Join Early Retirement Today
Reply
 
Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
The perils of technology-- got a $200 electric bill this month
Old 05-21-2007, 12:47 PM   #1
Moderator Emeritus
Nords's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: Oahu
Posts: 26,616
The perils of technology-- got a $200 electric bill this month

I'm going on a trip this week and I've been trying to make sure that I pay the bills before I go, so last week I noticed that our electric bill was late. Since it didn't come in the mail (hey, they're the ones insisting on paper delivery, not me) I went searching for it on HECO's website. $200.33. That's truly unique in the dictionary sense of the word-- the first (and hopefully only) time in 18 years here that ours has been higher than $100.

But first a little background. When we connected our solar (photovoltaic) array to the grid two years ago, the old analog utility meter used to spin "backwards" as we dumped more power into HECO's grid than we were using. The mechanical dials made it difficult to automate the task of the meter reader, but it was pretty simple to read it and to process the bill. The "priceless" part of the analog meter was being able to show your neighbors "Look, it's spinning backwards!" followed by demonstrating the Dilbert Engineer's Dance of Joy.

However last August HECO (presumably notified by our neighbors of my unauthorized customer amusement at public-utility expense) replaced the "old" analog meter with a digital model. They wouldn't let me keep the old one because they shipped it back to Tijuana the manufacturer for recycling. Or else they suspected why I wanted to keep it.

The digital meter is extremely uncool for several Luddite reasons, the first being that the LCD display doesn't spin backwards. (v2.0 will doubtless have an animated LCD icon that rotates at an arbitrarily proportionate rate in the appropriate direction.) You're probably thinking to yourself "Ah, but the digital meter can report its readings to HECO over the Internet or the utility lines, thereby eliminating the expense of a meter reader." You would be technically correct but you would not be a HECO customer.

This meter reports its data over the meter-readernet. Every 15 minutes, 24/7, the meter enters three numbers into its vast memory: the total number of KWHrs delivered by HECO to that minute since the meter started recording its data, the total number of KWHRs delivered by us to HECO, and (stay with me here for the technical part) their difference. You engineers are correctly suspecting that anyone who uses memory to store the difference of two numbers already stored elsewhere in memory is not an honors graduate of the smart design school.

So now the meter reader has to use an electronic download tool to obtain the 15-minute-increment data (because just transcribing the monthly numbers off the display would not justify the expense of employing a meter reader). The meter reader delivers the data to the billing processors who upload it into their automated (finally!) billing system.

However the clerk still has to tell the system which numbers to use to calculate the bill... because HECO's 1990-era billing system is not set up for electronic meter readers. So last week a clerk had to choose whether we paid for (1) all the KWHrs HECO's delivered to us since last August, (2) all the KWHrs we've delivered to HECO, or (3) the difference. You know where this is going. Of course these numbers are helpfully printed on the bill so I could quickly figure out what happened.

Luckily the billing supervisor caught the mistake and stopped the bill ("Ha, Nords won't see this one!!"). Unfortunately the billing supervisor didn't know that "stopping the bill" only stopped the mailed version and not the electronic one posted on HECO's website (without apology or explanation). As a slimy customer I was forced to talk to both the billing dept ("Hey, how did you know about this?!?") and the net-metering dept and, because they can't be bothered to work it out between themselves, to report their conversations to each other. Confusion & hilarity ensued, especially when the billing supervisor accused the net-metering supervisor of being responsible for the mistake-- which I promptly related to my new good buddy the net-metering supervisor.

"Whaddya do all day?!?" indeed.

The "revised" bill (in true Orwellian fashion, HECO says the first version never happened) charges for 83 KWHrs-- $19.21. Those are good numbers!

The net-metering supervisor says HECO is attempting to simultaneously upgrade their meter-reading system and their billing system. (He's hoping to retire before that happens.) The good news is that HECO's net-metering contracts have doubled in two years from just 26 to over 60, and most of the new ones are for 8-10 KW arrays.

Our 3 KW array suddenly seems somehow inadequate... I think I'm suffering from photovoltaic envy.
__________________

__________________
*
*

The book written on E-R.org, "The Military Guide to Financial Independence and Retirement", on sale now! For more info see "About Me" in my profile.
I don't spend much time here anymore, so please send me a PM. Thanks.
Nords is offline   Reply With Quote
Join the #1 Early Retirement and Financial Independence Forum Today - It's Totally Free!

Are you planning to be financially independent as early as possible so you can live life on your own terms? Discuss successful investing strategies, asset allocation models, tax strategies and other related topics in our online forum community. Our members range from young folks just starting their journey to financial independence, military retirees and even multimillionaires. No matter where you fit in you'll find that Early-Retirement.org is a great community to join. Best of all it's totally FREE!

You are currently viewing our boards as a guest so you have limited access to our community. Please take the time to register and you will gain a lot of great new features including; the ability to participate in discussions, network with our members, see fewer ads, upload photographs, create a retirement blog, send private messages and so much, much more!

Re: The perils of technology-- got a $200 electric bill this month
Old 05-21-2007, 01:15 PM   #2
Thinks s/he gets paid by the post
greg's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2005
Posts: 1,071
Re: The perils of technology-- got a $200 electric bill this month

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nords
... I think I'm suffering from photovoltaic envy.
May I suggest a silicone injection?
__________________

__________________
Compounding: Never forget! Never not remember!
greg is offline   Reply With Quote
Re: The perils of technology-- got a $200 electric bill this month
Old 05-21-2007, 02:27 PM   #3
Full time employment: Posting here.
 
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 844
Re: The perils of technology-- got a $200 electric bill this month

I once got a phone bill (when I was working and had 4 business lines into the house), for somewhere north of $6000 for one month (all 4 lines). Normal bill was around $300.

It showed local usage of approx 180,000 minutes, billed at something like 2.5/minute (but because it was local didn't show who I supposedly called).

At first I feared that somehow I had managed to leave all 4 lines connected to the internet (back in the dial-up days), 24/7 for the whole month....

Luckily as it turned out it was mathematically impossible for me to have that many minutes in one month (4 lines * 31 days * 24 hours * 60 minutes = 178,560)...it took 2 years to get the balance off my bill (I basically told verizon I wasn't paying it under any circumstances, but continued to pay the new charges every month), and eventually they just dropped it off...never got an explanation.

Sure was glad I wasn't paying with Automatic Electronic Funds Transfer every month!

__________________
farmerEd is offline   Reply With Quote
Re: The perils of technology-- got a $200 electric bill this month
Old 05-21-2007, 02:37 PM   #4
Thinks s/he gets paid by the post
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Location: Mesa
Posts: 3,588
Re: The perils of technology-- got a $200 electric bill this month

Quote:
Originally Posted by OldMcDonald
I once got a phone bill (when I was working and had 4 business lines into the house), for somewhere north of $6000 for one month (all 4 lines). Normal bill was around $300.

It showed local usage of approx 180,000 minutes, billed at something like 2.5/minute (but because it was local didn't show who I supposedly called).

At first I feared that somehow I had managed to leave all 4 lines connected to the internet (back in the dial-up days), 24/7 for the whole month....

Luckily as it turned out it was mathematically impossible for me to have that many minutes in one month (4 lines * 31 days * 24 hours * 60 minutes = 178,560)...it took 2 years to get the balance off my bill (I basically told verizon I wasn't paying it under any circumstances, but continued to pay the new charges every month), and eventually they just dropped it off...never got an explanation.

Sure was glad I wasn't paying with Automatic Electronic Funds Transfer every month!

Once when I was checking out of a hotel in San Francisco, I had a similar experience. When the woman behind the desk printed my bill for the week, it was over 500 pages -- all in-room movie charges. Since I had been in meetings all week, I hadn't even had a chance to turn the TV on. I was worried that I might have trouble convincing the hotel management of that fact until we determined that I would have had to watch several dozen movies at a time, 24 hours a day, while I was in the hotel to rack up the bill that printed out. I never did find out what happened.
__________________
sgeeeee is offline   Reply With Quote
Re: The perils of technology-- got a $200 electric bill this month
Old 05-21-2007, 02:50 PM   #5
Thinks s/he gets paid by the post
SecondCor521's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2006
Location: Boise
Posts: 2,401
Re: The perils of technology-- got a $200 electric bill this month

Nords, glad you got your bill straightened out.

I used to work for a bank, and several times we made mistakes that we desperately tried to hide from the customers. It's never good policy to have your customer's figure out that you've temporarily misplaced a few million dollars. Examples:

1. One time a data entry clerk, attempting to enter a $3.75 customer payment, entered the payment as $3,750,000,000.00. Because of some sort of accounting/auditing thing, said-same data entry clerk couldn't edit/correct/fix the entry, so we had to get IT to write a special program or something to delete the transaction. For a week or two somewhere there was a customer who had a credit balance that was maybe 100x the entire bank's assets.

2. One time they ran the program that paid the bank mortgages from the bank checking accounts twice. Probably temporarily overdrew a few thousand accounts. Luckily they fixed that one before the sun came up.

2Cor521
__________________
"At times the world can seem an unfriendly and sinister place, but believe us when we say there is much more good in it than bad. All you have to do is look hard enough, and what might seem to be a series of unfortunate events, may in fact be the first steps of a journey." Violet Baudelaire.
SecondCor521 is offline   Reply With Quote
Re: The perils of technology-- got a $200 electric bill this month
Old 05-21-2007, 02:53 PM   #6
Give me a museum and I'll fill it. (Picasso)
Give me a forum ...
TromboneAl's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 11,197
Re: The perils of technology-- got a $200 electric bill this month

I've often thought that I need a word for this. That is, a word for "time wasted for being too much on top of things."

If I understand your post, Nords, if you hadn't gone online and checked, or worried that your bill was late, the corrected bill would have eventually arrived, and you wouldn't have had to make any calls.

This has often happened to me, for example, checking the status of shipped packages.
__________________
Al
TromboneAl is offline   Reply With Quote
Re: The perils of technology-- got a $200 electric bill this month
Old 05-21-2007, 03:02 PM   #7
Give me a museum and I'll fill it. (Picasso) Give me a forum ...
REWahoo's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2002
Location: Texas Hill Country
Posts: 42,078
Re: The perils of technology-- got a $200 electric bill this month

Quote:
Originally Posted by TromboneAl
I've often thought that I need a word for this. That is, a word for "time wasted for being too much on top of things."
I thought we already had a word: analysis. We just don't pronounce the first four letters correctly.


__________________
Numbers is hard

When I hit 70, it hit back

Retired in 2005 at age 58, no pension
REWahoo is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-22-2007, 11:43 AM   #8
Give me a museum and I'll fill it. (Picasso)
Give me a forum ...
cute fuzzy bunny's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2003
Location: Losing my whump
Posts: 22,697
See how easy working is? You wouldnt have had time to look into it, you'd have gnashed your teeth, broken every lightbulb with a broomstick, paid the bill and moved on with your life.
__________________
Be fearful when others are greedy, and greedy when others are fearful. Just another form of "buy low, sell high" for those who have trouble with things. This rule is not universal. Do not buy a 1973 Pinto because everyone else is afraid of it.
cute fuzzy bunny is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-22-2007, 08:56 PM   #9
Recycles dryer sheets
VoyT's Avatar
 
Join Date: Feb 2005
Posts: 445
Uh CFB, last time I looked at this thread, I could have sworn your post was listed under "TH." You do a switch, or did this new software just turn into a wayback machine?
__________________
"Coffee: the finest organic suspension ever devised." -- Kathryn Janeway
VoyT is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-22-2007, 09:57 PM   #10
Give me a museum and I'll fill it. (Picasso)
Give me a forum ...
cute fuzzy bunny's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2003
Location: Losing my whump
Posts: 22,697
Yeah, when the conversion went through, everyone went back to their original login name. I begged for CFB back, and was quickly and magically granted it by the mysterious Janet.
__________________
Be fearful when others are greedy, and greedy when others are fearful. Just another form of "buy low, sell high" for those who have trouble with things. This rule is not universal. Do not buy a 1973 Pinto because everyone else is afraid of it.
cute fuzzy bunny is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-22-2007, 10:27 PM   #11
Thinks s/he gets paid by the post
thefed's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 2,203
nords...


im sure youve answered this before, but what did your 3kw arraycost to get up and running...and what are the savings like?
__________________
thefed is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-22-2007, 11:36 PM   #12
Give me a museum and I'll fill it. (Picasso)
Give me a forum ...
clifp's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2006
Posts: 7,450
I once got a $400 bill for internet service instead of $25 because ISP (I don't even remember which one) computers didn't know that Hawaii was part of the United States and was billing me at the internation rate $.40/minute The first customer service rep even tried to argue the point with me. Fortunately the supervisor quickly agreed...
__________________
clifp is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-23-2007, 01:06 AM   #13
Moderator Emeritus
Nords's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: Oahu
Posts: 26,616
Quote:
Originally Posted by clifp View Post
I once got a $400 bill for internet service instead of $25 because ISP (I don't even remember which one) computers didn't know that Hawaii was part of the United States and was billing me at the internation rate $.40/minute The first customer service rep even tried to argue the point with me. Fortunately the supervisor quickly agreed...
My favorite is the "customer service" rep who wants a weather update then and has to recite their stories of their "Hawaya trip"... and then five minutes later they're telling me "Oh, sorry, we only ship to the United States."
__________________
*
*

The book written on E-R.org, "The Military Guide to Financial Independence and Retirement", on sale now! For more info see "About Me" in my profile.
I don't spend much time here anymore, so please send me a PM. Thanks.
Nords is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-23-2007, 01:24 AM   #14
Moderator
bssc's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2005
Posts: 9,925
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nords View Post
My favorite is the "customer service" rep who wants a weather update then and has to recite their stories of their "Hawaya trip"... and then five minutes later they're telling me "Oh, sorry, we only ship to the United States."
Be glad that you don't live in New Mexico. They had to add USA onto their license plates since people were getting confused.
__________________
bssc is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-23-2007, 03:24 AM   #15
Recycles dryer sheets
 
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 107
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nords View Post
I'm going on a trip this week and ... When we connected our solar (photovoltaic) array to the grid two years ago ...
WOW ! I'm impressed. What part of the country do you live in ? I'd love to hear more about this system.
__________________
theoldwizard is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-23-2007, 03:31 AM   #16
Recycles dryer sheets
 
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 107
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nords View Post
... the old analog utility meter used to spin "backwards" as we dumped more power into HECO's grid than we were using....
You should be happy that they only replaced the meter. I heard the same story during the 70's (after the first energy crisis). That guy's utility company sued him for fraud and almost won !

There are laws now in most (all?) states, that say the utility company must buy surplus power, but not at the same rate they sell it to you. Back then there were no such laws. ("We never had a contract to buy power from you !")

The old solution was 2 meters. One read in the forward direction and the other read in the backward direction. (I don't know what prevented those mechanical meters from spinning backward; probably some kind of ratchet/one way clutch)
__________________
theoldwizard is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-23-2007, 06:56 PM   #17
Recycles dryer sheets
Scrapr's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2005
Location: Bend
Posts: 267
Am I misremembering?

Wasn't there a way to make your meter run backwards by using a magnet? Supposedly used by pot growers trying to hide large energy usage. (So I've heard)
__________________
Scrapr is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-23-2007, 07:03 PM   #18
Give me a museum and I'll fill it. (Picasso)
Give me a forum ...
cute fuzzy bunny's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2003
Location: Losing my whump
Posts: 22,697
yeah, but it had to be an electromagnet, and the electromagnet consumed twice as much energy as the growth lamps did.
__________________
Be fearful when others are greedy, and greedy when others are fearful. Just another form of "buy low, sell high" for those who have trouble with things. This rule is not universal. Do not buy a 1973 Pinto because everyone else is afraid of it.
cute fuzzy bunny is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-25-2007, 09:49 PM   #19
Dryer sheet wannabe
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 13
The "priceless" part of the analog meter was being able to show your neighbors "Look, it's spinning backwards!"

My father once owned a home with cheap taxes on it. He told a the lady next door the taxes were cheap, that was the end of cheap taxes for my father.
__________________
rec is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-25-2007, 10:12 PM   #20
Thinks s/he gets paid by the post
 
Join Date: Apr 2007
Posts: 1,304
Quote:
Originally Posted by rec View Post
The "priceless" part of the analog meter was being able to show your neighbors "Look, it's spinning backwards!"

My father once owned a home with cheap taxes on it. He told a the lady next door the taxes were cheap, that was the end of cheap taxes for my father.
oops :
__________________

__________________
megacorp-firee is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply


Currently Active Users Viewing This Thread: 1 (0 members and 1 guests)
 
Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off


Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
June Electric Bill IHateCNBC FIRE and Money 57 07-21-2006 05:07 PM
Bad news insurance bill Martha FIRE and Money 6 05-08-2006 10:37 AM

 

 
All times are GMT -6. The time now is 07:34 AM.
 
Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.8 Beta 1
Copyright ©2000 - 2017, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.