Monday, May 05, 2008


Much as I love this house, I may have to find another place to live. Last fall, I noticed that my electrical bill had jumped $50 in one month, for no good reason---no rate hike, no unusually cold weather, lots of energy-saving measures on my part. It has stayed so high all winter that I decided to go on budget-billing, but when the utility company re-averaged my usage, the budget-bill stayed really high.

So I told my landlord (a Sacramento guy, a good guy, but he's never lived on the island) about my concern and he kind of pooh-poohed it, said it was probably just the weather, etc. So I told him I'd pay for a plumber to come look at the hot water heater, which was one of the possibilities.

The plumber came today and pronounced the water heater in fine shape, but he had the good sense to ask about other things and we finally figured out that the pump in the wellhouse is running constantly (at 220 v.) because there is a leak in the water line between the well and my house. No wonder my electricity bill is so high!

To fix it will require shutting off the water to the house, digging out a trench to expose the pipe, letting it dry out a bit, and then replacing the pipe, probably all the way back to the wellhouse, a couple hundred yards away. I don't know how long all that will take and I'm not sure how I will cope with that situation!

I guess I will, but it's a big pain. And the lower part of my yard is a swamp! Water is bubbling out of a hole in the ground in the yard.

Stay tuned.


h sofia said...

Did the plumber mention the horsepower of your pump?

ms. kitty said...

Do they measure electrical stuff in horsepower? No, he didn't. Should I ask? Do you think that's related?

Today I'll be contacting a backhoe guy to discuss the possibility of his excavating the line.

I've also got to go into Seattle today for a meeting about the Religious Coalition for Equality, the group I was formerly on the board of. (Sorry about all the dangling prepositions, you language mavens.) So that slows me down a bit too.

Mile High Pixie said...

Hm, as long as your landlord pays for the repairs, I don't see a problem, though I don't live with you. :-) The work can be sequenced to allow for the shortest amount of water shut-off time. If through a few exploratory digs they can decide that the entire length of pipe must be replaced, then they can dig that trench alongside the old one and then only have the water off for a day, maybe two, when they switch the house and the well over from the old pipe to the new pipe.

That's my long-distance two cents.

ms. kitty said...

Boy, is it ever handy to have an architect in one's blogosphere! Pixie, that's so helpful! Thank you for your thoughts and I will check it out when I talk to the excavating guy tomorrow.

Ms. Theologian said...

Yeah, I don't think this is disastrous. We dig up water lines all the time in our community without affecting water for more than a workday.

ms. kitty said...

That's the reassurance I'm getting from everyone, all right. Thanks, Ms. T.

h sofia said...

Ms Kitty - Yes, the horsepower of the pump is important because, while it certainly sounds as though the pump running 24/7 is the cause of the increased bill, you can double check this before digging up anything: if you know the hp, you know the maximum wattage the pump can pull per hour. 1 horsepower = approximately 746 watts.

If you know for certain that it's running 24/7, you can easily calculate the daily kilowatt hour usage, and then confirm that it's the cause of the $50 increase in your bill. Assuming your electric rate is about 7.5 cents per kilowatt hour, your pump needs to be about 1 1/4 hp to increase the bill by $50 a month.

I only mention this because it was my job for years to troubleshoot high electric bills with people, and I've come across hundreds of pump situations. One of the most annoying things is when the customer repairs something that is broken, only to discover a month or two later that their electric bill didn't come down - because something else is the culprit.

It's also helpful to have this information because you can ask your landlord to compensate you for the increase in the bill between the time you identified the problem and the time it was repaired.

Another method is to read your electric meter daily while the pump is awaiting repairs. Then read the meter for a few days after the pump is repaired and you should see a significant drop in daily consumption - somewhere around 20-22 kWh per day if the bill is $50 extra and your rate is 7.5 cents per kWh.

That was probably more than you wanted to hear from me! It's just really important to me that all loose ends be tied up when it comes to things like this.

And getting the leak fixed shouldn't be too big a deal. People do it all the time.

ms. kitty said...

Hafidha, thank you so much for the information. I will use it as I address this situation with the landlord.

Mile High Pixie said...

H Sofia: I just cut myself on your comment becuase it was SHARP! I'm going to file that away for the next time I hear of a water leakage/power usage problem. I think my sister, Miss Kitty, over at Educated and Poor may be having a similar problem...or maybe Mom fixed it when she replaced all Kitty's pipes a few years ago.

ms. kitty said...

She's good, isn't she? Hafidha, you really know what you're talking about! Thanks.

h sofia said...

MHP and Ms Kitty - no problem; feel free to e-mail me if you have any more questions. I loved my job, but don't have much opportunity to do that kind of thing anymore since I "retired" last year.