Well I have to admit that I'm stumped with an energy audit I've been working on for the past two months. Perhaps someone can point me in the right direction...

My client contacted me concerned that his electric bills were atrocious. They were, to the tune of 34,680 kWh per year (average monthly at 2,890 kWh, and a baseline of 2,347 per month!). And after my first visit to his home, it was very obvious to me that, although he has a big house (3700 sq-ft), he and his family of four were energy frugal, being careful to shut off lights when not in use, using power strips for entertainment centers, etc.

He was particularly concerned about the phantom consumption when he and his family would leave for several weeks at a time. When they did he'd shut off everything but the alarm system. And even then he'd see a bill of 1900 kWh for that month, and for what?

So I dove in deep, taking this on as a personal project, since he'd had an auditor from the utility company come out previously and they couldn't find anything. One of the first things I did was to install a PowerSave EnviR monitor on the two mains into the main circuit panel and let that thing collect data for exactly two weeks. I compared this kWh total to what the utility company's meter read and found a discrepancy of about 500 kWh in favor of the utility company. This closely paralleled the additional 10k kWh per year that I could not account for in my projected analysis. Hmmm.... found it! (or so I thought)

So I got on the phone and was soon in touch with the supervisor of the electric meter department. I told him my findings so he and I got together at the client's home one day so that he could test their equipment, which consisted of a transformer/transducer system which reduces the incoming current from the main transformer at the street. After a good hour of testing he informed me that their equipment tested okay. Hmmmm.... bummer.

After many hours of monitoring individual circuits, extrapolating the long-term consumption, I still can't account for this additional 10k kWh per year anomaly. I even looked for hidden conduits coming off the wiring gutter under the transformer, assuming a neighbor might be "borrowing" some power for their growing operation. Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

And now that I've been so thorough with my investigation and extrapolation, I'm left scratching my head, wondering if, even though the utility company tested their equipment as good, perhaps it is not over a long term. I honestly don't know where to go from here... Suggestions?

Tags: accuracy, meter, utility

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I'm still expecting to find that hidden cable to the neighbor's house for their growing operation. This is New Mexico after all ;).

I'll keep everyone updated on this issue sometime around the 2nd week of August ('12) when I return to NM and can look at the meter again.

Thanks everyone for all your valuable insight and input. Much appreciated!

I have a good friend who is head of demand side management for a large regional utility.  He tells me that if someone complains that the meter is bad and pushes the issue, they will replace it.  They will always test the meter just to see, and he says they see far less then 1% that are bad.  

Not sure how to add to watch list... (sorry for the post)

Ted, do you not have a "Follow" link on your screen with each thread?

Ted, There is a Follow link just under the Reply box above, but by default you automatically follow any discussion that you comment on or reply to.


     Rod, your case interests me.  I also have a client who is having these sorts of issues.  The problem has only come to light in the past few months, and I believe that they are located in your neck of the wood.  I have begun basic evaluation of the 3 services on the property but am most troubled about one of them in particular.  I have not yet installed independent metering equipment because I don't see how this could solve anything.  I have a feeling this will settle itself out in the coming months but I have a distrust of some of the utility and communications companies based on a studied paranoia and am always looking to become more informed.  I have some ideas about strategies that might reduce the disadvantages of buying power from monopolies. 

Peter, if you "have some strategies that might reduce the disadvantages of buying power from monopolies", by all means, you might want to share those. I'm sure everyone would love to hear about it. Otherwise, your posting might look as though it is a phishing or spamming attempt. Sure hope it isn't.

Independent monitoring equipment is really the only way in which you can identify the problem. If the problem has only come to light in the past few (record heat) months, then I would certainly focus my attention on sources of cooling, like A/C and fans. And if they have a pool, I'd also look there.

I intend to post more of my findings after my return to NM on the 7th of August. I hope to find out more when I'm able to perform a few more onsite diagnostics and monitoring. Stay tuned....

I don't even honestly know what phishing is. Independent monitoring is of use only if the vendor is willing to consider the possibility that their equipment could be wrong. If we were to involve an independent AUTHORITY (maybe governmental?) we might have some hope of contesting their findings. Otherwise, they can simply say we're wrong and that OUR measuring equipment is inaccurate. What is a watt? Pretty much depends on who's selling it. If you agree to buy their watt, you can only hope that they will be consistent. I do have a feeling that not all of their meters will tell you the same thing.
Yes, the meter of which I spoke handles the pool mechanical and I have my suspicions that the combination of the pool, the well boost pump, and the RO system may be at play here. Ther is no AC involved. This why I suspect things will settle out shortly. Also, the client has had a situation where he is suddenly being saddled with substantial quantities of retroactive billing, long story. Peter

So sorry about that phishing comment, Peter. I think I read your comment immediately after I read this article by Bill McKibben and my blood was still boiling in anger over the whole mess. Seems our jobs in this industry might not make a difference whatsoever...

But I continue to plod on, 'cause it's got to make a difference...

Anyways, I'm still going to monitor this client for another complete 7 days. But this time I'll do it with another manufacturer's product. I've asked the utility guy to get me the make/model of the monitoring system they use. I'm still waiting for that reply. I'm optimistic that he will. If not, I'll suspect something is askew and become the newest Bill McKibben...

Sorry about my pessimism, that article didn't cheer me up much either. I'm not openly discussing my strategies because they are far from solutions and, although not illegal, I fear certain entities might frown on their implementation. Besides, my biggest advantage would be the element of surprise. As I suspected, the dust is starting to settle on the property of which I spoke. I will have to measure some loads but I think they were running the pool pump 24/7 and there are unbelievable quantities of landscape lighting.
I have never learned to trust the utility providers here in the Land of Enchantment, or any where for that matter, only to accept them, and watch them like a hawk.

GE seems to think electric meters are super-duper accurate! : Ask the Ge engineer  . Waiting to see how your client issue plays out.

An update for you all...

The utility guy has used their own 3rd party monitoring system twice now at my client's place. The first was for a week while the clients were home and the second was for a week while they were out of town and had shut off all circuits except the one for the alarm system.

It had been a while since I last heard from the utility guy so I sent an email with a request that he provide all of the data he'd collected. No response. I've tried calling and left messages. No response. Not sure what's going on with this, so I called his boss and left a message. No response yet.

Hmmmmm......... makes me wonder what's in that data?


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