Doing The Breaker Test



Ok, now lets do a test called a breaker test. You will need  a helper. What we will do is have your helper momentarily shut off each breaker- one at a time- and you will watch to see whether the spinning wheel on the mechanical electric  meter or the "scrolling caterpillar" on the fully electronic meter , slows down drastically. This will pinpoint the breaker and circuit that are drawing the most power. Since you have traced out the circuits in the" labeling" section you will know what the power draws are on that circuit. Then you have to determine whether the electrical device or devices on that circuit are operating correctly. If the device is defective ,it can be replaced. If it is operating correctly but is very expensive to run , a decision can be made as to how to deal with that problem, such as upgrading to a more energy efficient model.

Usually the problems that I've encountered with high bill complaints can be traced to something inside the building that is drawing the current because an electrical device is not operating correctly. The problems mostly involve electrical devices that should "cycle" on  and off , on a more or less regular basis, but instead, are either operating a lot more often than they should be, or are operating 100% of the time for some reason. Either condition can add up to large electrical bills. And some electrical devices, for instance, electric baseboard heating, can be very expensive to operate even when they are running correctly.


1.  Electric water heaters.

2.  Water pumps (for people with wells)

3.   Refrigerators or freezers and air conditioners

    4   Electric baseboard heaters and thermostats


And so , one of the things we will be looking for is defective electrical equipment. Lets start with electric water heaters and what can go wrong with them.     


 Electric water heaters- They usually have two heating elements (upper and lower) to heat the water. If either one is not operating, the symptom could be lukewarm water after a couple of minutes. But the electric cost will be very high as one element tries to do the work of two. Also, make sure they are well insulated in a warm area so they don't have to cycle on constantly to keep the water hot.

    Water pumps- Many things can go wrong with a water pump. But the things that waste electricity usually have to do with a pump that is cycling on and off . Look for a pressure gauge in the system. If the pump goes on and pumps up to pressure (around 45 lbs ) and then looses pressure visibly at the gauge without any water on in the house, then there may be a leak in the system causing pressure loss forcing the pump to cycle on over and over to keep the system pressure up. This can add up in dollar costs. Make sure there are no leaking faucets or running toilets in the house.

  Refrigerators, freezers or air conditioners- These all operate on coolants under pressure. If the coolant pressure becomes low due to coolant loss, the unit will cycle on more often than necessary to maintain  a cool temperature.

A sign that a unit may need replacement  is failure to cool adequately. The older a unit is, the less efficient and more expensive it will be to run.


   Electric heating - baseboard heaters and the thermostats that control them can be defective, doing very little heating, but costing lots of money. If they don't seem to be working correctly, then they probably are not. Do the breaker test by observing the meter wheel with the heat on (turn it up to make sure it goes on) , then shut off the breaker that controls the heat. If the meter wheel slows down a lot, this indicates that the heater is drawing a lot off power and could be defective. Also , using a thermometer, check to make sure that the room temperature matches the thermostat setting . A difference in the two could indicate a defective thermostat.

  Finally, if you go under the assumption that your electric meter is measuring your usage accurately( and it probably is) then the electricity being measured and billed to  you is being consumed from somewhere that is tied into your breaker panel. Hopefully we have tracked down the cause of your high electric bill with the above procedures. If not, it may be time to have a qualified electrician take a look at the service and evaluate its condition. But if you live in a multi-unit section, read on below. If you live i a single dwelling, go on to "in conclusion".


Next step: Multi-metered Section or In Conclusion



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Disclaimer: Even small amounts of electricity can kill you. If you are unsure of what you are doing at any time as you read this web page, I urge you to stop and consult with a licensed, qualified electrician. The small cost of professional assistance may mean the difference between a job successfully completed and a tragic ending. Do not risk injury or death if you are not exactly sure of what you are doing. We take no responsibility for damage, injury or death.

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