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)

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.

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.

AutoWake iOS App

I bought AutoSleep, Autowake and HeartWatch (all by Tantsissa) as a bundle.

While I believe that AutoWake and HeartWatch are excellent apps (and have reviewed them as such), I cannot say the same for AutoWake.

You can set AutoWake up to automatically wake you at a certain time for each day of the week. In my case I have it set to wake me at 7:00 Mon-Fri.

You can also override this behavior as needed, i.e. I disable the alarm if I am taking a day off work or have a holiday.

Its greatest advantage IMHO is that it is supposed to find a time when you are sleeping lightly near to your set alarm time and then tap your wrist to wake you up.

It more or less works most of the time. And when it works it works very well.

I have AutoWake added as a complication on my primary watch face (my ONLY watch face) as required and my phone sits charging on the end table beside my bed so there should be no reason for failure.

But the alarm has failed to go off in the morning 4 times over the past two months. This might not seem terrible, but if you need to catch a plane the next morning – which I sometimes do – I don’t want my alarm to be flakey.

What usually, but not always, happens is that the alarm will go off later in the morning, 9:40 and 10:20 AM are two times that I recall specifically.
This morning it just didn’t go off at all.

I will be deleting this app and falling back to the Apple Watch’s built in alarm.

McDonald’s iOS App

I’m pretty enthusiastic about
1) McDonald’s, and
2) Apps that can simplify my fast-food ordering experience.

IMHO the Chick-Fil-A app came out of the gate working exactly the way ALL fast food apps should work. It’s intuitive, pretty much bulletproof, and every Chick-Fil-A restaurant I went to understood what to do when you showed up with a mobile order.

McDonald’s Menu in iOS App

Admittedly the McDonald’s app has come a long way from the days when it would just discard my credit card information and it’s been a while since I’ve visited a McDonald’s that was hopelessly confused with what to do with me and my order.

Having the curbside, drive thru and take out options are great and I’ve used each option for different circumstances (nice to have the curbside when you order food for a lot of people).
However, the app itself still leaves much to be desired:

  1. The order cart never seems to empty after I’ve picked up my order. Obviously the back end knows I’ve claimed the order since they’ve charged me the correct amount, provided the correct order and given me a receipt indicating such. 
  2. There is NO WAY TO EMPTY the cart when it’s stuck like this. Trying to just delete all the items yields interesting results to say the least. Basically it trashes the order you are now trying to make.
  3. I have now resorted to just deleting the app wholesale every time I want to use it again (and see stuff still in the cart) and re-download it from the App Store. This works very well to clear the cart without completely losing everything. How it remembers me and my payment information after removing and reinstalling the app I try to ignore as it seems to be a security hole.
  4. The user interface breaks my number one rule. When I go back from a screen, I need to end up on the screen I came from in the same state it was in when I left it. Every time I select something and add it to the cart, I’m brought back to the beginning of the top menu.  If I want to order two kinds of sundae I can’t order one and then select the other one. I end up hunting for the desserts menu and then choose my next Sundae. 
  5. It always defaults me to the closest restaurant
  6. I can’t *tell* you how long it took me to figure out how to find my list of “Favorited” restaurants. This is not intuitive at all. Most of the time when I’m ordering from a McDonald’s I’m heading somewhere and want the restaurant nearest to that destination so the food will be as fresh as possible. This is not something this app excels at.

It would be nice if I could have a blacklist of McDonald’s restaurants. There are some that I will not go to even if they were the last ones on earth. My nearest one I’ve never managed to get an order from. I’ve lived here for well over 20 years and have never made it all the way through the drive thru line. I don’t even know how they stay in business but after about 10 minutes of just sitting in place, I drive away and go elsewhere. I try it every 4-5 years and it’s always the same. 

HeartWatch iOS App

I bought AutoSleep, Autowake and HeartWatch (all by Tantsissa) as a bundle.

HeartWatch Today View

While I wasn’t originally looking for a separate Heart Rate app, HeartWatch had excellent reviews and looked like it would appeal to a stats geek like me.

I’m super-impressed with it. I actually use it over the the included Apple Exercise app because I like capturing my HR recovery explicitly after a workout.

There is no shortage of stats you can review: Average and Maximum heartrate while exercising, (separately) while sedentary, and while sleeping.

I especially like the history calendar where you can look at nearly 2 months worth of each stat individually and see how things are changing over time.

I’m very pleased with this quasi-impulse purchase!

AutoSleep iOS App

I bought AutoSleep, Autowake and HeartWatch (all by Tantsissa) as a bundle.

AutoSleep Clock View

AutoSleep has absolutely met my expectations, I used to use FitBit’s sleep function and before that my Jawbone UP!’s app.

I did the most research around the Jawbone app and found that it was *very* accurate and was happy with it. If only the hardware was a bit more durable. The UP! wristband kept failing after around 6-8 months.

Next was FitBit, I got a good deal on a FitBit Charge HR 2 through my work and have been using it for well over 2 years. I felt it’s sleep recording was nowhere near as accurate as the UP! but it was good enough for a gross relative estimate of how I’m doing night by night.
I picked up an Apple Watch Series 4 and, after a bit of research settled on AutoSleep.

Wow.

In addition to it being at LEAST as accurate as the UP! (blowing the FitBit completely out of the water), it has more stats and tweaks than you can shake a stick at!

I admit it was initially overwhelming and I pretty much ignored all but the most basic stats at first. But after a few days I got my bearings and started to see what it’s capturing and how it relates to the real world. I’m *very* impressed with this app. 

If you forget to tell it you’re going to sleep it does an excellent job of figuring that out on its own. If you want to tell it when you’re putting your head down (to figure out how long it takes you to fall asleep once you start trying) you can do that too.

It sends me a nice summary of my night’s sleep at 10 AM the next day that helps me stay aware. And it detects naps with great accuracy so those properly count when evaluating your fatigue. 
Excellent purchase and HIGHLY recommended!

Rebuilt Web Site

You’ll find that subscriptions for tracking posts/replies as well as view counts have all been reset.

I’ve been maintaining this blog since 2005 and have made only small changes to it now and then. My goal was not to get mired in all things WordPress but rather to have my own little forum of expression.

I’ve been having more and more issues lately that my Web Host has been chronically blaming on “old and inefficient scripts”. It probably doesn’t help that my hosting plan has me sharing a virtual machine with likely hundreds if not thousands of other low-use websites.

So rather than troubleshoot 14 years worth of updates and tweaking since I *know* I’ve made some coding changes along the way that may or may not have been impactful to the efficiency of the blog functions, I elected to just lay down a fresh install of WordPress and leave the customizing to plugins.

I’m still seeing some “500” errors that miraculously go away if you refresh so I now need to collect stats and get my web host on the ball.

On the plus side I can now change my theme pretty easily to make it look a bit more modern/attractive.

Thanks for visiting!

Blackvue DR750S-2CH Overheating Issue

I have a  Blackvue DR750S-2CH that started just shutting off this spring. I’ve had the camera since August of last year and had no issues with it throughout that hot Georgia summer.
The issues started after one of the firmware updates (I forget which one), but in my garage, with the car sitting at about 85 degrees I could barely touch the camera it was so hot – and this was in parking mode. Something was making it’s CPU work overtime.
I went back and forth with BlackVue three or four times. It almost seems like they try to just keep you occupied while they test and prep the next firmware release.
Anyway, the solution was to reformat my SD card and basically install the firmware update from the SD card directly rather than pushing from the phone. I installed the 1.010 firmware update.
It’s been over two months now, through the height of summer, and I haven’t had any issues. I just went out to the garage and touched the camera and, while warm, is NOWHERE near as hot as it was when the issue was manifesting.
So there seems to be hope, at least in modestly hot regions like the SouthEast. Not sure if you desert-dwelling folks can get the same relief.
Below are the instructions I followed:
Our apologies for the inconvenience.
 Please follow the procedure below to upload the firmware again in your dashcam and see if it fixes the issue. If the issue persists, please let us know and we will provide you guidelines to pursue RMA services.
Please do the following steps to upgrade the firmware (factory reset/troubleshooting)
1. Turn off the dashcam and take out the SD card. Connect it with the computer by using the micro SD card reader.
2. After getting the backup your necessary recordings saved on the SD card, format it as FAT32[windows] / MS-DOS(FAT) [MAC] using the format tool in BlackVue PC Viewer program (please refer to the attached pics).
3. Download the latest firmware for your dashcam model from our website : https://www.blackvue.com/downloads/#1460710341510-e242903f-5343 ( <– Note: No doubt this is terribly out of date now)
4. Unzip the downloaded firmware and copy the “BlackVue” folder into the SD card.
5. Insert the SD card in the dashcam and power it up.
If the issue recurs, please let us know