Shared circuit breaker between two apartments?

For those that know about house electrical wiring I have a question, is there any way that two apartments could be sharing a circuit breaker while at the same time having completely separate electric bills?

The back story, in early Dec I moved to a new apartment same city just needed something bigger my last place was a studio. The apartment is actually the entire first floor of a converted 3 story row house in the city. There are actually 4 apartments here, basement, 1st, 2nd, 3rd floor apartments. All completely separate with only a public entry hallway and separate energy bills, only the city water bill is shared between the apartments.

So I get the first electric bill back in early Jan and it’s considerably higher than I was expecting. I know that the heating a larger area is more but I didn’t expect it to be so much more. Also both old and new aprts have the same number of minimal appliances, no dish washer, or laundry so there is no usage jump there.

About a week ago one of the circuit breakers tripped while I was making coffee. Before I switched it back on I noticed nothing else lost power and figured out this one breaker only controls two outlets and the closet light in my apartment. The only thing on either outlet is the coffee maker. Yesterday the same breaker tripped again when I was making coffee but since I was in a rush leaving for work I just turned off the coffee maker and left the circuit off.

Now yesterday returning from work I have a note on my door from the girl that lives in the basement apartment saying that she thinks her bedroom outlets and lights share a circuit breaker with my apartment and to contact her. I turned the breaker back on but didn’t bother to contact her I’d rather deal with the property owner directly.

I did call the company that owns the house (it’s a company not an individual landlord) asking about this and my concern that my electric bill is possibly shared. The lady at the company said she would contact the maintenance guy to find out how the house is wired and get back to me. That was late yesterday and I haven’t heard back from them yet, I’m just trying to figure out if there is anyway this is a legit situation. In my mind the apartment downstairs is sharing part or all of my electric bill usage but I don’t really know much about this stuff.

Unless they’ve done outlet by outlet metering, they’ve got the meters in front of the breaker box, so you are paying for her electricity.

Another alternative, they only have one meter on the house and they divide the bill by 4.

is there any way that two apartments could be sharing a circuit breaker while at the same time having completely separate electric bills

Ha ha! This one I know!

Yes, it is entirely possible, though I suspect a code violation. Think of the electric wires in the apartment like blood vessels and the breaker box like a heart. You have 4 hearts with 4 systems attached. But the placement of the walls and such it arbitrary from electricity’s perspective. There can be a line tapped from say your plug in the wall to her closet light, or her bedroom, or whatever. Whoever’s meter this line ultimately attaches to is paying for that path’s electric usage.

Right, so in that case, you would have one electric bill shared between two apartments. Jason is right. The location of the meter is key, here. The electricity typically goes Power Company --> Electric Meter --> Electrical Panel (circuit breakers) --> House. Unless you guys have agreed on some ratio for splitting, I’d be very surprised if you weren’t paying the whole electricity bill.

Is there one electric meter or several?

Your bill being high is a completely separate issue than the shared circuit, you realize. They may be related, they may not. For instance, you’re in Balitomre. It’s cold there. What provides your heat? An electric or gas furnace? Baseboard heaters? Steam radiator?

I’d meet with the girl downstairs. Tell her you share the same concern (that you’re on the same circuit) and do a little test where she leaves one of the lights she suspects is on the circuit on and you switch off the breaker you were using to reset your coffee maker. If the circuit is indeed the same, ask her if she is paying an electric bill or if the landlords told her they paid electric. If she’s not paying a bill monthly, it’s likely you’re paying for both apartments.

Bonus : If the downstairs girl is pretty and single then you’ve got the perfect setup to ask her out.

In a house situation you could be sharing a panel with you getting the bad end (bill) of the situation. You should talk to your landlord about this. My daughters apartment complex shares water bills, which considering she is a single in a studio means I am sure she pays more than her fair share, but the bill is pretty small so we don’t fight it. But a power bill can get pretty pricey.

Welcome to the joy of having a non-tiny apartment in Baltimore. Shit’s cold, man. And December/January have been bloody freezing.

That said, you might be paying for her electricity. You should talk with her! Also, you should come hang out sometime.

As a sneaky way to work it, you could call the electric company from a different phone line and tell them you’re thinking of moving into your building but wanted to know what the average electric bills are for an apartment there (they normally won’t break it down to individual #'s, but at least it should give you an idea of whether you’re shouldering an extra load or not).

Yeah I did that earlier today, but forgot to ask the average rate of the other apartments in the building. I didn’t think to ask about the other apartments and I may call back to do that but just to reach a person at BGE I was on hold for about 20 mins and I don’t really feel like sitting on hold that long again today.

So I called the power company and they would only give me the yearly average for the apartment which when divided by 12 my bill is a bit higher but it’s winter so it should be above average. I did think to ask them how many accounts were at this address and they answered 5, one for each apartment plus one for the public spaces, I guess this is for the entry way/hallway lights between the apartments? I didn’t think to ask the yearly average of each apartment till I got off the phone, I might call back later today to get those numbers.

Here is the interesting part, the property company called back a few hours ago after I had already spoken with the power company, saying that the first floor and basement floor are indeed on the same meter and the electric bill has to be in the property company’s name. The bill would be split 50/50 with the downstairs apartment.

It’s funny how they never mentioned that before and made it very clear to me when signing the lease that utilities were to be under my name and I needed to contact the power company about getting my account activated for this apartment. I told them that i didn’t agree to a 50/50 split when moving in. The women on the phone said she would get back to me.

The problem with doing a 50/50 split to me I’m pretty minimalist with power usage, I only have a laptop. Don’t own a tv/entertainment center or desktop pc, don’t use any space heaters I even power off my cable modem and router before going to bed each night and turn off the heat before bed and when I’m at work. So most of the time it’s just the fridge that is using electricity at home.

I going to try and talk to the girl downstairs and see if she has been paying for electricity all this time. She was here before me not sure how long though.

Bonus : If the downstairs girl is pretty and single then you’ve got the perfect setup to ask her out.

Nope and nope I already have a girlfriend and not at all interested in the girl downstairs.

I think you should just swallow your pride and do the 50/50 split. It’s fair. Or you could write down every piece of electrical equipment that you use, time your usage, figure out your kWh, and compare it to hers. And then you’ll find out the split should be 45/55, at least this month. Unless she’s running a growhouse down there or some kind of massive home theater setup that’s always on, 50/50 is fair enough.

Yeah I’ll probably have to go with the 50/50 split because I don’t really have a choice. My only real recourse would be to move out, then get into some sort of legal battle of whether I broke the lease or not and have to fight to get my security deposit back which is totally not worth the hassle.

If it makes you feel any better, the biggest energy users in a home are typically lights and the refrigerator, so you and your neighbor are probably pretty close.

Really? what about heat, I always thought heat/air conditioning was the biggest factor.

Man I really can’t wait to live somewhere with a smart meter, I would love to be able to actually track electric usage. I was just looking online at things like the Kill A Watt, I didn’t see one that took data over a long period of time and had some way of exporting the data to a computer. Something like this would be great if I could download the data wireless or even with a usb cable to a computer.

Well heat depends on what your heating system is. If you have electric heaters then yeah, those are just terrible all around and are going to be your biggest offender. Outside of heating/AC it typically goes 1) Lights, and 2) Appliances with large appliances like Refrigerators, Washing Machines, etc. being the big ones.

Based on seeing several bill I would have to disagree with you on that. I think a lot of TV watching, heating/cooling would easily surpass the juice used by a refridgerator, especially in a one person household. I am basing this on bills I have seen over the years for my grandma, dad and now my daughter. The modern fridge in a one person home is pretty energy friendly.

Hey, maybe. I’m just going on remembered averages from the last time I looked these things up. I’m sure if you watch a lot of TV on your 50" plasma and have an energy-star fridge then things look differently.

Suprisingly, the DVR is one one the biggest energy hogs in the house. Bigger than the refrigerator. I would not have believed it if I didn’t have to do the research to avoid losing the bet that I lost anyway.

Er? The average fridge pulls 400+ watts. I can’t imagine a DVR would be more than that (given that a whole gaming PC can run on 500 watts, and that’s only at load). Heck, I would think the average DVR would hum along at 50 watts. According to this article, a DirecTv one runs at 33 watts.

The only way that would work out is if a fridge actually pulls the 400+ watts intermittently and very infrequently at that, which is possible, I guess.

It’s not the max pull, but the average that matters.

I bought one of those electricity usage measuring devices (pretty sure it was a Kill-A-Watt or whatever brand). I expected that there would be a lot of vampire devices (using a lot of electricity when basically dormant), but actually there weren’t any significant vampires that I can recall. I seem to recall the Tivos also being fairly power hungry (because they’re basically running 24/7).

Some downsides to the device is that you can’t use them on ceiling lights. I don’t remember if mine was useable on big appliances with the special cords (i.e. washer dryers, etc.). In general, I don’t think I got any real savings as a result of playing with the device, but at least I got a little peace of mind about not needing to unplug all kinds of dormant or semi-dormant devices.