Lost Electricity

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xposted: alt.energy.homepower,alt.home.repair.misc.rural
Our average electricity usage for the last 6 years for December is 653 kwh with a range of 120. December 07 our usage was 682 kwh. This would not have been unusual except for the fact that, due to an ice storm, we had NO electricity for 6.5 days. Billing cycle per the bill was 31 days. I was expecting a bill 20% lower than the average bill and was dismayed when it was actually higher. So far this month of January, we are using at the about average rate (22kwh/day) as we did in December, the only odd thing is that we had NO power of nearly a week in December. I've spoken with a few neighbors who also lost power and 'come to think of it' their bill went up or didn't go down as much as they would have expected for a 20-25% time of no usage. I ask the REC and they said we 'just used more'. They also tried to blame 'recovery usage'. I'm not buying it. They claim they didn't estimate the bill and when I received the bill I immediately checked and the meter reading seemed in line with normal. I'm talking KWH her not $$ which can be affected by rate changes, surcharge and taxes etc.
Facts: During the ice storm we used a gas generator intermittently during the daylight to power the freezer, tv, occasional PC and a few lights . We relied 100% on wood heat, never falling below 60F. For the entire billing period we did nothing that we can think of unusual that would increase the consumption over the previous December. No extra Xmas lights, no 'recovery' usage after power restoration other than 1 refrigerator . Normal is LP furnace supplemented by high efficiency wood fireplace. Gas water heater and stove. Elec clothes dryer. 1 powered outbuilding. We live mile away from nearest neighbor so no chance of somebody running an extension cord and stealing from us.
After receiving the bill, I shut the power off below the meter and it quit turning. We've done some other testing by turning off house circuit breakers and watching the meter but have isolated nothing unusual yet. With all house breakers off the meter stops. I have purchase a Kill-a -Watt and have begun looking for the energy thief. I've found nothing yet, although the KAW is fun and interesting.
Where would the electricity go? When reconnecting the lines, can a 'surge' spin the meter forward? Previously we had 2 lines coming into our neighborhood, both lines fell but only 1 was reconnected to restore power. Can this have any bearing? What am I missing? What other testing can I do? Your thoughts and comments appreciated.
Steve IA
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On Sat, 19 Jan 2008 09:40:37 -0600, Steve IA wrote:

Check your utility bill to see if it is an estimate or direct read. Some utilities try to save money by not reading meters every month. Instead they take an average. Any differences are made up in subsequent billing cycles.
Have you called the utility to find out what they think?
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wrote:

It can be frustrating for a poster to write a detailed description of a situation, only to read a response from somebody who obviously didn't read it.
Here is the part of the OP's posting that should have prevented your question:

I suspect that some utilities have lax procedures that benefit them, but are only detectable during situations like this.
Bernardo
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I would not rule out an estimate. They could have under estimated the prior month and while the current "month" was not directly based on an estimate, it would have included the automatic adjustment for the past month.

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Re-read the original post, especially the part that says:

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ransley wrote:

Can two extension cords, plugged together and covered with ice and snow cause a direct short without breaking the circuit breaker?
Thanks Steve
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wrote:

If you think the cords are suspect you can use your kill-a-watt meter. Check the readings at each end of the cord. If it is leaking at the junction or at a bad spot in the insulation you might be able to measure it with the meter.
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Terry wrote:

I first noticed that the snow had melted where the 2 cords joined, but didn't think much of it as it was before I had gotten the bill. The junction was in the clear then so any leakage could have been transient. Besides, this cord is on a timer and only runs 2 hours a day to power a block heater on the school bus. It comes on 1 hour in the AM prior to bus startup time and 1 in the afternoon, although often the heater (1000 tested kw) isn't plugged in during most warmer afternoons. I tested the cords and the heater 1st thing with my kill a watt as it was suspicious to me also.
Talked to a couple more neighbors and their December bill was also higher than expected. I will verify with the REC that these readings were not estimated. The clerk who I spoke to may not know the whole story. Thanks
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Steve IA wrote: ...

Don't you know your neighbor who's almost surely the reader to talk to directly? How big a REC is this? Do you go to the annual meetings? You, after all, are a co-op member here... :)
On top of the above leakage path identified, what about ice-damage etc.? Also, if you're still really deeply concerned, the other respondent mentioned a sump pump stuck on; we had a well pump run continuously for quite some time (owing to a small enough that it could keep the system pressurized so it wasn't noticeable in water service) and it was the neighbor who discovered it when she read the meter (owing to water management requirements, wells other than only household here are required to be metered separately to record estimated water usage for water table usage estimates) and noticed it was way out of line...
Also, still no information on the actual degree-days of that particular month as compared to the historical averages...add up a few per cent for the discovered leakage, a few percent for temperature, and a little for unfound or perhaps a recording error from the previous month and it could well end up within the range of expected usage...
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Was the cord coiled up making an electro magnetic heater?
I'd be suspect of the cord setup as then can generate a lot of heat. Years ago at work had one start to smoke plugged to a truck block heater. Where the cord was coiled, it go damned hot and that heat translates to energy use.
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Edwin Pawlowski wrote:

Not coiled, but loosely tied in an overhand knot to keep it from inadvertently getting pulled apart.
Steve
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I don't see coiled extension cords making electromagnetic heaters. The current through the two current-carrying conductors goes in opposite directions so their magnetic fields cancel each other out pretty well. The inductance will be negligible. EMF across this inductance would be millivolts. Multiply that EMF by the cord current, and any power in any induced currents has to be a fraction of that.

Coiling the cord made the heat being dissipated in the cord conductors more confined. Extension cords can overheat, especially if coiled, bunched up, or placed under carpets. Beware of the current rating and the wire size - some extension cords have thinner conductors and lower current ratings than others that have similar appearance. For example, I have seen some very industrial-looking extension cords with 16 AWG conductors.
One more thing - I have noticed that extension cords with 16 AWG conductors tend to have a current rating of 13 amps, while 14 AWG tends to be rated 15 amps and 12 AWG tends to be rated 20 amps. It appears to me that 16 AWG cords have a less conservative rating.
Another thing to watch for with electrical cords in general: Every so often, check to see if the ends heat up. The ends are where most metal fatigue damage to the strands of wire occurs - usually within 4 inches of the ends. If the ends heat up, discard the cords or cut the end few inches off and replace the plugs/connectors.
- Don Klipstein ( snipped-for-privacy@misty.com)
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Being coiled has nothing at all to do with getting hot, it is merely that more heat is concentrated in that area. Heat comes from resistance, and at 60 Hz that is the ONLY factor.
.................................................................................................. Solar Discussion Forum: http://www.wind-sun.com/ForumVB / ..................................................................................................

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Voltage, current doesn't count then. I wonder how DC can heat up a connection then.

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Uhm... maybe from resistance at the connection?
.................................................................................................. Solar Discussion Forum: http://www.wind-sun.com/ForumVB / ..................................................................................................

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Quote <See attached below>
"Heat comes from resistance, and at 60 Hz that is the ONLY factor."

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Windsun said that coiled cord gets hot from resistance, not electromagnetic effects. You don't understand what was said.
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IF you can't read then that's OK too.

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Solar Flare wrote:

<snip>
Then there are some people who try to read everything literally, ignoring the obvious, if imprecise, meaning in context.
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Steve IA wrote: ...

I'm certainly no expert in these things but I have heard that sometimes line voltage will vary. If they were running unusually high voltage for December then it may be that resistance heaters, incandescent lights and such things were using more energy. If the voltage has since gone down then your measurements today would not show how much these devices were using then.
Anthony
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