On New Years Eve 2011 I was in Geelong at a restaurant, 800km from my home in Adelaide. This year I happened to be away from my children, who were staying elsewhere in Adelaide while I was interstate. My home was supposedly vacant. However I knew it was very hot in Adelaide that day (40C) and I wondered if this would affect my power consumption, for example an increased duty cycle on the fridge. I am just that sort of power-geek.
So I checked my Fluksometer via my 3G android phone. I was surprised to see 1000W being used since 1pm – about what my Air-con uses. I also noticed that around 7pm the power jumped by a few 100W, just like the lights had gone on, or perhaps the TV.
Looked like some one was in my home. On New Years Eve. Hmmmmmm.
The 24 hour plot below just was captured on (1 Jan) at 5:30pm, so it actually shows the tail end of the Dec 31 festivities. You can see the 1000W consumption until it shoots up around 1900 hours, then the rapid, parentally-induced decline at around 2030 hours as explained below…..
I was fortunate to be at the restaurant with a couple of people expert in these situations. Teenagers. They suspected “Party”. I was unsure. I called my beloved 16 year old daughter Amy to see if she “knew” anything about this phantom power problem. My gut feel was to call my mother (Amy’s grandmother) and ask her to visit my home but I thought I’d give Amy the benefit of the doubt. Amy said that she was at a friends house but would go around and check my house. She was not keen on using her grandmother to resolve the issue. Exactly 30 minutes later I received a text from her saying the air con and TV was on but she had switched them off.
By this stage half the restaurant (I was with a friend’s extended family) were crowded around my phone, watching the next development with excitement. My teenage brains-trust were calling “Party” but there was no way to know for sure. Sure enough the power drops, down to about 180W. About what the fridge motor uses. However curiously, there was none of the regular fridge cycling on and off. It was as if all the lights were off in the house but the fridge motor was running all the time to cool or freeze something.
I returned to Adelaide the next day (1 Jan). My home was very clean but I found a few tell-tale signs: disposable cups with sticky red liquid in them in one of the bins, a trace of the same red sticky stuff on my sink, and post it notes accidentally left on my fridge saying things like “Molly, you may have to open up another bottle”.
What happened to Amy? Well to be honest I wasn’t very mad, just curious about the mystery. I actually enjoyed the detective work side of guessing what was going on and finding supporting evidence. Bart, the inventer of the Fluksometer, was rolling on the floor laughing when I told him the tale.
All my friends knew about the incident so when Amy joined me in Geelong for the next week she was teased relentlessly. Eventually she came clean, and said:
“All my friends who didnt know Dad said ‘How could he do that? Who measures power from across the country’? Those that did know Dad said ‘He knows. Dont worry!'”
“When I realised we were busted there was a mass exodus. I was the last one out and could see a continuous line of teenagers stretched up the street over three blocks.”
One of Amys friends put it well: “You gotta get dumber parents Amy.”