Phantom Power Consumption

Phantom load or Phantasm…

So what’s going on with the graphs you ask.  They’re captures of the hourly power consumption of our humble little cottage.  You can check your own consumption as well if you’re a Hydro One customer.  Just have to do a little dance at their website to setup your personal My Account login.  I’ve been following our consumption since we bought the our little get away.  The worst offender for consumption is of course, heating, followed by the water heater, and then the Stove/Range.  Its an interesting exercise to try and match activities to consumption.  Unfortunately the site information isn’t updated until the next day.  Still you can tell when morning coffee happens.  The system will resolve down to the most minor of consumptions changes, but time wise it only resolves down to 1 hour intervals.  Which can be a bit misleading.  The site does include electrical costs, but this is grossly misleading.  Under current billing practices your electrical consumption is less than half of your bill.  The other five eights of your bill are nebulous percentage charges that are for the most part linked to the electrical consumption.  Only Hydro One understands how this structure works.  As evidenced by the Minister in charge of energy in Ontario telling the Auditory General of Ontario that her staff don’t understand how the billing system works.

So back to the main point of these graphs.  I was up at the property until the middle of December.  Heating was wood stove and baseboard heater.  I had shut off the majority of heaters except for 2 units.  The choice of which 2 was based on keeping a minimum temperature inside when I was away so as to not have any plumbing freeze.  The actual watt rating of the baseboard heaters isn’t known as the labeling is on the backside of the units, and that would necessitate removal of the units to view the label.  The Thermostat was set for 7C while I was away, and 16C when I was there.  The wood stove would quickly takeover heating when it got rolling, but around 4 am the baseboard heaters would have to pickup the slack.

Came time to shut everything down, water, sump pump and heat.  As a last ceremony I switched the Thermostat control switch  into the position between Auto Heat and Auto Cool.  I pulled the batteries for the electronics, sensing and programming.  When I left the temperature was still being displayed, I assumed, correctly, this was a stored charge that would run down after a bit of time.  The time it took was actually considerably longer than I’d expected.  Around the middle of the afternoon on the 15th is where things get mysterious.  On the graph power consumption ramps up to a peek level of 3.0 kWh, about 2 hours before I locked-up and departed.  Hadn’t payed attention to the displayed information on the Thermostat as the system is supposed to be now off.  I don’t know if the display would have told me that it was heating.

If you watch the dates go by you’ll see that for more than 3 days the heat was running flat out, full on, and curiously the consumption climbs ever so slowly to 3.3 kWh.  This is weird as the outside temperature at the same time was more then high enough to allow the system to cycle (see the Daily graph).  I’m not sure why the consumption creeps up by an additional 300 Wh.  Sometime during the night on day 4, about 3:30 the heaters shutdown.  I can only conclude that the Thermostat’s residual power gave out and the relay that operates the baseboard heaters dropped out.  My mistake in this process, was not switching off the heaters at the breakers.  I’m speculating that pulling the batteries, threw the system into a broken state (crashed) with the relay turned on.  The Designers mistake in this event is that the control switch should have been a dead-man switch and killed the power to the relay, not been an sensed input to the Thermostat’s processor.  If a Air Conditioner had been attached It may well turned that on as well.

After the run of 3 1/2 days, the actual phantom loads become visible.  Hydro One’s graphing software has a sliding scale, so the consumption looks like it jumps up, but its the scale that changed.  From the 20th and onward you can see Yardcam and its associated electronics running.  You can even see when Yardcam wakes up and goes to sleep.  There is the odd spike (relatively speaking) were software processes run that use more power.

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