Check the Electrical Power Meter

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Tech Tips, March 2010

electrical meter

Feeling the power

Ben Weiss, CPBE, a contract engineer in Kansas City, MO, told me about a recent head-scratcher with a station's transmitter power bill. This 16.5kW TPO (50kW ERP) station's transmitter site is not unusual, having a transmitter and HVAC as the largest power consumers.

Given the regular equipment usage, it was expected the electric bill would be consistent month to month, with usual changes for the HVAC with the seasons. However, the station owner noticed the power bill would fluctuate by as much as 50 percent each month. Weiss was asked to investigate.

The power company was willing to work on the problem to find a solution, but it wasn't until Weiss asked how the meter was being read that a possible answer was found. The power company was obtaining the meter reading remotely by sending an RF signal through the power line to the meter. Weiss began asking about the reliability of the RF signal in the presence of an RF broadcast signal. The power company could not answer.

To verify the readings, the power company began sending someone to physically read the meter. It was discovered that the station had been overpaying because the remote reading was intermittently higher than the actual reading. The station is now set up to have its meter read in person.

From this story, it seems like a good idea to compare the power bill information to the actual meter reading once in a while.

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