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Question DetailsAsked on 9/30/2016

Replacing old power line from transformer to the box and upgrading meter from 125amps to 200amps can reduce bills?

I bought a house that's been vacant for few month and my electric bills were very high (3400+ kWh monthly). The electrician recommended to change underground cable and update the meter to 200amps to reduce electrical bills. Is this true? What would be the price to do this kind of work?

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Yeah, that is high - nationwide average is about 910-980KWHr per month, depending on whose data you look at. Is there a chance someone was using your house for a marijuana grow operation (that would be in normal range for that) - or some neighbor illegally tapped off your power to run their house or grow operation or pool heat or such ?

I would ask the utility to assess the situation - will almost always do so for free - could be you have a bad meter. Of course, check inside for any untoward energy consumption demands - diswasher stuck on heat cycle, range left on, electric hot water heater running hot water, heating system set real high or windows open, radiant floor heat kept on, etc. Or air conditioner, at this time of year, running nearly continuously because it is low on refrigerant or set at too low a temperature. Or worse yet - independent A/C and furnace both one to test during the inspection but left on, so furnace and A/C are fighting with each other (would require separate thermostats for this to happen and both running at high output - that could explain that high a bill. One other extreme usage I have seen - electric heat sauna or hot tub left on full time.

And of course, if house was vacant - I can't image that kind of bill unless pool/spa/sauna heater was on full time, thermostat was set VERY high or with windows open/broken, or such. Outdoor high-wattage (typically halogen) flood lights staying on full time can run a bill up to - typical 300W rectangular flood light uses around 200KWHr PER light pear month - but it would take a LOT of them to add 2000 or more KWHrs to your bill.

I would be looking for a new electrician, because I think this guy may be trying to sell you a bill of goods, unless you have a very unusual wiring setup. And if he is, I would report him to the state licensing board and the consumer fraud division for your city or state so others don't get duped.

Reason I suspect that - assuming your power supply setup is normal, with a utility-owned transformer at street or on a pole (which may serve only your house or more typically up to 2-4 houses), then a buried line to the house to a meter on the outside wall, then indoor (or outdoor conduit) power leads from there to breaker box - you pay for only the power measured at the meter, so any losses in the underground line would be at the utility's cost and be unmetered losses. The only way you would be paying for energy loss from a shorting or overheating buried cable would be if the underground run was between the meter and the house - on "your side" of the meter.

On the 125A to 200A meter change - that would not save you any measureable amount of money (at most a few cents a month just due to lower mounting lug resistance) - just upgrades the amount of power that can flow through it. This is a common upgrade (along with main feed to breaker box and breaker box capacity upgrade as well) these days for houses with under 125-150A service and with a fair amount of electric demand and especially for all-electric houses, but that change is to provide more power capacity - the rating of the meter does not affect the amount of power your house is using.

You should have gotten copies of previous owner's electric usage with the purchase paperwork - assuming those were in the normal range of 1000 KWHr per month or less, that might provide ammo to ask the utility to change the meter and drop the higher charges - especially if it has been unoccupied.

If only one bill was high, check the closeout reading on his bill and first reading on yours - they may have typoed on the starting reading for your billings, resulting in a higher apparent usage.

Answered 3 years ago by LCD

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