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Chasing down excessive power consumption

Discussion in 'General Electronics Discussion' started by GreenGiant, Jul 12, 2020.

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  1. GreenGiant

    GreenGiant

    842
    6
    Feb 9, 2012
    Wasn't sure which forum to post this in, but figured it would probably fall under general discussion.

    Ever since moving into my house in January 2018 I have always had a seemingly high electric bill, to start this had a lot to do with the fact that every light fixture in the house was using incandescent bulbs except three which were fluorescent. There is a program through my electricity provider to replace these free of charge, so after replacing all 140 bulbs in the house this shaved some off considerably.
    Next I had some troubleshooting to do with the Central air unit in one area of the house, it hadn't been maintained properly and then the attic space where it lives was not insulated properly (insulation between living space and attic space not between attic space and roof). Got that replaced spring of 2019, and have noticed a dramatic difference.

    Going through some major network upgrades/changes distracted me from looking into the issue, then with solar installation looming I figured it was either an issue with the meter (degraded connection leading to slightly higher resistance and burning excess energy) or me missing something. They were going to replace the meter anyway during solar installation so I figured I would wait it out.
    Replaced the meter and there was little to no difference, all night every night I have about the same average power consumption of ~0.7kwH with spikes when the central air kicks on.

    I finally got around to purchasing an amp clamp meter to measure through my panel and see what comes of it.
    I have 200A service, going into a 40 circuit panel with 36 slots filled, with a couple of sub panels (a 60 in an addition attic space and a 100 in the garage which was also an addition).

    Running through there are a couple that I am not sure where exactly they feed but draw around 1.2wH to 40wH of power, totaling about 170wH of total idle consumption, this is mostly going to be smart home items, I have a few Echoes and Google Homes, some cameras, etc.
    There is also the other big consumer which is my network stack, I have a Ubiquiti network stack and a NAS that runs 24/7 totaling about 120wH constantly.

    There were a couple surprising items though that I am not sure about, my oil burner seems to draw around 100wH of power even when not in use, is that normal? Seems rather high to me personally.

    Second and this is the most concerning, I have hardwired smoke detectors throughout the house, 10 total, and there is one circuit labelled "Smokes" which I can only assume is the smoke detectors, it draws a whopping 160wH constantly, which looking around online it seems like smoke detectors should not draw anywhere near that much power, even 10 of them.

    If my math is correct, drawing that 600wH constantly would put my usage at around 400kwH per month, where my average usage per month is around 650kwH...
    (0.6kwH * 8760hrs/year)/12 = 438kwH/mon

    My question is, how do I go about chasing down who is consuming this extra power?

    I know now that I have solar it doesn't matter as much, but I would like to minimize the power that I use if I can.
     
  2. davenn

    davenn Moderator

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    Sep 5, 2009
    140 ???? holy crap ... There's 17 in my place including the 2 in the tropical fish tank

    get rid of 100 of them ;)
     
    Martaine2005 likes this.
  3. GreenGiant

    GreenGiant

    842
    6
    Feb 9, 2012
    Yup, 140, I mean that does include about 15 outside, but yea the house is very much a product of the 80's so recessed overhead lighting everywhere and each room has at least 6 bulbs in it, the kitchen alone has 14...
     
  4. Bluejets

    Bluejets

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    980
    Oct 5, 2014
    Get a qualified lecky in to do some testing.
    Best advice you'll get.
    Fyi.....wH is a power draw over a period of time.
    140 lights etc. etc. ...must be SOME mansion.
     
  5. Martaine2005

    Martaine2005

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    910
    May 12, 2015
    Everything left on standby will consume a quarter to a third of it’s normal running costs.
    Incandescent bulbs willl also consume more. I have no proof but online figures seem to agree. I however have different math, my bathroom downlights have been in use for 10 years. My new kitchen LED lights have been changed 3 or 4 times in as many years. Nothing cheap. Nothing neglected.
    I personaly find all this low energy home bill saving a waste of time.
    I have my lights on and can’t see a PCB. I put a table light on and can’t see properly. I put my magnifying light on and ‘Bob’s your uncle’.
    Waste 10 hours for the new bulbs to warm up?.
    Just give me an electricity bill..
     
  6. Audioguru

    Audioguru

    3,130
    697
    Sep 24, 2016
    Your home lighting is designed to waste as much electricity as is possible.
    My home has 4 outside lights and the one for the side door is never used. The ones for the front and back are rarely used. My street has street lights (they are new LED ones and they are on all day and all night because the electrical utility does not know how to turn them off). The street lights keep the burglars and vandalism kids away so I do not need outside lights on my home. My kitchen has 6 lights and they are never all turned on at the same time.
    My heating and cooling are high efficiency. I am a senior so I get an electricity discount.
     
  7. GreenGiant

    GreenGiant

    842
    6
    Feb 9, 2012
    While not an electrician, I am an electrical engineer, and I don't really have an idea of how to go about chasing it all down without knowing where the wires go. I know I could get a signal generator and chase it all down, but it seems a little crazy to go that route...
    I was going to post in terms of current draw, but given voltages vary location to location I figured the best unit was wH, since it is easy to convert to/from and my bill is in kwH so again, easy comparison.
    Not a mansion, but not small either, as I said my kitchen has 14 bulbs, not including an extra over the sink, and the set of 8 that illuminate the 7 ft or so between my kitchen and living room, and the living room (around 300 sq ft) has another 10 bulbs.

    I was the same way with fluorescent bulbs, never met one that I didn't hate, the newer LED ones do draw minuscule amounts of power, and look as close to incandescent bulb light to my eye. The power savings for me are especially relevant since even after switching to LED's my bill is around $200 per month, before the shift it was closer to $300, I have some LED bulbs from when I first converted (about 8 years ago now) that are still working and run for 3-4 hours a day in lamps, I think you're just unlucky.

    I hardly use any outside lights, only the motion sensors that light up if there's something out there. I live in the woods so despite the street light at the end of my driveway, it doesn't light all the way up my driveway (about 200 ft).
    As for heating and cooling, heat pumps are getting installed later this month, yet another reason I want to chase down these power hungry gremlins.
     
  8. Martaine2005

    Martaine2005

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    May 12, 2015
    Nor do the government who rule us.
    Oops, we pay their bills.
    The estate in London where I live have lights that have never worked, new lights that save power that have never worked, new lights that save power yet cherry pickers are rented to change bulbs. False ridiculous economy.

    Martin
     
  9. Bluejets

    Bluejets

    4,644
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    Oct 5, 2014
    Big difference...one knows how to diagnose problems, the other will find it difficult and perhaps make no headway.
    Leave it to those who know what they are doing.
    Fyi....A signal generator is not the way.
     
    Martaine2005 likes this.
  10. Audioguru

    Audioguru

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    Sep 24, 2016
    Each new streetlight has a modem antenna on top. I think the uncontrollable modems got cooked by heat from the LEDs or heat from the sun.
     
  11. GreenGiant

    GreenGiant

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    Feb 9, 2012
    Also to everyone's comments, all lights were off save one near the panel
    You don't have to be an @$$ about it, I've wired houses before, and worked with all of this stuff before.
    I know not signal generator, I meant like a wire toner (which I have used before) just couldn't think of the word last night since it was quite late.
    All I am asking is what would be the way, I could kill the breaker and see what's off, but if it's something hidden I won't be able to find it.

    If you don't know how to help answer the question just don't post, I know that asking an electrician would probably be the easiest solution, but I don't have the thousands of dollars that it is going to cost to do it, I'm just looking for a methodology to attack this issue so that maybe I can start on it myself and see if I can find what it is.
     
  12. Alec_t

    Alec_t

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    Jul 7, 2015
    As you obviously have a Watt meter you should be able to identify the current-hungry culprits by switching on only one breaker at a time and switching on (or plugging in) only one appliance at a time on the active circuit.
     
    Martaine2005 likes this.
  13. Peter2016

    Peter2016

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    Mar 19, 2016
  14. Martaine2005

    Martaine2005

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    May 12, 2015
    I think @Alec_t answered your question.
    An electrician wiuld find the circuit that is causing problems by eliminating one by one.
    You can do this by turning off all the breakers and switching on one by one.

    Martin
     
  15. GreenGiant

    GreenGiant

    842
    6
    Feb 9, 2012
    Maybe I was not clear in the original post, but I went into my panel and measured at each breaker, and there are a couple that I have no idea where they go, but are drawing power, the question is how to chase down where these circuits go.

    I know which ones are the culprits but not where the power is coming from.

    As for the Kill-A-Watt approach I have everything that I know of that is plugged in mapped and measured, so it's not something that I know of that is plugged in/hard wired somewhere, that's the issue is chasing down that unknown consumer.
     
  16. (*steve*)

    (*steve*) ¡sǝpodᴉʇuɐ ǝɥʇ ɹɐǝɥd Moderator

    25,482
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    Jan 21, 2010
    Or, in this case, going to.

    You could just turn them off and see what stops.

    If you still can't figure it out then that's a great reason to get a sparkie out to figure it out for you.
     
    Bluejets likes this.
  17. ChosunOne

    ChosunOne

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    Jun 20, 2010
    First of all, I assume you're talking about smoke alarms rather than smoke detectors. The difference is that detectors do just that, detect the smoke. If it has some sounding device built into the unit, it is called a smoke alarm. Smokes powered directly from mains AC power are nearly always smoke alarms.
    I make this distinction because I worked extensively with 12VDC smoke detectors that signal a central control panel, that in turn triggers (a) sounding device(s) separate from the detectors.

    Second, the circuit labeled "smokes" can't draw 160 Wh constantly. Watt-hours is a measure of power draw (Watts) over a period time (hours), not a constant draw. A circuit can draw 160 W constantly, or 160 Wh each hour, or 160 Wh per day: but not 160 Wh constantly.


    If your circuit labeled "smokes" is drawing 160 W constantly, then it has to be powering something other than smoke alarms. Either that, or the smokes are toasting themselves. A typical smoke alarm will draw about 0.4 W of power on standby (as opposed to power draw while it's sounding an alarm). Ten of them should draw about 4W total, totaling 96Wh/day.
    https://reductionrevolution.com.au/blogs/news-reviews/energy-consumption-smoke-alarms

    I'd recommend you double-check to see what the constant power draw actually is, or explore and find what else is on the circuit.
     
    Bluejets likes this.
  18. Externet

    Externet

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    Aug 24, 2009
    Wow !
    Well, start working on it !
    Shutting those breakers off will tell you soon what ceased working !
    No, should not be that much. Perhaps some sweat drops ! Afraid of sweat ?
     
    Bluejets likes this.
  19. Martaine2005

    Martaine2005

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    May 12, 2015
    A few years ago I had the Martindale fuse finder set.
    A nice helpful piece of kit for labelling consumer units.
    But your scenario is different and simple.
    As stated by so many others, turn the breaker off and see what doesn’t work.
    Only you know what appliances, sockets and lights are in the house.

    Martin
     
  20. GreenGiant

    GreenGiant

    842
    6
    Feb 9, 2012
    They are marketed in the US as smoke detectors and smoke alarms without distinction, and I believe it is a regional thing to call them smoke detectors as I associate smoke alarms with commercial properties. That being said per your description they are a bit of both, since they are connected together and when one detects smoke and alarms it signals all of them to alarm.

    You are correct, I overcompensated for international consideration when converting from pure current to watts, should have been watts not watt hours, I did mention this mistake in a previous reply.
    I have done some more digging and there is only one wire leading from this breaker, and it goes through an outlet in my basement before going to the smoke alarms. Removing the items on this outlet the smokes seem to draw about 45W meaning 10 times what they should if they are average consumers. Turning off the breaker does not turn anything off that I can see other than power to the smokes.


    Not sure where you are located, but in general around where I am located (Northeast US) electricians are very expensive to have out, especially for more tedious jobs like tracing in wall runs. Recently a friend needed a new breaker put in his existing panel (super old, faulty GFI breaker was tripping whenever anything was plugged into it) the labor cost alone was around $250, for one breaker, and this was with shopping around. I know the old adage about paying not for someone's action of tapping one specific spot with a hammer but for one's knowledge of where to hit, but a breaker is quite and easy thing to replace, having someone come and trace wires here will most assuredly be more expensive.

    That being said I have reached out to a couple electricians, but given this is not an emergency and the state of the world right now with covid they are hesitant to even come out and quote. Not that I want a ton of strangers coming through the house at this time anyways.

    I am not afraid of sweat, my question is still what would be the best way to chase down this circuit, if it is in fact getting a toner and tracing it, so be it, I am more than happy to, my question is what is the best path?

    Tried turning it off and didn't notice anything turn off, that's the issue.
    I am probably going to have to grab a fuse finder/toner and go through the house to figure out where the potential issue is.
     
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