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Moved house, electricity bills skyrocketed. Why?

By Gnaty77 2 June 2015 29

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We moved house just under a year ago from a two-bedroom, one bathroom to a 3.5-bedroom, two bathroom in the Queanbeyan area and have tripled our electricity costs (from $290 in the biggest quarter to almost $700 in our biggest quarter – summer).

I initially thought it may be due to us having used the reverse cycle heating/cooling but reality is we don’t use it that often. In fact this winter we’ve used it three times for one hour to reduce the chill.

I have phoned ActewAGL to discuss and they say that our consumption is pretty consistent with how the property has been over the last few years, however there are only two of us, with one or two visitors every three weekends or so, whereas the previous occupants had a family of four.

I am concerned mostly that there is an appliance in the house that is using too much electricity or ‘leaking’. When we moved in, within two weeks we had a $300 electricity bill! This says to me that something is using A LOT of electricity.

Is anyone aware of, or can recommend, somewhere we can rent a unit that can measure how much electricity is being used? As a renter, we really don’t want to have to get an electrician in and I don’t think the real estate/owners would pay for it unless there was definitely a faulty appliance.

It should be noted that we have been rugging up and not using the heating cooling, turning off lights and power points etc in order to try and save electricity and we still have a $600 bill for the last quarter… perhaps this is even normal!?

In which case I would like to know how much you pay if leaving in NSW region and for only two people (with visitors maybe three).

Thanks in advance for your advice.


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29 Responses to
Moved house, electricity bills skyrocketed. Why?
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vintage123 9:08 am 17 Jul 15

hey Gnatty77

Did you ever work out what was causing your electricity bill shock?

Maya123 7:18 pm 05 Jun 15

blandone said :

rosscoact said :

Is this a storage heater thing?

Correct, no tank = no breeding ground for the bacteria. Do not reduce temperature on any hot water storage below 60 degrees, Legionella thrives between 20-60 degrees. Instantaneous hot water at 50 degrees is fine as there is no tank for bacteria to breed.

My booster on the solar hot water tank heats up to 57C, then drops to about 51C before it comes back on again to heat to 57C. I was told by the installer that to keep Legionella at bay the tank must be more than 50C. I turn the booster on when the tank doesn’t reach 50C with the sun, such as in winter. According to Wikipedia, “(Legionella) thrives in temperatures between 25 and 45°C, with an optimum temperature of 35°C” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legionnaires%27_disease

This link says similar. http://patient.info/health/legionnaires-disease-leaflet

johnmd 4:20 pm 05 Jun 15

Just to make this a tad more complex if it is the hot water system that’s causing you grief – tempering valve, if one exists mixes cold with hot water and is pre-set so it doesn’t matter waht ypou set the t/stat to as the valve will regulate the temperature.

csdaly 3:54 pm 05 Jun 15

watto23 said :

Completely agree with this one. I upped the temperature on mine by 5 degrees and when the electricity bill came I dropped it back again. It cost me hundreds of dollars to have that slightly hotter water!!

You’ve convinced me to stick with gas water heating for now! At least we only pay for the gas used while we’re in the shower, rather than electricity 24/7 for an electric heating system!

MERC600 2:34 pm 05 Jun 15

Our cousins over in WA say 60 is the one to use for storage.

http://www.transport.wa.gov.au/mediaFiles/active-transport/AT_LS_P_adjust_your_water_heater.pdf

The Rheem people seem happy to use between 60 and 75. 75 seems a bit high. Good for pluckin the down off chooks I guess, but I don’t think to many people do that these days.

“TEMPERATURE ADJUSTMENT”
“This water heater features a tradesperson adjustable thermostat. This requires
a licensed tradesperson to make any temperature adjustments. The thermostat
has a maximum temperature setting of 75°C and a minimum temperature
setting of 60°C.”
“We advise you have your electrician adjust the thermostat to the lowest
temperature setting that meets your needs, especially if there are young
children or elderly people in your home. Refer to “Hotter Water Increases The
Risk of Scald Injury” on page 5.”

watto23 11:37 am 05 Jun 15

rosscoact said :

mmmich said :

I really wouldn’t recommend turning your hot water thermostat down to 50 degrees. At those temperatures legionella can grow. You should set storage systems at 60 degrees. This prohibits legionella growth and also doesn’t waste energy getting it hotter.

I would think it’s possibly the culprit though. Do you know what tariff it’s on? If it’s on a peak rate and is a reasonable sized tank or is old and hasn’t had the anode replaced in a long time you could be wasting a lot on heat recovery during expensive electricity times. If it’s on off peak then it won’t be quite as bad.

That’s weird, I thought that all instantaneous gas heaters sold over the last decade and a half have been factory set to 50C. Is this a storage heater thing?

Seems weird also as I’ve been told by many people to set it to 50-55C. Not doubting the statement, but maybe its not a high risk in general. For some any risk is too high of course!

blandone 11:24 am 05 Jun 15

rosscoact said :

Is this a storage heater thing?

Correct, no tank = no breeding ground for the bacteria. Do not reduce temperature on any hot water storage below 60 degrees, Legionella thrives between 20-60 degrees. Instantaneous hot water at 50 degrees is fine as there is no tank for bacteria to breed.

rosscoact 10:08 am 05 Jun 15

mmmich said :

I really wouldn’t recommend turning your hot water thermostat down to 50 degrees. At those temperatures legionella can grow. You should set storage systems at 60 degrees. This prohibits legionella growth and also doesn’t waste energy getting it hotter.

I would think it’s possibly the culprit though. Do you know what tariff it’s on? If it’s on a peak rate and is a reasonable sized tank or is old and hasn’t had the anode replaced in a long time you could be wasting a lot on heat recovery during expensive electricity times. If it’s on off peak then it won’t be quite as bad.

That’s weird, I thought that all instantaneous gas heaters sold over the last decade and a half have been factory set to 50C. Is this a storage heater thing?

mmmich 8:58 am 05 Jun 15

I really wouldn’t recommend turning your hot water thermostat down to 50 degrees. At those temperatures legionella can grow. You should set storage systems at 60 degrees. This prohibits legionella growth and also doesn’t waste energy getting it hotter.

I would think it’s possibly the culprit though. Do you know what tariff it’s on? If it’s on a peak rate and is a reasonable sized tank or is old and hasn’t had the anode replaced in a long time you could be wasting a lot on heat recovery during expensive electricity times. If it’s on off peak then it won’t be quite as bad.

Masquara 9:04 pm 04 Jun 15

Maya123 said :

I can’t offer any advice, and sorry this is of no help to you, but that reminds me of a one bedroom flat I once rented in Hackett. It was a house that had been split into flats. I moved there from a three bedroom group house (three to five people) and my electricity bills were higher in the flat than the bill for the house with three to five people. Plus in the group house, one of the tenants would wastefully leave a heater on in her bedroom, whether she was in it or not, but still the flat got higher power bills. In winter I was sitting in the flat at night huddled over a low powered heater, rather than heat the whole flat, still cold, and with no heater on most days or when I was in bed. The possible explanation there though, was that I was sharing the bill with another flat. However, they were often away, and everyone denied being the power user. But (and given my past (and future) electricity use as evidence) I suspect they must have had something that used a lot of power in the other flat, despite their denials. However, I did go in there once when the occupant had an emergency trip to hospital, to turn off appliances, and I didn’t find many. So maybe a mystery. I did notice though, a cable going from that house to the neighbours’, which I thought rather strange, but I left soon after and didn’t investigate further. Plus I was very young and inexperienced in these things. However, the flat rent was very cheap and fortunately compensated.

Sounds like there was a plantation next door?

sepi 5:57 pm 04 Jun 15

I think it must be the hot water also. Is your hot water very very hot? If so it will pay you to get a plumber in to try to adjust the thermostat downwards. Some people insulate the pipes and put a blanket on the hot water service itself if it is out in the frost.

I would try turning off the hot water for 24 hours over the weekend and see how your usage is before and after that.

You could also have a dripping hot tap somewhere, or a leak in a hot water pipe somewhere out of sight like under the house. If you water usage is also high this could be it.

watto23 2:40 pm 04 Jun 15

Gnaty77 said :

Can someone tell me how we check the hot water system for leakages?

I also found out my neighbour (we are share a common wall in the garage but have separate titles) is spending $400 a quarter with just herself but she uses heating and cooling every day where as we dont.

Thanks everyone for your advice!

It may not be a leak, but there is usually a release valve on the side of the hot water heater. I think it may be the temperature is turned up. On my hot water heater you need a screwdriver to undo the plate to find the thermostat. 50C would be the best IMO to save money but still have hot water. So if its set to 50C I wouldn’t think that is the issue.

I know you are trying to avoid getting someone in, but you may find someone able check for free or fairly low cost. In Canberra ACTEW offers a lot of services like that. Maybe your energy provider in NSW can help here.

wildturkeycanoe 1:27 pm 04 Jun 15

Gnaty77 said :

Thanks everyone. So far we have tested a few of the easy plug in appliances and they dont seem to be the problem (very low KW per hour)/.

In response to some of the statements, we actually only moved a few streets over… not from the ACT to NSW. Therefore our bill change is more confusing. If we had moved from the ACT to NSW then I would understand as the rates are 18c for the ACT and 31C for NSW (or something!).

Can someone tell me how we check the hot water system for leakages?

I also found out my neighbour (we are share a common wall in the garage but have separate titles) is spending $400 a quarter with just herself but she uses heating and cooling every day where as we dont.

Thanks everyone for your advice!

The hot water unit has a pressure relief valve on the side with a pipe that comes out down the bottom somewhere usually. If there is a steady stream coming out then it’s possible the valve is faulty or it is continuously boiling the water due to a bad thermostat. If you turn the inlet tap off, wait a while and then hear the water rushing in when it is turned on again it could be leaking somewhere.

In any case, to get a bill like $600-700 for a quarter, that’s quite normal for us, a 3 bed house with 5 people and solar boosted hot water, reverse cycle air con and electric cooking.
Something I just remembered, if the place has in slab floor heating it could be chewing up the power. You can tell if there is a thermostat on the wall and the floors are indeed nice and warm, plus there will be circuit breakers labelled as in-slab heating or floor heating. We had a rental once with this and our first quarterly bill was over $1000. It used so much power it melted the council fuse…scary.

Gnaty77 10:37 am 04 Jun 15

Thanks everyone. So far we have tested a few of the easy plug in appliances and they dont seem to be the problem (very low KW per hour)/.

In response to some of the statements, we actually only moved a few streets over… not from the ACT to NSW. Therefore our bill change is more confusing. If we had moved from the ACT to NSW then I would understand as the rates are 18c for the ACT and 31C for NSW (or something!).

Can someone tell me how we check the hot water system for leakages?

I also found out my neighbour (we are share a common wall in the garage but have separate titles) is spending $400 a quarter with just herself but she uses heating and cooling every day where as we dont.

Thanks everyone for your advice!

wildturkeycanoe 8:26 pm 03 Jun 15

Free advice from an electrician – it’s most likely the thermostat in the hot water unit. If faulty, it will be trying to heat the water continuously and would use that kind of power easily. You could prove it by seeing how many kilowatts are used in a normal day by reading the kilowatt hours, then turn off the hot water for the next 24 hours and see if the consumption has reduced dramatically. If it doesn’t prove to be the culprit, you may need to try different circuits to see what is using all that juice.

watto23 3:24 pm 03 Jun 15

BenjaminRose1991 said :

If you have electric hot water check the thermostat setting. Make sure it’s set to anywhere between 50 and 70 degrees.

Second Postalgeek. Check for leaks in the HWS plumbing.

Completely agree with this one. I upped the temperature on mine by 5 degrees and when the electricity bill came I dropped it back again. It cost me hundreds of dollars to have that slightly hotter water!!

Lighting and even leaving the TV on won’t give you bill shock. Cooling and heating either air or water, plus difference in electricity costs in NSW are likely to be the problem.

BenjaminRose1991 1:26 am 03 Jun 15

If you have electric hot water check the thermostat setting. Make sure it’s set to anywhere between 50 and 70 degrees.

Second Postalgeek. Check for leaks in the HWS plumbing.

Nightshade 7:52 pm 02 Jun 15

I have a Belkin Energy Use Monitor (https://www.belkin.com/conserve/insight/) that can indicate the power used by individual appliances – provided they plug into a power outlet.

Maya123 7:02 pm 02 Jun 15

tooltime said :

We use about $5/day in spring/autumn, $10/day in summer/winter in QBN. And were frugal with it…

That’s a HUGE bill; $900 for a summer quarter. You must be using an air-conditioner in summer to get that massive bill. If I did the maths right, the average four person household uses much less than that, so you are way above average. How can you consider that frugal? That’s even allowing for cheaper electricity in Canberra. To give a better comparison, how many kWhs is that and how big is your household?
In summer I used 226kWh. $37.64 with GST for three months. (That’s without the supply charges, which is extra.)

tooltime 4:38 pm 02 Jun 15

We use about $5/day in spring/autumn, $10/day in summer/winter in QBN. And were frugal with it…

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