Massive rise in Electricity Consumption

Yesterday my wifed received a telephone call advising us that our electricity consumption had gone up FOUR-FOLD over the past 12 months, and that our monthly payment to EDF would now rise to €220 a month from the now €70 we pay.

Needless to say we were shocked, but we did the sensible thing and asked for a name and reply telephone number whilst we checked our own meter. This was provided. In the interim we spoke to a neighbour who warned us of a telephone 'sting' where this was happening a lot, and of which we had never heard. However no attempt had been made to sell us anything and we checked the EDF telephone number and rang back. Their first reaction was to warn us against this sting - so it is widely spread. Unfortunately this did not apply to us as their checks revealed the same information and the person was one of their staff, so it was true.

How is it possible for an electricity consumption to increase four-fold in a year when you have done nothing different in that time? We have not added any structures, and the only thing that changed about a year ago was the fitting of a new control box by an EDF contractor. We have asked that this be checked which can be done 'at our expense' which seems a bit unreasonable. We have also been advised to check ALL units in the house to see if there is an anomaly anywhere.

As we are NOT electricians, and apart from noting on most appliances a Kw rating (per hour?) we haven't got a clue. So we have asked a friendly electrician to call and check things for us - chargeable of course.

Two things seem to appear, and I wonder if anyone can give me a Kw rating on a laptop computer? The back of the machine is loaded with all sorts of labels, but not one that I can see that provides this information. I spend both my working life (yes I am still trying to work at least!) and social life on the computer so I readily admit to being on for many hours in a day. However this has not changed in five years, and I can't really see how possibly a bit of extra time of say 4 hours a day would have made such a difference - or could it?

If it IS the computer then it will be like 'end of days' for me, as that is where my whole life just about functions - whch may sound a bit sad but really isn't as I enjoy what I do, and as think is the case for others much as I deplore computer usage (in others of course) it is my window to the world.

We have the pompe a chaleur heating, and apart from my excessive use of the computer just the usual things like induction cooker, freezer, and oven. The induction had been problematical but is now fixed, could that have had an effect? We did use oil-bath heaters for a few days in the cold snap when the pump couldn't cope, but again could that have made such a massive difference?

Incidentally and oddly we were told we had peaks in January, probably understandably, and then in March? As the reading was only done in mid-March how could that be a massive peak?

Any thoughts appreciated, but notably the Kwh factor on a laptop.


Hi Doreen

reading it is not the problem, it's lke a particularly obtuse book - understanding what it means that's the problem.

I have to confess to a nasty mind as I am firmly convinced that far too many 'innovations' are made in this country that require extra cash from households as most tend to be compulsory under law and follow some politician or other 'introducing the bill to the house' as they used to say in Britain, and whatever the equivalent is here. What really is the reason for these things? Call it 'Green' or 'Eco-friendly', get a suitable politician to endorse and its money in your off-shore account?

Told you I had a nsty mind didn't I?

I don't have a pool, but one politician lost a granddaughter in one and immediately demanded all pools be fenced in. A good thing, possibly, but an essential thing? Not so sure about that, what I AM sure about is that it provided a windfall and highly profitable marketing opportunity, that might, possibly have just resulted in some sort of reward to the introducing politician. I am not saying it did, but my nasty mind suggests otherwise. Ditto with now 'smoke warnings'. If I was a manufacturer I would be rubbing my hands in glee, as although I understand they are not yet compulsory - give it time and they will be. Having managed to live in many countries in everything from wooden houses to concrete tower blocks without having found the need of one of these things, I again wonder as to the 'why' the demand suddenly?

Yes, again they are probably a good thing, as I am sure shoes without laces that don't trip one up are also probably a 'good thing' and a million other things, but having spent most f my working life in Marketing I am only too aware of how the Lobby system works (and rewards), and we mugginses pay for it.

Hi John, Lucy

- of one thing I am sure and that is the changeover to this new bulb system has left more than me completely at a loss - and seemingly massively out of pocket as well. I also see others seeking staff for advice and as far as I can see getting more shrugged shoulders than anything. As you say 'reading the box' is sheer gobbledy-gook for most I am sure.

It is definitely one area of my ignorance where I know I am not alone!

Ok Norman, I hope you get the issue x4 bill sorted, at least it doesn't seem there is something massively wrong your end.

I would disagree with Lucy slightly, 2300K is almost candle lamp yellow, 3000-3500k is much more comfortable but if you want cosy buy dimable at least you'll get best of both. You'll get seriously mugged for what EDF leave you if you buy from a shop. Buy online and try a a few before embarking on a multi purchase. And never believe what the box says, they use to say 3w LED equivalent to 60w tungsten but they were dreaming. More modern ones are a great improvement.

Lucy - coo, how do you know all this stuff? Careful you could end up an online consultant to old dopes like me!

Needless to say many thanks again.

Daft indeed - but do not worry - such near-existential questions nag most of us.
The sleep mode depends on how old the device is - almost like humans. On modern flat screen all depends on how the screen is illuminated. LED uses least power, Fluorescent much more, Plasma same as fluorescent. If you put TV in sleep mode you are saving all the electricity that goes to illuminate the screen - and it can be as much as 150W on large screen TV. In sleep mode there still is some electricity that powers the infrared sensors circuit that uses rather little – so the bottom line: your Wife has great power over you. The modern TV in sleep mode uses significantly, say 15x less power than when it is full on, but it is not zero. And even if it is totally off it still is using electricity as all of them still can have some dumb transformers. If you want it to use zero - pull the plug and don’t forget the sticky tape just in case your Mother was right - but how convenient is it?
Good manufacturers spell out the amount of electricity used in full mode and in sleep mode.
Multipoint plug lights - again those I have seen in last 10 years use nearly nothing. But if they are the old, Christmas light incandescent type - that is a different story - they may use as much as 5W.
About the light bulbs - go LED - but buy it from the store which will take them back without a fuss if you do not like the color of the light. The store displays and ratings on the boxes are notoriously inaccurate and who in the right mind knows what the 100 lx 3000K light bulb does in their house. If you can help it do not pay much attention to Watts or claims of Watts equivalency - treat it as a guide but not as statement of fact. Look and compare how much light they produce in lm=lumen or cd = candela or lx - lux. In the store take a 60 Watt incandescent bulb and find the LED that has the same cd or lx rating. Than the color - often given in degrees K. The hotter the light the whiter it is; so the 3000K light will be significantly whiter than 2300K light. You may want 3000K in the bathroom, but in the living room go for 2300K. There are many choices in larger stores and on line.
A guide (but varies by manufacturer):

Thanks Lucy,

Strange how these things nag at one, and amongst many, many other things physics is a completely close book to me - as is electricity, as I have demonstrated.

In fact here is another daft one I am sure. It took ages for my wife to convince me that when the 'sleep' button was on say a TV, that it was using as much as if it were switched on? However what about the lights on multiple point plugs? Are they as bad?

During the course of this I was reminded that my Mother, born in 1910 remained convinced until her death aged 86, that electricity leaked out of wall-plugs and always needed a plug (non-wired) to stop it happening. At least I wasn't as bad as her, I always knew sticky tape was just as good!

The hot water bottle question. The answer is YES.
More mass to hold heat the longer it will stay warm - all other conditions being equal.

No this is the figure from EDF and that's what we are still trying to understand. We are still doing the daily check on the meter to see if anything untoward is happening there. Remember this all started witha 'phone call from them (and confirmed via our return call) but we have yet to see a printed out version as requested.

So in many respects we have only the detail (as yet unconfirmed in writing) from an unknown telephone caller in EDF.

That is interesting about slightly higher daylight rates - we will look at that. What a performance?

Norman are you now saying it wasn't a four fold increase as confirmed by your electrician?

Cheap night time electricity is offset by slightly higher daytime electricity so don't take your eye off the bills, it doesn't always work out less, it's how you run things.

The EDF subcontractors all have French electrical certificates, My Nephew was one of them. The rest of the BS they spoke is probably as you have now found out untrue but they were only there to swap meters.

Sorry about the typos but couldn't find the 'edit' button when I came to post.

Well, I do have an update, which I have found very enlightening. Asthe major thing is a general non-specific to my house but to everyone 'who asks' (apparently) s that it is possible to re-schedule the electricity usage - way beyond just adjusting the water heater coming on and going off.

It is the same as the 'cheap night rate' in the UK, but here as I have just said apparently you have to ask for it. Our visiting electrician advised us of this. My wife said she had asked for this when the new meter had been put in, only to be told it (quote) 'was not available on this system'.

Our guy said well he was not surprised as the people putting in the meter are NOT EDF personnel but sub-contractors who are often not even electricians, but simply installation mechanics. As such they wouldn't know but rather than reveal their/his ignorance he spouted rubbish.

As we had been advised of the change required by EDF and someone had turned up with an EDF order to do the work we automatically assumed he was EDF -reasonable or just stupid?

Anyway when we heard that it was indeed possible to change to off-peak and be able to programme things like washing machines, and the heat-pump etc., it was patently obvious that for at least the time we have been in the house - three years now, we have been doing all the usual things at full rate, and with electricity that means a lot.

We then contacted EDF to get this confirmed, whch it was, and then ask how we could get our house sorted. Yes, possibke at a cost of €54. We swallowed our bile, and bit the bullet (to mix metaphors), and have now had the house set-up accordingly. My wife being typically French is ultra (in my view) houseproud and everything MUST be clean so she does a fair almount of washing every week - averaging about 4 a week. So there is a big saving on its own. Plus of course the heat-pump will now also run for one-third of its time on the off-peak rate.

Back to the bill, our electrician checked through the house and with the one exception of the freezer cabinet, all is in order. When we asked about the peak as advised by EDF he asked to see the bills for the previous periods, and although the latest were higher by about 10% he said this was largely due to increases generally, and that if we look through the YEARLY bills they averaged out pretty much the same as most households IF we took the off-peak settings into consideration.

So as we don't use the heat-pump for six months of the year at least, our water heating setting is now slightly adjusted to a bit earlier and off a bit earlier, and with washing done overnight, we are looking forward to a serious reduction in our outgoings. As OAP's every little helps as they say, so my thanks to everybody for their contributions.

I will leave you on this with one final and certainly stupid question, revealing again the depths of my ignorance. Over the past few days I have had a bad back - well bad side really, and I have resorted to the old hot water bottle treatment. The quetion is this - does the hot water in a hot water bottle stay hot longer the more water is put into the bottle?

Said it was daft but I honestly don't know.

Laptop Computer wattage: usually the modern laptops should not use more than about 65 W to 90 Watts. 1 Watt = 1 Volt x 1 Amper. The computer when going to sleep probably uses less than 5 Watts.
Heat Pump - some heat pumps that heat the air, in particular central air distribution, have additional electric strips for emergency when the refrigerant based condenser unit (the one on the outside) fails or the temperatures drop well below freezing. This would be an electric hog easily quadrupling your bill. Although I doubt if the heat pumps without central air handler have such electric strips.
And last the electric water heater internal thermostat went bonkers or got coated by calcium to the point that it constantly causes the water to be heated until overheat break cuts. You could recognize that the listening to the boiler - if you constantly hear water swishing inside and the scalding heat comes out of faucet - have the system checked.

Norman, to save the undoubted cost of the electrician, why not invest a few euros in a electricity monitor and actually look at your usage yourself. yo can go round switching items off and see where the electricity is going. You own the meter and it will pay for itself in no time.

David, when you make a statement about being very economical to heat, that has to be validated by comparison or the statement is pointless. If you say I have sufficient money and can afford to keep warm in my old stone building that's fine but to state it's economical without reference? Characterless modern boxes can with a little imagination be dressed with natural stone to take on the exact appearance of our chocolate box dwellings but they will cost a fraction of the money to heat. That would be very economical, and it is relevant to discuss your comment other wise not much point in posting as it hasn't much to do with Norman and his electricity increase it's just "my world is fine".

What do I do, I work on properties, I used to work on old cold Victorian ones but for the last 8-9 years on modern ones which is why I can appreciate just how low energy bills can go. I work on swimming pools as well I make the lowest running cost pools in the world, saves € thousands and reduces the production of tons of Co2 per season per pool. We have to reduce our Co2 production or the Oceans will get too acidic to support marine life and this at the current rate will kill fish by 2050.

That's where I am coming from.

Chris, I think you might have hit on something there with the freezer cabinet - ours also in one of our cellars. As I think I mentioned earlier my wife has noted recently it keeps over-frosting which means it doesn't seal. I suppose we should have disconnected it theN, but typically didn't as it had too much stuff in it. That and the oil heaters seem to be marked up for 'villainy' here.

Incidentally EDF told us they had automatically dropped the monthly bill to €110 but the excess will still have to be paid at the end of the year.Anyway we will see what the electrician says when he turns up.

Sorry Melissa the 2012 I referred to was on Ian's bill not mine. Problem when discussions dance around a bit I fear.

Ian the most consuming will probably be your pool pump as that is quite a high consumption but also over a long continuous period circa 12 hours? You could cut your bill for the pool by 90%.

Comment by David Matthews 12 hours ago
John Withnall, now my house is a permanent home it has proved to be very economical to heat. Chocolate box looks, stone walls and comfortable. I wouldn't change a thing. The stone retains heat very well once warm it was only a chore when the core was allowed to cool too far.
I pay my electricity every two months and update my readings online just before the billing date. It seems to work very smoothly.
Oh boy, very economical to heat compared to? When they build passivhaus or RT2012 thick stone walls are strangely missing from the specification because as you the say, it takes time to warm it up, not just time, money and the stone is cooling down all the time so requiring more money.
By contrast a modern well insulated building will heat up very quickly with just one small heater of some type saving loads of money and also loads of Co2. If I could knock down my old building I would and I would build a similar looking chocolate box appeal home but with passivhaus standards and faced with stone to give the same appeal.

Years ago in UK we had a sudden rise in our electricity consumption and the electric board came out and checked our appliances. It turned out to be a faulty thermostat on a (new to us) second hand chest freezer, which was in our garage so we weren't aware how much it was running. We stopped using it and advertised it for sale and happily some gypsies came and bought it which amused us no end.