will probably be labelled 1000 imp / kWh or suchlike. That would mean that after 1000 impulses (flashes) you've used 1kWh.
    Originally posted by Gerry1
    I've taken photos of the meter for the readings, but the right half is covered by something in my photos, so I can't see what it says (hence I didn't even spot that it had a flashing LED in the first instance), but when I search for photos of the same model of meter, I can see now that it does say (laid out like this above the light itself):

    1000
    imp / kWh

    So that does indicate that 1000 impressions of the light indicate a kWh of power used. Sorry, I didn't spot your linked image until I re-read the quote and saw the URL - yes, that's a very similar meter, so I'm on the right track. Thank you.

    A blocked motor could use an excessive amount of power.
    Thanks for that. It was one of the very first things I suggested and the others responded with "what pump?" But we've had a lot of rain here in recent weeks, so I think it will have been working hard, got blocked and been fighting the resistance of such a block. So we're perhaps better with a flooded garden than a high electricity bill at the moment.

    Thanks for all of the assorted help - the current situation is causing me to learn about all manner of things I didn't realise that I needed to know. Unfortunately, the property owner has seemingly forgotten all of these things, so isn't proving much help.

    I'll feedback further on Tuesday after we've had a better look at it tomorrow.
    • Talldave
    • By Talldave 4th Nov 19, 10:36 AM
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    Talldave
    If it's of interest I've just bought an Onzo clip-on energy monitor for 8 delivered on ebay. None of the clever online gubbins works but throw in some batteries and you've got a live consumption readout that, as Gerry1 previously pointed out, doesn't rely on the accuracy, or inaccuracy, of the meter's LED pulsing.

    Since you're getting close to the answer, such a readout would be great as you switch things on and off.
    • BooJewels
    • By BooJewels 5th Nov 19, 8:10 AM
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    BooJewels
    If it's of interest I've just bought an Onzo clip-on energy monitor for 8 delivered on ebay. [...]
    Since you're getting close to the answer, such a readout would be great as you switch things on and off.
    Originally posted by Talldave
    Thank you for that, I'll look it out and that price is certainly worth giving a go. I'm sure that I'll find it useful for myself too.

    We think we're getting closer - but we'll see what the actual meter reading is after a couple of days with the house is doing its own thing, see if it's settled down.

    The garden pump is the prime suspect - when they went outside to find it, there was what appeared to be smoke rising from it, but we now think it was water vapour, as the whole pump (which was blocked and not working) was very warm to the touch and the water around it was 'warm enough to bathe in' according to my husband. He found a flat stone inside the pump that was totally blocking it. He removed that, cleaned the parts and got it working, but there was some resistance in the outlet pipe, so he thinks that's gunked up too. But he got it working enough for us to try watching the meter with it off and on. It didn't make as big a difference as I was hoping, as it was now working and not blocked of course. We managed to trace how it was powered and have just unplugged it for now. The power consumption this week rose to 17.5 kWh per day, so a further increase.

    We also traced how the outer freezer was powered and unplugging that only made a negligible difference to the power usage. Although that is our next big job to empty and eliminate that from the equation, but it was too late then to get the contents to the tip, so we've plugged it back in and left it for now.

    The overhead lights are certainly power hungry - switching them on and off and checking the flashes certainly speeded them up. I think there are standard 100 watt bulbs in some of the overhead fixtures, so on the days we're there, putting them on earlier than in the summer will certainly account for some additional use, so a slight increase is to be expected. I think at this stage, the additional electricity isn't worth the price of replacing the bulbs with more efficient ones. The TV was on standby as the plug was difficult to reach, so that's been moved and we'll unplug it as we leave and I don't think that's as efficient as more modern ones.

    We'll see if the meter reading has settled down over the next few days (fingers crossed, we've excluded the main culprit now - and the stair lift has now also been removed) and start eliminating things - with the help of the monitor you suggested.

    Thank you!
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