Why is my gas bill so high? Ideas?

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I'm at a loss. I can't figure out why my gas bill is as high as it is, while my neighbor's bills are MUCH lower.
I moved into this house a couple years ago and I've had sticker shock every time the gas bill arrives. The new house matches my old one as far as appliances as I brought them with me. The only difference is the furnace and water heater.
As an example; the largest bill I've ever had at my old house was $125 where the largest bill to date at the new house was $320. The house is bigger by 600sqft but that should only account for winter bills...
I use to think the old furnace was the culprit but my bills are high all year around. (I even replaced it without much effect) A typical bill at the old house was $12-$20... the new house never has a bill below $100, even when the furnace is off all month!
I started suspecting that the meter was bad so I had NIPSCO come out and check it several times until they replaced it on my insistance. It didn't help. While they were there they checked of leaks too.
I just talked to the old owner of the house and found out that he too had the meter swapped. So even he knew something was up.
So my gas bill last month was $101 and my neighbor's bills average $25. I don't know what to do next. The only thing left to try is replacing the water heater but I can't imagine that it is even capable of using that much gas.
The NIPSCO guy shut the water heater off for 20 minutes and checked the meter. No gas was used. This weekend I'm going to shut it off for a few hours and see if the meter moves. When I relight the water heater I'm going to see how much it consumes over X amount of time in case it's a leak after the shut off valve.
In the meantime, I'm open to any suggestions. If my natural gas bill goes down, I might be able to fill my car up with the savings!
Thanks for reading this long post.
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Never heard of this with gas, water and electricity yes a long time ago.
Turning your meter off is not the way to find out where the gas is going. Leave the meter on and turn off ALL of the appliance valves. If the meter moves now you know there is either a leak or another load.
If it is the water heater it would be running all of the time. I once had a hot water line broken under the kitchen floor, gas bill went from 30 in the summer to 70. Since the water heater was next to the washer it was pretty easy to figure out that it was running all of the time. Water bill took a leap as well.
I had a customer that bought 20 acres of land with a barn and a huge home on it. I was called in when the kitchen was being remodeled and they needed new electrical circuits. I went to the service and found no main but 6 200 amp fusible switches. Ok a bit strange but nothing wrong so far. One switch had no wires on it so we labeled it as a spare. Kitchen had a panel, barn had two panels and the sleeping area of the house had a panel. That left one switch unaccounted for, we continued with the remodel and the owner got the first electric bill, well over $400.00 and it was not even hot yet in the Arizona desert. Second bill was over $600.00. Owner was really upset. Rumors had it that the previous owner was a drug dealer and there was a underground storage room. I got a tracker and started chasing down the wires. Got to the mystery wires and they ran straight off the property heading into another development of homes. I waited until dark, I then turned off the switch and low and behold the neighbors homes all when dark. I removed the wiring from the switch and cut it off close to the concrete so it could never be re connected again, per the owners orders. Electric bill dropped to the $200 range.
Utility meters are historically accurate. I have seen 3 bad electrical meters in 35 years. One was bad toward the customer. State regulators take a dim view of a utility not having accurate equipment. I will bet you either find another load or a leak.. I am betting on the load.
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SQLit wrote:
<snipped>

Did you ever find out why things had been done that way?
Jeff
--
Jeffry Wisnia

(W1BSV + Brass Rat \'57 EE)
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home on

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Yes turns out one of the neighbors was the original "developer" of all the land. He at one time was trying to build a resort. Hence the service with fusible disconnects. Time went by and he "forgot" that there was a need for him to get his own electrical service. The water was shared by all of the parcels. The other property owners took him to court and he got his hand slapped. As near as I could find out it had been that way for 10-12 years. I guess the previous owner just did not notice or care about the electric bill.
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SQLit wrote:

My house was similar. Its a newer house along with 4 other houes on the block. Same builder. The house next door was not finished and while nobody occupied the house we bought, he ran power lines from it to the house next door to power the sump and work tools, etc.
We even put it in our purchase agreement that he could keep it for a few months and would pay us. He wasnt drawing much juice as nobody lived there, but we had to hold his nuts to the fire to get it disconnected, lol. It was a cobbled up extension coard so I could have unplugged it at anytime, but the basement would have flooded in that house. He just got lazy I guess.
--
Respectfully,


CL Gilbert
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If you live in a condo, it may be that you're paying for some common-area gas usage that's pretty constant. I'd look for another load too, although it's hard to find because you can't separate the feeds like you can with electricity.
In a local case, I discovered a condo owner was paying for common-area electricity. In this case, the utility company stepped in, credited the unit owner the estimated value of the electricity, and billed the estimated amount to the condo association. If it's another load, your gas company may be willing to do the same. In our case, it's state law. You can research "Theft of Services" for your state.
Rock

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Rock wrote:

Read what OP wrote for crissakes...

....
How much more indication of single-occupancy residence do you need?
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snipped-for-privacy@xcel.com wrote:

....
Well, DOH! What are you waiting for? An old, inefficient burner combined with a sizable poorly insulated tank could account for a lot.
Also, you could be leaking hot water somewhere and that's keeping the heater running more than it should.

You said the gas co checked for leaks and didn't find any already. If there were a leak of such size as you're noting, the place would have blown up already. The testers they use find ppm quantities so a sizable leak would have awakened the dead.
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You think that a water heater can make a $70-80 difference? Everyone I talked to said no way. I'm thinking about replacing the water heater anyway and see what difference it makes.
As for the gas leak, what if it was underground? I'm on a slab (both old and new houses) and I've been wondering if a leak under the slab wouldn't be as detectable.
Another way to check that would be to have a pressure test done.
And to Tom's reply, If it was an estimated bill it would eventually catch up with me and I'd eventually have a low bill. In living here 2.5 years, I've never had a "low" bill.
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snipped-for-privacy@xcel.com wrote:

Depends on the rates, obviously...but I'd think it possible, yes.

If the meter didn't register any flow and their sniffer didn't find any hint, I'd think a leak of any size at all highly improbably. In general the level will be lower, of course, but the slab isn't totally impermeable and there are the penetrations where the pipe has to come in as well. I assume they did do a sniff test inside as well as outside?
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There's a lot of good feedback so far. I should look for a way to pressure test the hot water lines in the house. Since I'm out in the county I would think that I'd hear my water pump running at night if it was a water leak. I'm not sure if there's a way to log the duty cycle.
Do you think it'd be worth while to see how much gas is used by the water heater on a per minute basis? Maybe I could do the same test on a different water heater (friends) and compare the results. I'm guessing if I drain all the hot water and fill with cold I can time the refresh cycle to get a therm per minute number for each water heater. It'd also be good to time the refreash cycle.
I'm going to look for a date of manufacture on the water heater tonight and if it's old enough I might just kick it to the curb... but I'll wait until with weekend's "leak" test in hopes of finding another load.
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Does code allow for gas lines under a slab? I would do more troubleshooting before spending money on a water heater that may not be the problem. What about ceiling insulation. Is it good? Lots of heat can go up though the ceiling.
Regards, Ross
snipped-for-privacy@xcel.com wrote:

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He's not losing enough heat through the ceiling to give him a $100 gas bill in the *summer*, for Pete's sake.
My money is on a leaking hot water line.
--
Regards,
Doug Miller (alphageek at milmac dot com)
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It may be the water heater, but not a gas leak. What about the water itself. I saw a setup a neighbor made to have warm water for washing his car. He put both hot and cold water to the outside faucet. I guess it was nice having the warm water and regulating it from inside, but when the valves inside were left opened, the hot water began to flow across into the cold water lines in the house. Flush the toilet, use some hot water.
It is possible that a faucet in the house is not closing properly between the hot and cold lines even though the water is not flowing out. It would heat all the lines as the hot water moved through the system.
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Do the readings on your meter match those on your bill? Perhaps the meter reader has been estimating your bill every month rather than actually reading the meter. Is the meter hard to get to...I can imagine the reader estimating a couple of times and then being afraid to actually read the meter because of the big discrepancy between actual and estimated readings. I had a big water bill once and when I checked the meter against the bill there was a big difference. Water company swore that the meter had been actually read but when I insisted on a new reading I got an amended bill that was substantially less. And I lived in an apartment once...electric was pretty cheap even though it was Arizona and hotter than blazes..When the A/C ;quit, we found out that my A/C was wired to the upstairs apartment and vice versa. The bachelors upstairs had been sleeping on the balcony to try to keep their electric bill down. When they got their electric shut off due to none payment, I lost my A/C. I doubt you have a leak after the shut off on the water heater or you wouldn't be here to post to this newsgroup. Is the neighbors bill a valid comparison...he isn't running an all Electric house, is he?
Tom
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1) What's the temperature of your water? Fill up a glass and stick in a meat thermometer.
2) Any teenagers in the house?
3) How long's the average shower?
4) On the side of the water heater is tube from the pressure relief valve. I've seen houses where that was extended to the edge of the floating slab basement floor. If it was leaking, you'd never know it.
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snipped-for-privacy@xcel.com wrote:
<snipped>

While you're at it, tell everyone not to use any water during that time and see if your water meter indicates any usage. (Just put the lid down on the toilets and leave whatever's deposited there until you are done with the measurement. <G>)
When I relight the water heater

--
Jeffry Wisnia

(W1BSV + Brass Rat \'57 EE)
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feel the hot water pipe, is the water moving the the pipe evne though no one is ung hot water.
sounds to me you have hot water flowing someplace and you are using (wasting) gas to heat it.
Mark
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snipped-for-privacy@xcel.com wrote:

Ok. Go step by step. First you didn't say anything about how big the house, how many people live there, or how many gas appliances are in use, and you didn't indicate if you moved a long ways from your previous house. Also, you seem to indicate that the water heater is separate and not part of a hot water furnace. Is the furnace air or hot water? and is the water heater tied into it?
Your bill includes two (or three ) parts, the cu ft of gas used, the (conversion rate to therms) and the cost rate per therm. So if you are comparing with you previous house, you need to compare both the amount of gas used and cost per unit uses.
Your first step is to carefully compare old house with new house, both amount of gas used and the cost rate.
I will tell you what my house is like--1500 sq ft, 1 gas furnace (air), 1 gas water heater, 2 older people, and I take a long shower of about 30 minutes each day, my wife doesn't shower as long. She washes clothes 1 a week (3-4 loads) and washes a dish washer full 2-3 times a week. All of the gas use in July and in August was for hot water only. 11 Therms (1200 cf)in July and 10 therms (1100 cf) in August for a July cost of $12.33 and a August cost of $11.44.
Second, check your water usage, (compare the old house with the new house usage). Is it reasonable or is there possibly a big water leak which could be from the hot water line, meaning you are heating water but it is being dumped.
Third, you already tested the meter over a short period, now test it over a longer period. The meter is probably ok, so you are really testing use of gas. Turn the gas off at the meter for at least a day, or better, a longer period week. Maybe when you go on vacation. And, if possible turn the water off at the same time. Then check the gas meter change and the water meter change.
How much gas are you being billed for in July and August? I would think anything over 20 therms would indicate leaks or highly wasteful use if it is all for hot water.
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Okay, to answer your questions. 2 adults and a 2 year old live here. air furnace, stove, dryer and water heater. The stove and dryer came from our old house which is about 2 miles away. My home is a 1700 sqft brick ranch. Since I have a well, I pump my own water and I can hear when it's on. It does not come on without us using water. Also, that would imply that the burner runs non-stop. Since I'm on a slab it's in the hallway that I pass regularly and I can hear that it's not on all the time.
My August bill said I used 73 therms (72ccf) with my bill being $101.25
I took pictures of the flame and outside of the water heater. The pilot flame was fairly large but I didn't get any pictures of it. You can see the pics here... http://pg.photos.yahoo.com/ph/ snipped-for-privacy@ameritech.net/album?.dirf45
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