Electrical Wiring in the Home/Hight Electric Bill and Breaker Box Wiring
Robert: We had a sunroom built onto the back of our house and the contractor installed a 240 volt, 2000 watt, 8.3 amp electric basboard heating element in it. Since then our electric bill has gone up by $70 to $75 a month. I can do novice electrical work up to installing a circuit breaker. I just finished changing out a 150 watt H.P.S. yard light for a 38 watt LED yard light and I put it on its own 20 amp circuit. When installing the circuit breaker I noticed that the wiring in our 200 amp Square D braker box didn't look right. I know the Neutral (white) wire goes to the front connectors and the ground wire to the back connectors with the black wire going to the circuit breaker. The contractor wired the circuits going to the sunroom with both the white and ground wire going together to the front connectors in the box. Also other contractors have done the same. Could be nothing in the sunroom is grounded? There is also one white wire going to the ground connector on the right side of the box. I think the reason the contractors wired it this way is because there is a thick aluminum wire beside the ground connectors on the right side of the box making the ground connectors harder to get to. Do you think this shabby wiring could cause an electrical leak? Any advice would be greatly appreciated. If I have to get an electrician to check out the wiring I'll just have to bear the expense as I don't have the experience to be messing around all the wiring in the breaker box and it would be better than getting electricuted and I may save some money on our electrical bill. Thank you, Bill
Philadelphia Licensed Electrician
Philadelphia License # 3516 - 16765
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I suppose the first question is when was the sunroom built? If it was this fall then I would ask what you pay per kilowatthour of electricity. A 2000 watt heater would use 2 kilowatthours an hour, so if you pay 25 cent a kwh that would cost 50 cents an hour to run, so 140 hours of operation would cost $70. Since a week has 168 hours that would mean the heater was drawing power 20% of the time. Lower kwh rate, the longer it ran, but you get the idea...
If it killed your bill during the summer, it may be that the thermostat wasn't shutting the heater off and you were paying to air condition the heat out of the place and heat the air conditioned air, if you get my drift. I had a commercial customer that had this situation and they cut their bill to 35% of what they had been paying after I discovered and corrected the issue.
As to the wiring in the panel, unless you are in a subpanel the neutral and ground wires go to the same location, as the neutral is bonded and grounded at the main service panel. Front or back doesn't matter, if I understand what you are saying. It used to be common practice to insert the ground and neutral conductors under the same terminal screw to facilitate identification. Recent changes to the NEC and Underwriters Lab [UL] requirements have led to the installation of only one neutral conductor under any terminal screw, whereas it is still allowed to combine multiple grounding conductors under one terminal screw. In older panels there are often not enough terminal points to allow the practice now required.
Since it sounds like you are comfortable taking the panel cover off, even if not interfering with the wiring, send me a couple of photos of the wiring that concerns you. It is probably normal, if sloppy or not up to your expectations.