No Way to Calculate your own Electric Bill in Georgia? And Why I’m switching to the Smart Usage from the Plug-In EV plan

Summary: There is not enough information provided on your electric bill to verify if you are being charged correctly.

Cause: There are two items on the tariff sheets that are not reported and, it appears, there is no way for a normal person to know their costs.

These are:
Demand Side Management Schedule is described as “The amount calculated at the above rate will be increased under the provisions of the Company’s effective Demand Side Management Residential Schedule, including any applicable adjustments”.
and
Fuel Cost Recovery is described as “The amount calculated at the above rate will be increased under the provisions of the Company’s effective Fuel Cost Recovery Schedules in the manner ordered by the Georgia Public Service Commission, including any applicable adjustments”.

This came up when I was reviewing my electric bill to see if the “Plug-in Electric Vehicle” rate, to which I currently subscribe, is the best option for my use patterns.

Georgia Power has 6 rate plans. Two of which (Flat Bill and PrePay) I dismissed immediately as being of no value to me. The remaining ones all had potential so I created a spreadsheet to contrast the amounts I would have paid under those plans compared with what I actually paid.

I took the last 12 months of bills and put them into a spreadsheet. Since I am already on the Plug in EV plan I already had my peak, off peak and super off peak hours broken out for me to simplify the calculations.

I also assumed that the crap fees (Environmental cost recovery, Nuclear boondoggle, Municipal Franchise fee, Tax and the monthly basic service charge) would be about the same regardless of my plan since most of these are based on my energy consumption.

When I first began my calculations I was pretty happy with the results as it looked like there was a tremendous potential for saving money by switching to a different plan. However, to my dismay, I found that the calculations for the rate plan I currently have also gave results that were significantly lower than what I’m actually paying.

I reviewed my formulas a bunch of times and had to conclude that Georgia Power was adding something into the per kilowatt charges that was not obvious on the main part of the bill. Enter the Demand Side Management Schedule and Fuel Cost Recovery items that I finally noticed in the lawyer section of the document.

By my figuring, for the past year, those two items accounted for cost increases on the power portion of the bill of from 21% (last October) up to 59% (last February) over and above the actual published rates.

In real dollars this means I paid $21.40 more on a bill totaling $124.83 up to $58.05 more on a bill totaling $157.06.

Suffice it to say I am not impressed.

So I have no way to really know how much I will pay for electricity under ANY of these plans since it appears Georgia Power can charge pretty much any amount the PSC will let them and I can have no knowledge of that.

The inability to actually calculate the costs of future bills notwithstanding, I can at least get a feel for the *relative* cost differences between the various plans.

Almost universally, the Residential plan is the worst for me.

Likewise Nights & Weekends will not do my wallet any favors although it’s much better than Residential.

Here’s where it gets a bit tricky. It took me a long time to figure out what the “Smart Usage” plan was doing. The description kept going on about needing to split up your high energy uses so as not to consume a lot of power at once. But the mechanism they were using to determine this wasn’t clear to me.
Then I understood. This section here:

DETERMINATION OF BILLING DEMAND:
Maximum kW: Maximum kW shall be the highest 30-minute kW measurement during the current month.

Means that you are essentially punished for the entire month for your highest amount of consumption at a single point in the month regardless of whether you are using the energy in the middle of a hot summer afternoon, or at 2 in the morning, you will pay a premium of $6.64 per kilowatt for the month for that spike.

I am able to charge my car at work many days but if I choose to charge it at home at the maximum power available to me (50 amp service at 240 volts * .8 (max sustained draw) which is 9.6 kW that means a premium on my bill of $63 even if I do it only once during the month.

But I’m able to lower the rate of consumption through my car’s charging controls. Since most of the time I don’t need the car charged *that* fast, I can simply drop it down to

So theoretically I can charge my 75 kWh battery from absolutely empty, assuming about 85% efficiency, in 18.4 hours rather than 9.2 hours and reduce my hit by about $31 from Georgia Power.
Keep in mind that it’s pretty rare for me to ever get below 45% charge, so those times change from 7.8 hrs and 15.6 hrs at 40 and 20 amps respectively to about 5.2 and 10.4 hours which is very comfortable.

Of course there can be other high consumption appliances running when I’m charging my car, so I just need to set my car schedule to off hours and make sure those items don’t conflict. For me the next biggest consumer of power in the house will be my pool pump. So I will just schedule it outside of the car charging hours. Between that and ensuring that the clothes dryer isn’t running at 3 in the morning should keep things pretty simple.

For reference I include links to the Tariff sheets (plus pdf copies I have in case the links go stale).
Nights & Weekends (Link to permanent PDF)
Plug-in EV (Link to permanent PDF)
Residential (Link to permanent PDF)
Smart Usage (Link to permanent PDF)

Silver Comet Trail Missing .75 miles between Hiram and Rockmart

One of my favorite rides along the Silver Comet Trail (official Site I think) begins at the Hiram Trailhead (mile marker 14.69) and heading toward Rockmart.

Something I’ve known for years is that *somewhere* along the route, nearly 3/4 of a mile disappears. It doesn’t matter what cycle computer or what GPS I’m using by the time I hit the mile markers near the end of my ride I’m always off by that much. 

I leave mile marker 14.69 and the following mile markers hit at (as expected) 1 mile intervals give or take a few hundred feet.

But when I hit mile marker 25 (ostensibly a little over 10 miles into the ride) I find that my various measuring instruments universally agree that I’m really only a bit over 9 1/2 miles along.

The other day I finally decided to take note of where and by how much the variance occurs. My new cycle computer combines both GPS info with the usual magnetic wheel speed sensor and is about as accurate as anything that is going down the trail.

As I mentioned, it’s not unusual for most mile markers to be off by a couple hundredths of a mile either way and it pretty much averages out.

However between mile markers 21 and 22 I have measured the distance to be about .82 miles, between mile markers 22 and 23 the distance is .76 miles, and between mile markers 23 and 24 the distance is about .7 miles.

Altogether these represent about .74 missing miles.

Not a big deal in the scheme of things. 

But if you’re timing your performance against these mile markers, this could explain those spectacular rides / runs between mile markers 21 and 24…

When, oh when will people stop using gift cards?

So, my wife received a $100 gift card a few years ago and decided to hang on to it to perhaps use to give to somebody else as a nice gift later on.

Of course she had no idea that this US Bank backed gift card started ticking down in value at a rate of $2 a month until she mentioned it today and I looked it up.

What started out as perfectly good, American cash was translated into crappy “stored value” and then sucked dry by the bank. As of today that $100 gift card, which had never been used, never been opened is worth a whopping $14.

For those people who think giving cash is crass, I would argue that giving people a gift that loses value for no good reason at all, except that it can help enrich various banking institutions (thank you for 2008 by the way) is a terrible alternative. Either you care enough to buy a thoughtful gift or you don’t, a gift card does not fill that void.

If you want to direct the money, get a nice card and tell them that here is $100 cash from your loving admirer for you to spend on “x”.

Surely you cannot feel good knowing that your recipient does not get the bulk of the gift you had intended for them?

Wrist-based Sleep Tracking Opinion

Referencing this recent article from the NY Times:

By and large I have to agree with the conclusion that we don’t really know what to do with the information.

There was a comment where the person pointed out that the sleep tracker at least gave him some insight into his sleep after lifestyle choices (drinking, going to be late, etc.).

I am using the “Autosleep” app that was referred to in the article. One thing he didn’t mention was that the app references a “sleep bank” and tries to get you to average out to whatever you say your nightly requirement is (defaults to 8 hours). And then proposes wildly inappropriate go-to-sleep times for that night to “catch up”.

For me:

1) Nothing has come close to the UP! wristband for mapping my sleep habits (it had its own issues about not being able to edit the results when it recorded incorrectly)

2) the fitbit is between the UP! and the Apple Watch. It was OK but very coarse.

3) The apple watch is pretty good. I appreciate that “Autosleep” tries to take a holistic view of things and considers your overall sleep in conjunction with what it records as “Deep sleep” and something else called “Quality sleep” and then adds a dash of your average heartbeat and your wakeup heartbeat and something they call “Heartrate variance” to come up with a comprehensive assessment of your sleep status.

Now if only we had any scientific evidence that any of the above actually means anything, I would be much happier. But I suppose that’s one of the points of the original article.

But my perception that the Apple Watch (and any wrist-based tracker I’ve tried. Not mentioned is Intel’s Basis Peak which I rather liked but disappeared pretty quickly) is still relatively crude for sleep tracking does not instill confidence in me in any ratings/statistics generated.

I’m at the point now where I’m thinking of not bothering with sleep tracking anymore in favor of waking up to a fully charged watch so I don’t have to think about topping it up during the day….

Private Internet Access “Connection Refused”

PIA Main Panel

This morning, to my dismay, I found that my Private Internet Access (PIA) VPN had disconnected. It showed a little yield sign on the toolbar icon. A closer look at the panel showed me a note that maybe my account was disabled or expired.

I then logged on to PIA’s web site and verified that my account was just fine and wouldn’t be due for renewal for a few months yet.

  • Checking Google yielded no results, neither did PIA’s own support knowledge base.
  • Restarting the client didn’t help.
  • My computer had recently been restarted so that was an unlikely candidate.
  • Changing connection servers also didn’t help.

The solution, in my case, was to simply explicitly log out of the PIA app and then log back in. Now it’s working again like nothing happened.

I leave PIA on as a matter of course to ensure that ALL of my internet traffic is encrypted. I just like to be sure that nobody knows my business except me and the entities I’m dealing with. Nobody in between anyway.

I use PIA because it’s normally rock-solid reliable. I tried NordVPN’s trial and found it couldn’t even stay connected for a whole day at a time which wasn’t super useful to me.

PIA did a massive marketing campaign a few months ago which I thought was beneath them. Trying to scare everybody into renewing immediately for long term plans with super expensive (nearly triple) annual rates after that. I’m waiting to see what they want to charge me on my next renewal to see if I stick with them. They’ve been very good so far, it’s a shame if they get too greedy.

Credit Karma phony alert?

I like Credit Karma as they provide a simple and inexpensive means by which to keep on top of your credit report and *kinda* your credit score as well (not FICO but near enough to be worthwhile).

By inexpensive I mean they do not cost you money but you *are* targeted for their recommendations – a fair enough trade in my book.

This week I just received an alert from them telling me there was a new status on one of my accounts:

“We noticed a change to the remarks listed on your Equifax credit report regarding your <BANK CAR LOAN Specifics Removed> account.”

When I go there I am taken to the derogatory remarks section and, as always, there are no notifications there.

Does anybody know if Credit Karma is trying a new (crappy) marketing scheme to drive more traffic to their site?

Found a great source for my Sacrificial Anodes

Long story short, if you are looking to find copper-free zinc sacrificial anodes you want “Pool Tool Anti Electrolysis” and, as of today, you want to get them from GetPoolParts.com.

To protect my Endless Pool Fastlane I use Zinc Sacrificial Anodes.

The purest source for these I had for these was from Endless Pools themselves. These used to cost a little over $15 each from them which was pretty pricey for something I would need to replace 2-4 times a year. When I checked a few days ago they were now

Similar anodes are used for maritime part protection (inboard motors, hulls, etc.) for a fraction of this cost. However, the maritime anodes that I have found are typically not so pure as I hoped. There is enough copper in them to cause blackening of stainless steel which quickly becomes unattractive.

This…

Endless Pool Fastlane showing stainless steel handle.

becomes this…

Endless Pool Fastlane showing stained stainless steel handle (yes I see the irony).

So I bought a healthy supply of the anodes that lasted me until this year.

When I went looking I saw that the price has now increased to about $24 for these, which is patently absurd.

What I want specifically is a product called “Pool Tool Anti Electrolysis”.

So I came across a site called “Get Pool Parts” that had them available for less then half of where I was seeing them anywhere else ($12.16 per anode). Ordinarily this would be a red flag as deals that are too good to be true are there to suck you in on the internet.

Their BBB record was just OK (B+ as of this writing) but I couldn’t find anything really bad about them in searching for scams or problems. Another vote of confidence for them was a few postings on Troublefreepool.com which has been a great source of pool information for me in the past.

I ordered these really late Tuesday night (2 am) and they arrived on Saturday morning. Everything was exactly as specified. I couldn’t be more pleased. I just wanted to give them a shout out and also let people know about this option and my good experience should you wish to avoid the extortionist pricing for this basic part.

Apple iPhone Xs Max vs Galaxy S10+: One of these smartphones wins in three key categories – MarketWatch

A friend forwarded me this article knowing I’d have an opinion. *Shockingly*, I do.

You can read the original article here

Part of my job is to certify new devices for my work environment.
I haven’t picked up the S10 yet, but I think most of the “key” aspects Jurica points out are kind of trivial.

It depends wholly on the person but, for me, once you get beyond 256 GB of storage it’s all just .. more. Sure, in a few years I’ll probably be pushing up against the 1 TB limit, but that will be for the phones of that generation to accommodate.

When you’re talking about $1,000 plus for a smartphone I think that $50 here or $100 there can’t be a big deal. If it is you *really* should not be at the luxury end of the market. And make no mistake, Apple’s recent offerings and Samsung’s Galaxy 10 are the at the pinnacle. 

With respect to power and the ability to use your phone to charge up other devices, I see this as the same as when I had a separate MP3 player and cell phone. At the time, the idea of extracting power from my phone to play music seemed ludicrous when I had a separate device that did this excellently without eating into my call time or smartphone usage. 
If I’m in a situation where I’m charging someone else’s phone, I’m probably in a situation where I need to be conserving my phone’s power and *shouldn’t* be inefficiently wirelessly charging other devices.

When I travel I ALWAYS have chargers (yes plural) and cables capable of charging all my devices. If I’m with someone who needs a charge at the airport, I’d rather they use my charger than sucking my critical link to the world dry of power.

The comment about still accepting microphone jacks is cute. Again, these are luxury devices. People whine that they are being forced to use the latest in headphone technology while they blow over a thousand dollars (a year?) on their smartphone. 
1) if you can’t afford a bluetooth headset, you really can’t afford the phone, 
2) if you don’t like new tech and would rather have a wired headset, why the hell are you buying one of the most technologically advanced smartphones in the world? There are plenty of less expensive, less advanced phones that cater to people who don’t need or want next-year’s tech.

The final decision comes down to OS preference and ecosystem preference (dependency).

As someone who moves between iOS and Android OSes all day every day I am careful to avoid getting locked too deeply in any ecosystem that makes it a nuisance to use the other device.

My preference has gone back and forth throughout the years but, in spite of the (correctly called-out) dismal tech support, the iOS devices are what I go to at the end of the day.

After mucking about problem solving and tweaking and resolving assorted god-knows-what issues with these devices all day, I’m happy enough to use the one that just works out of the box and that presents me with the fewest headaches.

As of today, iOS, in the form of the iPhone Xs Max, is my choice.

Informal Speed Clocking For Tesla

So, apparently I haven’t figured out how to use Dashboard for Tesla‘s Speed Clocking app as I did a few trials today and then completely did not manage to save them.

Dashboard for Tesla’s Speed Clocking screen

However just to note, my 5,000 lb SUV clocked in at:
5.0 Seconds for 0-60 MPH, and
14.75 Seconds for the 1/4 mile.

I think the 0-60 time is pretty accurate. I bollocksed up the 1/4 mile by ending up going UPHILL for a portion of it.

Just preliminary but was pretty happy with the times nonetheless.