This Old #%&@*$ House

lunchbox12682 wrote:
thrawn82 wrote:

Homes without power in this weather is really scary. DO homes in your areas generally have fireplaces or wood stoves for supplement heating?

I'm finding my townhome can get a bit chilly the couple times it drops down in the teens, but that's mainly because I just turn the heat off at night and pile blankets on the bed.

I live two towns over.
Not the newer ones. But older ones might or especially people further north.
I have a gas fireplace but I doubt that would work if I lost power.
I'm so glad we didn't have that happen to us yet.
Just some loss of internet. Which as you know if the worst possible outcome.

Gas logs should still work without power. you may need to light them manually if you've only got an electric starter, but there shouldn't be any need for electricity in actually delivering gas to the fireplace.

Our gas fireplace works without power. If we ever lose it in a storm like this we'd all be sleeping in the living room

Yeah, ours has the electric starter.
In an emergency I could handle it but probably best I don't.

So I got my first electric bill this week and it's almost 3X more than anybody's bill I know who lives in a similar sized place as me ($80 vs $250 paid bi-monthly). This is my first time paying the electric bill directly, I've been living in this condo for 4 years now but was renting it from family (i would just pay them a flat fee every month and they'd take care of the bills), but i just purchased it and now I'm paying the bills directly.

For some background

  • Approx 850 sq foot, 2 bedroom, 2 bath
  • I'm living by myself, I work full time so most workdays I'm out of the house 8-9 hours of the day
  • Electric baseboard heating
  • I keep the thermostat at approx 15C for all rooms
  • I live in Vancouver, average winter temp for this month: 9C - 1 C
  • I was out of town between Feb 12-19
  • Gas stove/oven

I feel like i use power fairly responsibly (but I maybe wrong) and I can't imagine myself using 3X more than any other condo unit in the building.

Some graphs i pulled off of the BC Hydro website:

IMAGE(https://i.imgur.com/iebcC34.jpg)

Namely I noticed power did NOT dip between when I was out of town 12-19, making me feel my usage of appliances, computers, chargers, is not contributing to the excess power usage (i unplugged almost everything before I left).

IMAGE(https://i.imgur.com/O2brrxX.jpg)

As you can see here, during the week I was out of town (so theoretically there should be a dip in power usage), I was still using well over the average power consumption of homes nearby.

Here's an hourly energy usage for Feb 14. This was a work day where I was out of the house at work most of the work day. I'd expect power consumption to dip during the day and then kick up afterwards when I get home and start using my computer, but instead it's rather stable, further making me think that it's not my computer/cooking dinner

IMAGE(https://i.imgur.com/8h3CrHx.jpg)

That leads me to think to myself, what can be draining my power at a constant rate regardless if I'm home or not, and what has changed since Feb 3rd to account for the recent spike.

For Feb 3rd, its possibly temperature drop could account for it based off this graph:

IMAGE(https://i.imgur.com/p21qqAG.jpg)

My thermostat is set at 15 C though, I feel that the temperature drop shouldn't account for me using THREE times more power than anybody else in my building.

Things I'm considering could be causing the problem:

  • Fridge malfunctioning somehow and eating up all the power? Seems unlikely since my fridge doesn't seem like to have any issues, no weird noises and temp set at "recommended" level
  • Some other device malfunctioning and eating up all the power? I don't really have any big appliances, TV unplugged since I don't watch it. The only 3 things I have plugged in and constantly running are the NAS, Router, and my computer when I'm at home. Still shouldn't account for 3X energy usage
  • Heater broken and drawing electricity, but seems unlikely since then it should be throwing off a crazy amount of heat

Does anybody have any ideas of how I can troubleshoot this? BC Hydro doesn't break down power usage by room so I can't narrow it down that way. My condo unit isn't eligible for their real-time tracking smart meter either. I'm thinking it has to be SOMETHING I'm running all the time that's malfunctioning and drawing a crazy amount of power but I don't know how to narrow it down further to figure out what....

I sometimes hear the ventilation fan go on for extended periods in my bathroom even when I have the switch off. My understanding is there is some built in humidity detector that makes it turn on when it detects a certain level of humidity (i was guessing it was some humidity seeping in from the bathrooms above/below me setting it off). Even if it was that, I can't imagine a bathroom ventilation fan running longer than expected to cause so much power usage...

Anybody have any ideas on how I can narrow down where the energy is being wasted? Or should I just drop the $300 and hire an energy auditor (if those guys even check condo units, it seems they're mostly used for full detached houses)

You can get a power meter for cheap. Plug any appliance into it and it'll tell you how much power you're burning.

Start with your fridge and freezer. A poorly sealed one of those is going to run a lot, and they're power hogs.

Unfortunately, this can be tough to figure out in the winter. Since you don't want to wait due to costs, it may be best to pay for the expert.
Good luck.

I agree on getting a kill-a-watt and checking the fridge. Is your water heater electric? Do you have shared walls with empty units that are siphoning your heat?

Do you have visibility to your meter? Check it because it isn’t impossible that they read it wrong, it happened to me once. If the measurements is right, unplug everything and see if it is still counting up. In a condo area could possibly be an outdoor outlet that belongs to you is being used by someone else.

I have a feeling that this is going to be a real interesting discovery when you get to the root of it, Axel.

-BEP

We should take bets.
I'll go first.
There's an outlet with an extension cord running to a neighbors. The twist is that the outlet is behind a wall that Axel thinks is just a wall and not a hidden room.

My guess is that it's a billing f-up and they just replaced you as the owner of the account the building owner paid under. So you're now paying for the usage of yourself and the other people in the same building that had the flat-fee deal you used to have with the building owner instead of splitting your condo's meter into its own account.

A little late but first thing I would test is unplugging everything other than Fridge/Heat. Then take a look. See if you see any drops then. That way you can narrow it down to a device if it is a non important device. Next step after that would be day before grocery day, unplug fridge for 8 hours (leaving it closed should be fine if seal is good) and then see if it drops then. Same with heat (might be cold when you get home). This way you can narrow the issue down.

lunchbox12682 wrote:

We should take bets.
I'll go first.
There's an outlet with an extension cord running to a neighbors. The twist is that the outlet is behind a wall that Axel thinks is just a wall and not a hidden room.

There's a haunted box in his attic that's absorbing all his electrons.

Quintin_Stone wrote:
lunchbox12682 wrote:

We should take bets.
I'll go first.
There's an outlet with an extension cord running to a neighbors. The twist is that the outlet is behind a wall that Axel thinks is just a wall and not a hidden room.

There's a haunted box in his attic that's absorbing all his electrons.

Axeldora doesn't roll off the tongue as well as Swaydora did.

Stengah wrote:
Quintin_Stone wrote:
lunchbox12682 wrote:

We should take bets.
I'll go first.
There's an outlet with an extension cord running to a neighbors. The twist is that the outlet is behind a wall that Axel thinks is just a wall and not a hidden room.

There's a haunted box in his attic that's absorbing all his electrons.

Axeldora doesn't roll off the tongue as well as Swaydora did.

I think the take away is that with a hidden room... Is space an issue?

LeapingGnome wrote:

I agree on getting a kill-a-watt and checking the fridge. Is your water heater electric? Do you have shared walls with empty units that are siphoning your heat?

Do you have visibility to your meter? Check it because it isn’t impossible that they read it wrong, it happened to me once. If the measurements is right, unplug everything and see if it is still counting up. In a condo area could possibly be an outdoor outlet that belongs to you is being used by someone else.

I would do as Leap said. Check your meter and track the usage for a month. See if it is a match to your billing records. You are in a shared building by your description... do you know if everything is running to the meter correctly? Are you covering other's power? You are correct that the amount seems high. Electric heating is expensive, but it shouldn't be 3x your neighbors bill which I assume is on the same type of system.

A suggestion for saving you some money would be to get a programmable thermostat. You can set temps to fall during times you are not in the condo and overnight. Why heat the place significantly when you aren't awake or there?

Perhaps a dumb question:

I own a second floor condo with a deck that serves as the overhang on my lower neighbors porch. After the recent snowpocalypses, there is about two feet of snow on the deck. Should I shovel it off?

Keep in mind:

The outside of my building is covered by the condo board and not me,
I could piss my neighbors off by dumping snow on them, and
None of the other upstairs units have removed snow.

My wife thinks I’m crazy for even considering it, but I kinda am worried about the porch.

Probably not a bad idea. Just tell your neighbor first, and make sure you're not just dumping it onto their porch.

Here in Ottawa we had a bunch of balconies collapse due to snow.

Let your neighbours know you will be doing it. Ask them what side they would prefer you dump it on, and then do it.

I'd get at least some of the snow off. The deck is probably rated to handle the weight it has now, but clearing it probably isn't that much work either? Plus,it's not like it won't be falling to your downstairs neighbors when it melts anyway.

Melt it in the bathtub?

More HVAC fun. Last night, noticed that it was colder than it should be up in the master bedroom. Thermostat was set to 65, said the heat was on, but temp was only 58. Went to the garage, power cycled the boiler, it made a bunch of "trying to start" sounds, but no joy, then threw an error code. According to the manual, the code was for failing to ignite ten times, and fixes are either cleaning the igniter, or replacing. It's less than three years old, and we didn't get around to getting it tuned up in the fall, so I'm betting just needs to be cleaned.

Of course, it happened on Friday night. The HVAC guys were willing to come out today, but the hourly rate is double, so we're having them come out on Monday. Hopefully it's just needing to be cleaned. If it's parts, those will be covered by the warranty, but we're paying for labor.

I guess one advantage of having two furnaces is that if one goes out, the other probably didn't. So my wife and the baby are sleeping in the downstairs guest room. There's no extra room in that bed with the two of them, so I'm sleeping in the no heat room. Even with no heat, it didn't drop below 58, which is warmer than I used to keep my old apartment, and with an extra blanket, it was totally fine.

So we rented out our town home for the past three years, but over New Year's we kicked our renters out and moved back in because my wife got orders back to MD.

Since we've moved back, I've had to disassemble the garbage disposal because it was making the dishes dirtier than they went in (was almost an inch of crap in the food trap and this was cleaned not long before we moved out three years ago). Then we found out the washing machine only worked on the delicate cycle, because the timer on the washing machine shorted on a few of the pins. I took it apart and cleaned the pins that were fried, but it just shorted again... Ordered a new timer for $120, popped it in, and that's been working fine since.

Then last weekend, the baking element burned out. I ordered a new element on Amazon, but the new one that came in didn't work either. I hadn't done any troubleshooting the first time, so after trying the new element I confirmed that the old one did indeed burn out (showed as an open on my VOM, new one was 22Ω). I checked the power coming in, the breaker, the power to the element, the resistance on the thermometer, and finally when I looked up at the control board I found that both of the power relays feeding towards the bake and broil settings were scorched. I ordered two power relays on Amazon, and just finished replacing them on the board... I have an oven again.

I'm not sure how many of these I'm going to be able to put up with. Now I'm just waiting for the next thing to break.

PurEvil wrote:

So we rented out our town home for the past three years, but over New Year's we kicked our renters out and moved back in because my wife got orders back to MD.

-- bad stuff happens to stuff--

Sorry to hear about all the stuff breaking.

It makes me want to move near you so you can fix all the stuff that goes wrong in my house. You'd save me thousands of bucks a year! Well, assuming you took beer and smoked tenderloin/ribs in payment.

-BEP

Heh, you wouldn't want me working on your house. I only do this stuff because A) I enjoy fixing things even if I don't know how they work yet, B) Youtube is amazing, and C) the appliances I work on are old enough that had I not been able to fix them I'd likely have just replaced them. None of them are worth calling out a repair service on.

This town home was built tin '86, so the appliances are really starting to feel dated at this point. I'd love to sell this place sometime in the next 5-10 years, so replacing the appliances should help the asking price when we finally get around to it. I'd just rather not do that right now since our finances are crap... I just spent almost a year unemployed.

PurEvil wrote:

Heh, you wouldn't want me working on your house. I only do this stuff because A) I enjoy fixing things even if I don't know how they work yet, B) Youtube is amazing, and C) the appliances I work on are old enough that had I not been able to fix them I'd likely have just replaced them. None of them are worth calling out a repair service on.

Yeah, I've started taking this approach as well. It's super fun. I took apart and fixed a noisy clothes dryer last week. It was surprisingly easy to fix, and ended up only costing $30 for a replacement part.