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bcool
Premium
join:2000-08-25
The Ozarks

4 edits

Gas company hanky panky or bona fide glitch?

Subject: new construction

This topic may not be entirely appropriate here. It's more of a complaint than anything.

1.) Installed dual heat central heat electric heat pump + Ruud natural gas furnace

2.) Hooked up with gas company that had just been taken over by new management out of Colorado that covers these parts of Missouri

3.) Everything hunkydory. When winter temps began I opted to switch to natural gas heat only because of the decent price. Nice heat this gas heat. Not as warm and fuzzy as wood fireplace heat but nice.

4.) First month bill comes in. Very nice. 1700 square ft. home (400 of that is partial basement): $58 Of course we're having mild winter again.

5.) Second month bill comes in. $59 Still happy with that as I compare utilities with my costs in previous all electric home. Gas is still working for me.

6.) Then comes the third month which covered December - January. $131.79 ! The usage was over double the previous months but our weather could not have accounted for the shocking increase. Yet I go out and look at meter and the reading is in range of the end reading on statement. How can this be?

And now page 2---without so much as a note or letter included in the bill, the gas company headquartered in Littleton, Colorado admitted over the telephone that there had been some kind of glitch in the electronic chip (something like that) that had been reading gas usage. I haven't a clue how they were alerted of such a problem but they were. Apparently when they fixed the errant chip, the meter corrected itself (?) and caught up on the real actual usage over the past months. So the gas company proceeded to produce statements and send them out like nothing had happened. Though yesterday, they apparently were bombarded with other phone calls from folks in these parts complaining about gas bills that had more than doubled over previous months. Again in southeast Missouri our weather could not have accounted for this spike.

What upset me the most is that the customer service guy I talked to didn't want to discuss the situation and was anxious to pass me on to the credit department (apparently they are "graciously" allowing folks inflicted by this problem to payout their bills over the coming months). But the rep had no apology for the predicament. Nada.

I finished with the representative and without losing my temper I might add. But then stewed over the incident for an hour or so until I decided to call back for a better explanation. I was fortunate to get somebody else who was willing to explain the problem in as much detail as she was able to. I could begin to comprehend the alleged problem.

I still feel a little cheated even though I can understand the problem intellectually. I have no way of verifying that what they say is what actually happened. Now they say the problem in my particular area was pervasive so that would at least say they didn't single me out. I've just never had anything like this happen to me before, so I wonder this: because the gas company out of Littleton, Colorado that covers parts of Missouri most assuredly is a regulated utility company, I guess I'm just suppose to take their word for it when they more than double my gas bill over previous months. Surely they would not engage in fraud, right? So I should get that silly notion out of my head! Right?

For the time being until I cool down: I have cancelled the installation of another NG home appliance for my home. And I have switched to my heat pump as primary heating and to gas for emergency heat or when outside temps drop below heat pump set point which I think is around 30 degrees.

Sorry to trouble you with my gas company woes.


tberg

join:2001-08-23
Greenville, SC

Re: Gas company fraud or bona fide glitch?

So you were undercharged for 2 months and equalled out on the next. You paid for what you got. They had a glitch remote-reading, but eventually corrected the problem.
I see no problem, especially if they are willing to work out a payment plan for the larger bill.
Yes, communication from the company would have been nice, but you aren't paying for something you didn't receive.
And, for switching between Heat Pump and gas, google "Economic Setpoint" and calculate that. That's the way you determine at what temp it's cheaper to use gas or electric.



bcool
Premium
join:2000-08-25
The Ozarks

1 edit

said by tberg:

So you were undercharged for 2 months and equalled out on the next. You paid for what you got. They had a glitch remote-reading, but eventually corrected the problem.
I see no problem, especially if they are willing to work out a payment plan for the larger bill.
Yes, communication from the company would have been nice, but you aren't paying for something you didn't receive.
And, for switching between Heat Pump and gas, google "Economic Setpoint" and calculate that. That's the way you determine at what temp it's cheaper to use gas or electric.



1.) Of course what you say makes sense. But since this is my first experience with gas, I was not aware that they could or would make such adjustments. Nothing else has worked that way for me before.

2.) Since they are a regulated utility, I expect this is just as they say it is now that I have calmed down a bit more after dealing with a somewhat condescending customer service rep. and as you referred to, without so much as a word of explanation in the bill.

3.) You may not see a problem but how do I know what my actual usage was for each of the previous months? Well, no sense in beating a dead horse.

Thanks for your suggestion re: economic Setpoint.
--
"in flagrante delicto"

comp
Premium
join:2001-08-16
Evans City, PA

This happens all the time. Most companies dont read the meter every other month so there is always either a catch up or a catch down



bcool
Premium
join:2000-08-25
The Ozarks

Thanks for that. This is something I did not know. Your comment really helps in my letting this go for now....
--
"in flagrante delicto"



mityfowl
Premium
join:2000-11-06
Dallas, TX
reply to bcool

Re: Gas company hanky panky or bona fide glitch?

$83-84/mo.

Are you ok with that?



Grumpy
Premium
join:2001-07-28
NW CT
Reviews:
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reply to bcool

Our local electricity company (CL&P) estimates monthly bills when the meter reader doesn't show up to take the reading. "Funny" how the bill skyrockets when this occurs. My theory is that this is their means to a cash flow grab, but that's another story...

It gets worse -- I pay the usual and customary amount on time, and they charge penalty and interest on the artificial high balance due, that isn't even really due. It's only a few dollars that isn't worth the phone button torture plus on-hold time required to fix it, but it certainly does tweak ones sense of what is right or wrong.



bcool
Premium
join:2000-08-25
The Ozarks

2 edits
reply to mityfowl

yes...the math is pretty easy. What I really was trying to express is a feeling of not really knowing objectively off a meter what usage was. I must rely on gas company's "final adjustments" before I know what's really going to come out of my pocket. You owe us this and the meter agrees. The next month, 'you owe us this' and the meter agrees. The third month something or someone spun the meter ahead whoa! and now we say you owe us this much!! Ok mr. gas company, here's my money...whatever you say as I wipe the drool from my chin.

Ok that is from emotions and not from reason. But that's how I felt.



bcool
Premium
join:2000-08-25
The Ozarks
reply to Grumpy

said by Grumpy:

Our local electricity company (CL&P) estimates monthly bills when the meter reader doesn't show up to take the reading. "Funny" how the bill skyrockets when this occurs. My theory is that this is their means to a cash flow grab, but that's another story...

It gets worse -- I pay the usual and customary amount on time, and they charge penalty and interest on the artificial high balance due, that isn't even really due. It's only a few dollars that isn't worth the phone button torture plus on-hold time required to fix it, but it certainly does tweak ones sense of what is right or wrong.

Thanks for yours. Anyway, I have learned something about dealing with gas utility that I did not know. If knowledge is empowerment, then I should do better the next time this happens. And admittedly if the adjustment had been "downward" I'd be singing their praises.
--
"in flagrante delicto"


Grumpy
Premium
join:2001-07-28
NW CT
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reply to Grumpy

Forgive me the further off topic, but - be thankful you don't burn heating oil.

Year 2000 - $500 per year for heating oil season

Year 2012 - already $1,500 and the season is not over by any means. Estimate $2,000 for heat, Thanksgiving to Mother's day.

Wages - year 2000 level for most people

Heating oil $3.75 to $4.00 per gallon here.



cableties
Premium
join:2005-01-27
reply to bcool

»www.eia.gov/naturalgas/weekly/

Ow!
--
Splat



bcool
Premium
join:2000-08-25
The Ozarks
reply to bcool

The company district manager called me directly to apologize. I feel better. So I move on. Thanks for letting me vent.

=B
--
"in flagrante delicto"



AnonFTW

@reliablehosting.com
reply to bcool

Re: Gas company fraud or bona fide glitch?

said by bcool:

Thanks for that. This is something I did not know. Your comment really helps in my letting this go for now....

My power company does this. They only read the meter every so often and estimate usage in between. It's not unusual to see my ~$67 monthly bill double for a single month once a year as they catch up.

What irks me is that my gas company charges a $10 minimum fee. I only have gas heat, so if my heat isn't on, my usage is zero ... yet I still have to pay $10. Annoying as hell.


djrobx
Premium
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Valencia, CA
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reply to bcool

Re: Gas company hanky panky or bona fide glitch?

6.) Then comes the third month which covered December - January. $131.79 ! The usage was over double the previous months but our weather could not have accounted for the shocking increase. Yet I go out and look at meter and the reading is in range of the end reading on statement. How can this be?

We didn't have any hanky panky and your bill sounds pretty reasonable to me. I have NG heat - My Nov-Dec bill was $59, my Dec-Jan bill was $128. I have a 2100 sqft home.

Temperature drops a bit, days get shorter, gas bill goes up, a lot.

»www.wunderground.com/history/air···ory.html

For Cape Girardeau, MO
January heating days (base 65): 821
December heating days (base 65): 685
November heating days: 594

It IS getting colder, and if your bill is straddling months the later half of december is colder than the earlier half.

I'm not sure what you were paying before getting the NG system.
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bcool
Premium
join:2000-08-25
The Ozarks
reply to AnonFTW

Re: Gas company fraud or bona fide glitch?

AnonFTW: What irks me is that my gas company charges a $10 minimum fee. I only have gas heat, so if my heat isn't on, my usage is zero ... yet I still have to pay $10. Annoying as hell.

Well then I should be grateful that my company allows for pay-as-you- use rate which does not come with a minimum monthly payment. I use gas only when my heat is needed which really is maybe for 4 months out of the year if that.



bcool
Premium
join:2000-08-25
The Ozarks
reply to djrobx

Re: Gas company hanky panky or bona fide glitch?

Thanks djrobx. I'll stop my whining. But I still think these periodical adjustments stink to high heaven. I can accept the practice, but you can't make me like it!
--
"in flagrante delicto"



cdru
Go Colts
Premium,MVM
join:2003-05-14
Fort Wayne, IN
kudos:7
reply to bcool

said by bcool:

yes...the math is pretty easy. What I really was trying to express is a feeling of not really knowing objectively off a meter what usage was. I must rely on gas company's "final adjustments" before I know what's really going to come out of my pocket. You owe us this and the meter agrees. The next month, 'you owe us this' and the meter agrees. The third month something or someone spun the meter ahead whoa! and now we say you owe us this much!! Ok mr. gas company, here's my money...whatever you say as I wipe the drool from my chin.

Ok that is from emotions and not from reason. But that's how I felt.

According to degree days for your area, your meter might have been correct. You don't have your exact location, nor when your bill specifically covered. So I just when wiht Springfield, Mo weather and the 16th-15th of each month for computing the degree days since you mentioned a "Dec-Jan" bill.

From Oct 16-Nov 15, there were 448.2 degree days. From Nov 16-Dec 15, there were 574.5 degree days. From Dec 16-Jan 15th, there were 943.8 degree days. NG prices rose from mid-Oct to mid-Nov, while there was a significant drop mid-Dec. This could explain why your first two bills were about the same despite most likely more gas consumption. And between mid-Dec and mid-Jan, degree days nearly doubled, resulting in a near doubling of gas usage. Depending on the specific weather where you are at (if you're outside of Springfiled), your temperature preference, if you were home for the holidays and therefor used more gas, etc it could account for slight differences beyond just doubling.

You're bill should have the amount of gas, either in therms or ccf that you used. I know my bill also lists, for reference, the approximate temperatures and degree days for the area. It will also say if the bill is for an estimated or actual reading. Even if it is actual, it still doesn't hurt to give it a sanity-check to make sure it makes sense. And of course compare the numbers on the bill to see if they match what your meter actually says. I had a misreading last spring where the meter reader manually read on dial spinning clockwise, but that dial spun counter clockwise when it increased. My bill ended up being nearly 100 therms off. It just took a quick call to straighten things out and get a new bill sent.


PhoenixDown
FIOS is Awesome
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Fresh Meadows, NY
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Reviews:
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reply to bcool

I have been looking into a NEST thermostat and one of the things I like about it is the usage reports. They will email you a report showing your gas usage and it will try to tell you the reason for variances (colder weather, you just wanted it warmer and turned up the temp, etc).

I know there are other units that provide similar stats but I like the idea of having them as a check point to the meter readings.

(granted, meter readings will include my hot water, stove, dryer, etc that the NEST and other thermostats would not).
--
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cdru
Go Colts
Premium,MVM
join:2003-05-14
Fort Wayne, IN
kudos:7

said by PhoenixDown:

(granted, meter readings will include my hot water, stove, dryer, etc that the NEST and other thermostats would not).

Other uses besides for a furnace aren't seasonal. Their consumption of fuel is generally consistent throughout the year with only minor fluctuations. Incoming water temperature does change so it will require more natural gas to heat the water to the desired temp, but it doesn't have the same extreme fluctuations that air temperature has.

Unless conditions change that require a significant changes in household activity (e.g. kid comes home from college, cooking for more people, doing a lot more laundry, etc) the month to month gas usage is fairly constant.


PhoenixDown
FIOS is Awesome
Premium
join:2003-06-08
Fresh Meadows, NY
kudos:1

Yeah, that's what I was alluding to



jack b
Gone Fishing
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join:2000-09-08
Cape Cod
kudos:1
reply to bcool

Each month your meter reading date should be shown on your bill, you can go out and jot down the index (reading) on that day and you will be able to see your usage before the bill even comes!

Most utilities have a minimum charge even if there is no consumption during the billing period. This typically covers their recurring fixed costs to read the meter and maintain service to your house.
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KrK
Heavy Artillery For The Little Guy
Premium
join:2000-01-17
Tulsa, OK

1 recommendation

reply to PhoenixDown

Click for full size
I've really enjoyed my Nest. It's already saved me a lot of money on heating and cooling. It will quickly pay for itself. Here's an screenshot from my phone showing the energy report you describe from the Nest app.
--
"Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power." -- Benito Mussolini

kherr
Premium
join:2000-09-04
Collinsville, IL
Reviews:
·Charter
reply to bcool

I live near St.Louis and my gas was double what the previous 2 months were, but then again there was a 16^ average temp difference too. Going by previous months with that average temp (32), it is within those months usage. I have an Excel SS that dates back to 9/10 with average temps and usage stats.

If the previous months readings were wrong, the actual reading just got caught up. Once I had 3 months of estimated readings and when they did an actual I got hit. Since then I've gone to budget billing.



PhoenixDown
FIOS is Awesome
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Fresh Meadows, NY
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reply to bcool

So not to derail the thread, but I've wondered...

If Nov = 40 cents a therm,
Dec = 45 cents a therm,
Jan = 47 cents a therm,

And they do an estimated ready for Nov and Dec and true up in January, are they billing you a blended / averaged rate or are what?
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bcool
Premium
join:2000-08-25
The Ozarks
reply to bcool

First to all who have shared what appears to be very useful information to help me understand how gas usage works, etc... I thank you all. I get a sense from some of you that the spike in usage for this current cycle seems normal. That may be but I do wish to reiterate that it is the company who admitted to a glitch in reading the correct usage for my location. That seems to suggest that the usage indicated on my current bill does not all apply to the period of late December to late January. What I actually used for this period, technically speaking, will remain a mystery. I guess I'll have to wait until next year to get an idea.

Secondly, the district manager informed me that the company is going to install (sorry) a gadget on my meter that will allow the reader to get details from the street while inside his truck. This should help in getting actual reading from my meter every month...I guess that's the theory.

Thanks folks.



PhoenixDown
FIOS is Awesome
Premium
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Fresh Meadows, NY
kudos:1
Reviews:
·Verizon FiOS
reply to bcool

In my area, they only roll every two months to save costs.

1- a lot of power companies are going with permanent connections via wifi / 4G cellular, see if that is an option.

2 - its a pain, but you can read the numbers off the meter and call them in or enter them in online. That will help ensure you get an accurate bill if they don't do a drive by.
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cableties
Premium
join:2005-01-27
reply to bcool

Well so soon...
I just opened my PECO bill and ugh...$196 (NG was $85, $60 elec, rest taxes, carrier/transportation fee...LOL...I pay for the pipes in the ground!)

I have same sqft as OP.
This for Dec->Jan.
Cold Dec but not coldest. I like how they compare it (in bill) to last years same time, and temps.

Then I realized, I took three weeks off (Xmas) and was home more than usual (day) and family/friends over (baking, heat, lights, ...).

--
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bcool
Premium
join:2000-08-25
The Ozarks
reply to PhoenixDown

said by PhoenixDown:

In my area, they only roll every two months to save costs.

1- a lot of power companies are going with permanent connections via wifi / 4G cellular, see if that is an option.

Sounds interesting. For now, I'm going to follow up with the so called gadget they are willing to install on meter to make reading meter easy. We'll see...
--
"in flagrante delicto"


herdfan
Premium
join:2003-01-25
Hurricane, WV
reply to Grumpy

said by Grumpy:

Our local electricity company (CL&P) estimates monthly bills when the meter reader doesn't show up to take the reading. "Funny" how the bill skyrockets when this occurs.

Most of the big utilities make degree day calculations to estimate usage. For example, in the winter the average hi/low temp is subtracted from 60 (so if the high was 30 and low was 20 that equals 25: 60-25=35 degree days. These numbers are added up for the month. If that sum is 10% greater than average, then your estimated bill will be 10% greater. Now if you were gone for 2 weeks and had the heat set down at 50, they have no way of knowing that.

kamin

join:2003-03-30
Puyallup, WA
reply to Grumpy

said by Grumpy:

Heating oil $3.75 to $4.00 per gallon here.

This is why my mom is switching from oil to electric for her furnace... power here is pretty cheap, and it will be cheaper to run than oil (plus replaced the current furnace and 47 year old underground tank) as long as it remains at this prices which I doubt it will ever go under $3.00 per gallon ever again.

A heat pump would be nice (especially for the A/C) but just not in any budget to do the full install of one.