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Power Bill... Thoughts?

Post in 'The Boiler Room - Wood Boilers and Furnaces' started by PV2U, Feb 10, 2011.

  1. PV2U

    PV2U New Member

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    Hey Rob, I see what you're saying with the TED, and I've contemplated looking into that farther. I can see beauty of that being that regardless of whether or not the "perpetrating load" is something that would normally come up on a standard energy audit, it would be able to pinpoint it as a problem. You've been able to make some (what I would characterize as) terrific gains with your unit. If I could reduce my bill that much, I would be pickled tink! Will have to investigate that one some more!

    Hey Willman! Yeah, the guy with the IR camera is going to do a blower door test too, I just wanted to the IR for curiosity's sake (okay, I'll admit to a gadget factor in there), AND to see if the contractor actually burned me on the insulation (demo and redo are BOTH definitely 4-letter words!). It's supposed to be in the mid 50s tomorrow, so that'd be a good day to start flipping through my breaker box and hanging out at the meter!

    Heaterman, I've thought about that, but those bills are long gone I reckon. I DO know that prior to the heatpump being replaced, I was sorely hoping that once the new one came my bill would go down. So I know they were high then, but I just can't recall exactly how high. They have, I believe, gradually increased over the years. I think the unit is a Lennox, and I'm not sure about the type compressor but tomorrow is going to be a good day for checking out those fins in the bottom of the air handler too!

    Thanks guys!!

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  2. woodgeek

    woodgeek Minister of Fire

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    I have a similar HP setup to the OP, and I spiked my elec bill this december to a similar level, about 70% higher than the previous december (with the HP also).

    I had a new roof installed last summer, and the apes in the attic walked all over my insulation-wrapped metal ductwork, creating a bunch of invisible leaking seams under the wrap.
    Ugh--after about 15 hours in my attic in January, and a mile of aluminum tape, all fixed.

    So, did something major change with the OP's system in the last year??
  3. DBoon

    DBoon Minister of Fire

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    First step - get a good, professional energy audit and follow it's recommendations. If they aren't doing a blower door test, then it's not a good, professional audit. Even if these recommendations cost you a few bucks, it's always best and usually most cost-effective with quickest return on your investment to reduce the heating demand first.

    Second step - consider something that gets your heat pump off-line in the winter time, and just use it in the shoulder seasons and in the summer for AC. Heat pumps are designed by engineers for engineers. If you let them do their thing without interference, they work ok and are efficient in your climate. But, as with many other things, humans often interfere with the best intentions of engineers and make heat pumps run in a less efficient way (e.g. turning the heat up in the morning and forcing the electric backup heat on). Even if you understand what not to do, chances are your family will not or will not care. Believe me, I've been in this situation myself.
  4. heaterman

    heaterman Minister of Fire

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    One of the biggest problems I consistently see with heat pumps is sizing. Specifiers, engineers, and many contractors will "fudge" the sizing and install a unit that is sufficient for say 80% of weather conditions, relying on the back up heat strips to carry the load when things get nasty temp wise. Let's say for example the load at design in your building is 57,000 btu. In order to keep costs for the unit itself along with all other related materials like duct work, they might install a 42,000 or 48,000 btu unit. In my humble opinion the scenario above would warrant the install of a 60,000 btu HP or maybe a pair of smaller units. Of course that would mean higher installed cost and that's something home owners, builders and financial entities do not like to see.

    What happens is when we get into outdoor temps beyond what the unit/system is sized for (like this year with global cooling) you suddenly find your self running on the backup heaters far more than normal amount and the electric bill heads to the moon.
  5. bigburner

    bigburner Feeling the Heat

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    Air to Air in Michigan ???? Better have a furnace sitting under that coil. Two things I see, HVAC companies pushing geothermal systems where there is not a significant reduction in the power rate. IE consumers energy verse the great rate that Detroit Edison has. Just selling the tax benefit for the system, it's fun to go to home shows and ambush them after about 10 minutes of the speal! & the other is under sized fields and fuzzy math on the ROI & performance. There are a lot of Whores in this business.
  6. WhitePine

    WhitePine Feeling the Heat

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    Heat pumps are not normally sized for heating. They are sized for cooling, which is a significantly lower load than heating, even in many parts of the South. That is standard practice. Sizing a run of the mill heat pump for heating will result in short run times, lowered efficiency, and poor humidity control during cooling season. Many contractors actually oversize heat pumps as any easy way prevent complaints from customers who just don't get it. Builders will usually not oversize, if they know what they are doing, simply because it saves them money. Poor installations make many heat pumps perform poorly.

    Because heat pumps are sized for cooling, an auxilliary heat source is almost always required. It can be juice sucking heat strips, which can be used concurrently with the heat pump, or an alternative switch over heat source, such as natural gas or oil. Managing the switch on or switch over temperature is a tricky business, often mucked up by the HVAC contractor and/or the homeowner. It is dependent on the heat pump's COP, the electric rate paid by the customer, and the cost of alternative fuels, such as NG and oil. Compounding the difficult is variable rates for all these energy sources. Getting it right is a groan.

    Heat pumps can be sized for heating, but it takes an expensive two stage heat pump to do it. The best choice is a unit whose first stage has a significantly lower BTU output than it's second stage. We have such as system. It will maintain our summer cooling set point entirely on stage one. In the winter it will maintain our heating set point down to 17F without switching in the heat strips. Between 10F and 17F our house will cool two or thee degrees. At 10F, the 15KW heat strips begin staging and the house will maintain its set point. The heat strips are electrically locked out above 10F and will not come on except during defrost operations.

    In other words, it takes 2 tons of heat pump to cool our house and 4 tons of heat pump to heat it. If we ran a 4 ton heat pump in the summer, it would over cool the house and the humidity would skyrocket, with a significant risk of mold. Since we have a passive solar house, it's all academic during sunny winter days. The heat pump never runs then. In the future, when we have enough seasoned wood, it won't run much on cloudy days either. :coolsmile:
  7. rkusek

    rkusek Minister of Fire

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    White pine & heaterman make some good points. My HP is a 5 ton Lennox but it is only 1 stage and for simplicity the HVAC guys wired all both sets of strips to fire all at once (10kw & 5kw). The guy even mentioned "you'll won't have a problem heating this way." Funny thing is he was the most knowledgable guy (3rd) ever sent out having spent time in Florida and was more familiar with them. The installers didn't even hook up the heat strips and put in an incompatable tstat. The 2nd guy that fixed that messed up the humidifier. The 3rd guy realized the humifier needed an outdoor temp sensor to work properly. Fortunately it was all part of the first year warranty but didn't give me much confidence in their work. The outfit is one of the biggest games in town too doing both HVAC and plumbing work. The multistage compressors and multistage strips are probably much more necessary in the south or the north if someone needs AC there. My simple unit probably works OK for Nebraska since we are more evenly balanced with hot & cold I suppose. If the PV2U can find a tech that really knows what's going on I bet the find a problem with the setup.
  8. heaterman

    heaterman Minister of Fire

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    Good points Piney! I'm looking at a heat pump through "Northern" eyes and slanting my opinions based on the fact that we have far more heating load than cooling. That being the case a heat pump is going to spend probably 90% of it's run time in heating conditions vs only 10% of it's life running in cooling mode. That's were I generate my sizing numbers from. If a person wants to do as much heating work as they can with an A-A heat pump in our climate up here, 2 stage is nearly mandatory for the reasons you state. Absolutely correct.
    A far better choice in northern regions is a hybrid system that uses a 2 stage HP in combination with a variable speed condensing gas furnace. This give the best of both the heating and cooling worlds IMHO. While that type of system is very efficient and avoids the auxiliary heat issue, it is more expensive than most homeowners are willing or able to have installed.
    I might add that the same issues hold true on a lot of GSHP installations I have had my grubby paws on. A lot of guys will size them for cooling load btu's which in this part of the country are about 3-4X less than the heating load. Homeowners are left with the same scenario of sky high electric bills in the dead of winter even though they thought they were buying the most efficient system out there.
  9. WhitePine

    WhitePine Feeling the Heat

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    Good grief! Sizing a GSHP for a northern cooling load is insane. Someone ought to lock those people up.
  10. heaterman

    heaterman Minister of Fire

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    Insane is right. But that should give you an idea of the business climate here in Michigan. It's low bid or nothing, who cares if it works right for the customer. People are cutting corners in any way possible and consequences be damned. I've seen at least a half dozen HVAC guys move into the area here, undercut everyone, leave suppliers and wholesalers in the lurch and vamoose within 2 years. Customers? ....most of em got what they paid for. Some equipment they were told would work, a low price and not much else. They are left with a nightmare in most cases.
  11. PV2U

    PV2U New Member

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    Well guys, today was the day that I had big plans to address my power situation - however, I learned something. Nothing quite takes your mind off your utility bill like waking up to find that your submerged well pump is prolly dead! That gives one a whole new set of priorities! Crack! I thought I was going to get something done today but now, after fooling with it all morning, I gotta spend $160 on a service call from the well guy! WAAAAaaaaahhhh!!! LOL!

    Course, I reckon 20 years off a subbed well pump in iron water is a blessing, but I just wish it wouldn't always pour when it rains!! :O)

    Stay Tuned... I'll get back online with the power situation ASAP.

    Wouldn't that be ironic if it was somehow my well pump running amock that was making my bill high? HA! I ain't that lucky!
  12. bigburner

    bigburner Feeling the Heat

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    Well repair was my neighbors profession,so as a kid growing up learned most of it on the operator end of a shovel. A hole in the drop pipe will cause continuous run or worst short cycling either way I have seen high power bills because of this. It will be 160.00 + 400.00 new pump + 250 for drop pipe+ 100 for misc stuff. Your at a grand!! That is my internet guess!!
  13. PV2U

    PV2U New Member

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    The well guy just left. The pump was, mercifully, fine. The wire going down to it was worn in several places and was hunking up the whole action. $585.48 later ($300+ of wire), and I'm good to go! if I have to do it again, I'll try it myself, but that was unknown territory.

    Now, back to the business of reducing my dang power bill! :coolgrin:
  14. woodsmaster

    woodsmaster Minister of Fire

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    My neighbor just had to replace his submersible. I believe he said it was drawing 8 amps and should have been drawing 2 amps.
  15. PV2U

    PV2U New Member

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    =O) Well, I tell you what J.T., I'm going to be gawking at that meter tomorrow just in CASE it made a difference! I'm going to take a reading in just a bit and then another in 24 hours and see how many kWhs I used - if it's drastically less than the norm, I'm going to be the happiest of campers!
  16. Duetech

    Duetech Minister of Fire

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    PV2U the well pump could have been a big problem. If it has been said I didn't see it so... Turn off all your breakers and then go look at the meter to see if it is at a stand still. Then with all appliances (everything) unplugged (off is misleading sometimes) start turning the breakers on and cheching the meter after each return to power. (you may have found a leak in the pump wiring this way). Rodents (and pets) have been known to do damage to wiring that can sap power and sometimes only when it rains. There have been a lot of good suggestions here. Wish you the best...
  17. flyingcow

    flyingcow Minister of Fire

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    Not going to help, but i think the rate up here is about 15 cents a kwh.
  18. PV2U

    PV2U New Member

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    Hey Cave! You know, I was going to do something very similar to that today before my cotton-picking water went out - but of course, that derailed my train right quick! Hopefully I can get to it in the morning. Thanks for the kind words!
  19. PV2U

    PV2U New Member

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    Oh mercy! At my magnitude of kWhs, if I had those rates I'd have to start auctioning off organs to pay my dang power bill!! LOL!

    That's just TOO much!!

    edit: fixed my hunked up attempt at quoting
  20. benjamin

    benjamin Minister of Fire

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    I'd bet the well pump having any affect on the kwh use is a long shot. It only takes a few pennies worth of electricity to blow a pump, control box and melt the whole lenght of wire.

    As far as HVAC guys going to jail for incompetence, it's not gonna happen as a matter of professional courtesy. You see if HVAC guys went to jail for incompetence then lawyers would be at risk of going to jail for incompetence, and that just isn't going to happen.

    I too look at things from a northern perspective, and I disagree slightly with what Heaterman said about GSHP, but then I'm one of those contractors...

    The factor we're probably missing is the way they run ductwork in your neck o' the woods. Ductwork is almost always terribly leaky, but around here it has to be run inside the envelope. Yours is probably run through the attic, knee walls, exterior walls, garage, did I miss any spots? I assume this is an odd shaped house as the upper level is less than the lower level. This leads to UGLY framing connections, open unsealed stud and joist cavities, and maybe lots of flex duct?

    Unfortunately an audit is only as good as the auditor. No amount of equipment can tell you what the problem is if the auditor isn't willing to put the work in. You may be be just as well off to climb into all of your hidden spaces, examine every inch of the ductwork especially in the attic, and seal everything you can find.
  21. Duetech

    Duetech Minister of Fire

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    We had an old fridge that fit tightly next to the kitchen sink counter and when doing dishes we would sometimes get a poke. Investigation showed a spot had warn through the power cord to the fridge where it rested on the fridge defrost drain pan. We would only get a poke when the fridge would come on or go off and we were doing dishes. The compressor would shake the fridge just enough for the bare wire to contact the fridge drain pain and send a poke through the aliminum trim on the counter and the metal sink. When there was enough water on the edge of the sink you didn't get a poke. Just when the edge was dry and your arm rested on the trim and on the sink and the fridge cycled on or off. Hope to hear a good story about your new evergy savings! :)
  22. PV2U

    PV2U New Member

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    Oh, you know how to hurt a guy! LOL! Yeah, it's no doubt a long shot, but time will tell (crosses fingers)!

    One of the things I actually feel good about is the duct work. From what I can tell, it's all done in sheet metal. One of the HVAC guys I've had in remarked at how well done it was (for whatever that's worth, it all looks the same to me), but it seems substantial. An engineer owned the house before me, and he was a stickler on some things (although I never got around to asking him what HIS power bill was). That said, this time everything, including the duct work, is on the table for examination and if it's the duct work, or if the duct work is a major player, then I'm not going to stop crawling over this thing until I've identified it!

    However, I still prefer to think that the $585 I just spent yesterday has all but eliminated my power bills concerns!! HA! Yeah, I know, 'Denial' ain't just a river in Egypt!! Double HA! %-P
  23. PV2U

    PV2U New Member

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    LOL! I bet y'all were flipping some coins and drawing straws to see who was gonna clean up the supper dishes! Paper plates for everyone!! HA!
  24. benjamin

    benjamin Minister of Fire

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    I struck out huh? I was imagining a few pieces of flex duct pulled off of a main trunk in the attic. If it it's all inside, then it's not going to make that big a difference. You might still want to look at the framing cavities. Never trust an engineer, or a contractor for that matter.
  25. Willman

    Willman Minister of Fire

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    Call the electric company and request a printout of power used for as far back as they can go. Not really knowing former owners habits might negate an accurate analysis.
    Will

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