Zero Energy Home: Lying Numbers

Sometimes you open up your utility bill and say, “That can't be right!” Usually, it's more of a wail of despair than a statement of fact. But this time, I've got the numbers to back me up. This story really starts two months ago, when we got our electric bill for March-April. It showed a credit of -$14.14 (woohoo!). We had generated more electricity than we had consumed, which is good, because later in the heat of the summer we expect to use more than we produce. As it turns out, that was the last accurate bill we were to receive.

We were eagerly awaiting the April-May bill (how often can you say that you were looking forward to getting a bill?), and we expected to receive another credit, since the weather had been lovely and we had not needed to use the heat pump very much. Imagine our disbelief when the bill showed a credit of -$82.25! I turned to my wife and said, “That can't be right!” and it wasn't. Looking at the details, we realized that they had double-credited us for the electricity we had generated. We should have had a credit of about -$20. So we sent our electric company a note, letting them know that there was a problem with the bill. We got back a nice email, thanking us for letting them know, but since they were in the process of changing over to a new billing system, it would cost more than it was worth to fix the problem with the old billing system, and that we could just keep the credit as a customer appreciation bonus.

You can imagine how interested we were to see the most recent bill (May-June). It had been hotter than normal, but we hadn't had any rain (lots of hot, sunny days), so we thought we might have another credit. We were absolutely incredulous when we opened the bill and saw that we had a credit for -$80.67! This bill was even worse. Not only had they double-credited us, they had calculated sales tax (and a number of other little fees) on the negative value. Apparently, the State of Texas owes me $0.41 in sales tax .  (I won't try to collect, though.)

We've sent them another note (a little more pointed this time). While it's wonderful to be getting a credit on our electric bill, the annoyance at the incorrect billing detracts from the smug gloating I should be feeling now. I'm a numbers guy (as you should know by now), and I hate it when the numbers try to lie to me.