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)

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?

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.

Chick-Fil-A Rewards Best Redemption Value

I *really* like Chick-Fil-A. They just seem to know how to do things right.

When their app came out I jumped on it and was very pleased that, not only was it intuitive, but also the restaurants knew what to do with the mobile order when you arrived. Something that most of the other fast-food restaurants would stumble on in the early days of using their apps (I’m looking at you McDonalds).

When the app was first introduced they offered scads of free entrees, milkshakes, etc. Plus they had plenty of “Just Because” rewards. As the app matured they must have realized how haphazard the rewards system was because they switched over to a system where you accrue points based off the number of dollars spent. They still have some “Just Because” rewards but nothing like in the first year or so.

When I looked at what I could get for my accumulated reward points I was struck with how many points my favorite salad (“Spicy Southwest Salad”, it’s awesome) required vs many of their other offerings. I figured there must be some rewards that are better than others so I whipped up a quick spreadsheet and give you the values here.

Keep in mind that the below reflects the point/price values of my local Chick-Fil-A as of February, 2019. But I imagine it would be similar in most places. Also, I only worked this out for my favorite items. You’ll need to get the price/points for anything else you want to check.

ItemPoints Cost Val/Point
Medium Waffle Fries200 $ 1.85  $ 0.00925
Cookie150 $ 1.19  $ 0.00793
Coke (lg?)250 $ 1.89  $ 0.00756
8 nuggets500 $ 3.49  $ 0.00698
Sandwich500 $ 3.39  $ 0.00678
Lemonade (lg?)350 $ 2.25  $ 0.00643
Chicken Club Sandwich950 $ 5.89  $ 0.00620
Deluxe Sandwich650 $ 3.99  $ 0.00614
Spicy Southwest Salad1500 $ 7.39  $ 0.00493

Summary: So hands down getting yourself a MEDIUM Waffle Fries is your best value with each point being worth *nearly* one cent.

Worst value is redeeming points to get the Spicy Southwest Salad (sigh) with each point being worth just about half that for the fries.

FreedomPop – Just be really careful

*** Update Feb 11, 2018 ***

OK, to their credit, FreedomPop did *not* back bill me for the previous month’s use. So I take back that claim (crossed out below).

What happened was that I missed a service that I enrolled in when I first signed up that I didn’t know to go look for. It was not obvious to me it was a thing that I needed to address. So Mea Culpa even though I think the site is laid out to promote such confusion. I knew this and did not exercise due diligence.

Using their mobile app today I tracked down the service and will disable it next month and see what comes of it.

*** End Feb 11, 2018 Update ***

I wanted a hotspot for my car so my Dashcam could be available to me whenever I wanted.

So I chose FreedomPop as an inexpensive alternative. For $20 (supposedly for Activation) I get an OK hotspot and a promo for 3GB free for the first month.

I knew I was intending to downgrade from the promo after a month so I put a credit on the account for $5 knowing they would not permit a zero balance when the time came.

So, here I am 2 days before the initial month expiry and find my credit has “expired” and I have a zero credit balance.

Apparently any credits “expire” around 30 days and you can activate them again by clicking a tiny link at the bottom if you know about it.

Then, moving on to downgrading, it took a bit of searching to find the tiny little “Downgrade” link located within the dialog that appears when you click your current plan.

I went through a series of confirmation dialogs, one of which asked if I wanted to add a $15 credit to my account, to which I answered “no”.

Finishing the downgrade process should leave me with a very reasonable free plan that gives me 500 MB included and costs 2 cents per additional MB. This is what I was looking forward to and expect I’d pay $5-$10 / month.

When I checked I found:

  1. My credits are going to expire each month so I will need to “reactivate” them each month
  2. When I downgraded my plan, it appears FreedomPop went and back-billed me for the amount I used during the trial that’s over and above the data included in the free plan. Dirty pool there.
  3. They billed me for a $15 credit even though I explicitly instructed them not to.

Ironically, this is *less* shady than my dealings with the major mobile provider I used to use for my personal mobile needs.

I’m expecting my monthly usage to be in the 700 MB range which means that my out of pocket should only be about $4-$5 which is what mobile service really *should* cost.

I’m going to try FreedomPop for a few months and see if they do anything else similarly shady. I am certainly feeling a bit uneasy. They seem to be hoping people don’t read and don’t challenge them. If they just charge me what they say they’ll charge me and stop all this *gotcha* nonsense then I’ll stick with them. The surprise costs so far are low enough that I’ll just suck it up for this start month and be happy that I ended up with a $30 hotspot (adding in the back-billed charges) which is still not a bad deal.

USPS Still looking for my (not so much) missing registered letter…

*** Updated February 25, 2018 ***

I’m thrilled to see that USPS is still hot on the trail of my missing registered letter.

If they put half as much effort into their tracking system as they did into their “assure the customer we’re doing *something*” system, the case would probably be closed by now.

*** End February 25, 2018 Update ***

I originally posted the below on facebook at the end of September 2017. When they lost my final mortgage check I asked them to find it and NOT deliver it.

Of course they subsequently delivered it a week or so after that. I found it funny that about a month ago I received an update letting me know they are still diligently looking for it.

I thought I’d post this today to track exactly how long they keep “looking” for it. Today I received ANOTHER notification that they are still on the hunt.

It’s kind of too bad their “Search” doesn’t include checking their own system to see that the letter was delivered.

 

 

Original Facebook post:

Yay? US Postal Service finally delivered my check! Only 12 days late and against my express instructions! I guess it could have been worse, it could have been food…

Now to see if the mortgage folks try to apply the Stopped-Payment check and try to give me grief over that…

Well, what’s a little challenge in your life, right? It could be a *whole* lot worse.

 

Kudos to AT&T Support for my Internet Gateway issue

On Monday (Dec 4, 2017) I recycled my AT&T Fiber gateway and my routers as I tend to do every couple of weeks. Only problem was.. the Gateway refused to come back. It just showed the power light as green and nothing else for about 3-5 minutes and then EVERY light on the device went to RED. It did this a couple of times regardless of power cycling, reset or full factory reset.

I decided to pull up AT&T’s internet web app to see if there was anything else that could be done (Reset something on their end perhaps?), but after some perfunctory troubleshooting steps the app concluded that a technician visit was needed. Not the best news but I knew my path now and was sure it wasn’t going to be a quick fix…

The app then offered to schedule the appointment for me. The first available date available was… today (Monday). Well.. color me surprised. The first available time slot was… 10 AM – Noon. Keep in mind I was doing this at about 9:00 in the morning. I figured this was a mistake but scheduled myself for that time slot see what happens.

About 9:30 I get a call from AT&T’s automated service confirming the appointment. 20 minutes later the tech calls me and tells me he’s about 30 minutes out.

Long story short by about 10:45 AM the same day I was back up and running just fine.

So credit where credit is due. Thank you AT&T for the swift response and getting me sorted out so quickly after that hardware failure.

 

Open Letter to Honda

It’s pretty amazing. I have the money and the desire to buy a car but I can’t get it.

Here’s an email I’ve sent to one of the Honda Car dealerships when they asked me why I haven’t taken delivery of a new car from them yet.

I will say that I am plainly frustrated that Honda is unable to deliver on its offerings.

I began the car buying process in earnest a couple of weeks ago. I want to upgrade my wife from her 1995 Civic to a 2016 Fit.

According to Honda’s web site they offer colors and models of the car that cannot be ordered. Rather, they just produce cars and send them out apparently randomly so there is no way to just order a car and get what you want.

Attached please find my “built” car spec sheet.

No, I don’t want another color

No, I don’t want another model and add the missing pieces.

No, I don’t want to have the car driven across the country to me by some teenager and have the engine broken in by someone who doesn’t share my desire for the car to last and perform well. CarMax exists for those cars.

I just want a current model car in my desired advertised color.

Why can’t Honda deliver?

Honda-Automobiles-Personalized-Fact-Sheet 2016 Honda Fit

 

Has Comcast found an effective way to keep us from bugging them?

** Update September 23, 2014 ***

The conspiratorial side of my brain wants me to point out:

1) The Outage notifications on Comcast’s site ceased immediately after this blog post

2) My service has been.. spotty ever since, including a complete outage that lasted around an hour the following night….

Where my Download / Upload speeds were consistently 50/10, now I’m thrilled if my download is in the 20’s.

Just ran another check and can see that I’m sitting at 23.2/10.4.

Just saying’ . Not that the only available option of our local duopoly would *ever* stoop to vindictiveness… would they?

** End Update **

 

I had a recent dealing with Comcast that had me logging on to their site pretty much every day for almost two weeks at the end of August/beginning of September.

Something that started to bubble up in my consciousness was how many outages they were reporting in my area, none of which seemed to be affecting me.

I decided it would be an interesting exercise to, for one week, log into my account periodically throughout the day whenever I was working on my computer (which I do quite a bit) and check my status.

Of greatest interest to me was the fact that not once in all the times I logged in was there ever NOT an outage in my area.

I will concede that there was at least one day where I was impacted by some issue so these notifications are not 100% bogus. But the continuous nature of the notifications has me thinking what a great way this would be to keep folks from calling in if they *did* have a complaint. After all how often do you log into your Comcast account anyway? I know I certainly wouldn’t (haven’t) noticed the notifications during my monthly visit to capture my billing statement.

Below are the details of when I logged in and what the current outage situation was. You tell me – am I just having a spate of issues or is Comcast saving money by reducing customer service call volume?

Date and Time Outage Notification
9/10/14 9:41 PM An outage has been reported in your area. We expect this to be resolved by 1 AM tomorrow.
9/11/14 10:00 AM An outage has been reported in your area. We expect this to be resolved by 12 PM today.
9/11/14 1:02 PM An outage has been reported in your area. We expect this to be resolved by 4 PM today.
9/11/14 4:36 PM An outage has been reported in your area. We expect this to be resolved by 8 PM today.
9/11/14 7:25 PM An outage has been reported in your area. We expect this to be resolved by 12 AM tomorrow.
9/12/14 7:52 AM An outage has been reported in your area. We expect this to be resolved by 11 AM today.
9/12/14 1:56 PM An outage has been reported in your area. We expect this to be resolved by 3PM today.
9/12/14 6:50 PM An outage has been reported in your area. We expect this to be resolved by 11 PM today.
9/13/14 10:46 AM An outage has been reported in your area. We expect this to be resolved by 2 PM today.
9/13/14 6:28 PM An outage has been reported. We’re working to fully restore service as soon as possible.
9/14/14 12:15 AM An outage has been reported in your area. We expect this to be resolved by 2 AM today.
9/14/14 11:51 AM An outage has been reported in your area. We expect this to be resolved by 1 PM today.
9/14/14 1:12 PM An outage has been reported in your area. We expect this to be resolved by 5 PM today.
9/14/14 4:33 PM An outage has been reported in your area. We expect this to be resolved by 9 PM today.
9/14/14 11:27 PM An outage has been reported in your area. We expect this to be resolved by 1 AM tomorrow.
9/15/14 7:56 AM An outage has been reported in your area. We expect this to be resolved by 12 PM today.
9/15/14 7:07 PM An outage has been reported in your area. We expect this to be resolved by 8 PM today.
9/15/14 8:13 PM An outage has been reported in your area. We expect this to be resolved by 12 AM tomorrow.
9/16/14 7:41 AM An outage has been reported in your area. We expect this to be resolved by 11 AM today.
9/17/14 7:55 AM An outage has been reported in your area. We expect this to be resolved by 10 AM today.
9/17/14 12:02 PM An outage has been reported in your area. We expect this to be resolved by 2 PM today.
9/17/14 6:13 PM An outage has been reported in your area. We expect this to be resolved by 10 PM today.

 

Netflix and other issues since Comcast decided it needs to cap my data usage

Immediately on the heels of Comcast notifying me that they want to cap my access we began experiencing issues accessing Netflix. We absolutely could not get it to work on Thursday and I couldn’t get it through Apple TV on Friday (although I was able to get it on another i-device and mirror it over to the Apple TV).

All yesterday and today I’ve been having odd issues where websites are delaying in loading or loading part way and then quitting on me. It doesn’t matter which computer is being used.

Comcast has actually been *over* delivering for the past few months with download and upload speeds just slightly greater than promised. I had thought that they had finally figured out how to make their customers happy or at least not feeling ripped off with every interaction.

Now all of a sudden I see that they realized the error of their ways. I suppose they were drifting away from the bottom of the customer service ratings and decided they needed to implement new strategies to get back down there?