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  • Helco bills spiking

    So my last month's electric bill spiked almost a hundred dollars despite me unplugging my refrigerator and exercising a concious and anal effort in trying to reduce my electrical usage.

    The first month I did this, I timed it for the beginning of the billing cycle and low and behold my bill dropped from $468.27 to 388.39. The second month at the beginning of the billiing cycle I unplugged my garage chest freezer, and I expected another drop hopefully to around $300. I was astounded when the billing cycle ended and my bill for that month was $457.49!!

    Impossible! So I disputed my electric bill and had HELCO reread my meter. Tonight I'm working at Home Depot when this couple comes up to me asking if we sell power meters to monitor electrical usage because THEY experienced a major spike in their last month's electric bill. I asked them where they lived and they lived in HPP where I live. This couple told me another friend of theirs in HPP also experienced a major spike in their electric bill.

    So I'm getting suspicious about these coincidental spikes in electric bills. My elderly mother who lives with us tells me she sees the meter reader every month but that particular month we had another reader reading meters in our area. This couple also indicated their usual meter reader didn't read their meter that month in question because they paddle together.

    My mother also told me this meter reader came from our front driveway and drove out the back driveway without stopping their car. You can't read my meter from the direction this reader came from. This person never read my meter and my meter doesn't have an AMR system (Automatic Meter Reading) attached.

    So I assume at this point that the meter reader must have done an estimation where you take an average based on a number of previous reads and come out with an estimated reading and use that to bill me.

    In my case I made a concious effort to cut my electric bill so any averaging would have skewed the estimated reading. This couple went on a several week vacation and their house was using much less electricity during that billing cycle in question as well. Both of us reduced our electrical usage and both of us got higher than normal electric bills. Both of us had a different meter reader reading our meters during that time period.

    Now here's the kicker, on some commercial vehicles,companies attach a GPS system that tracks where a vehicle is, where it stops, and how long it was stopped, as well as how fast it's moving on any given road. Couple that with a meter reading logging system (such as ITRON's AMR hand held wand that can take in manual as well as scanned readings) it can tell the company where a meter reader was when they read the meter.

    So if a driver simply drives by the meter the GPS system will log that the meter reader did in fact visit my home. But because my meter is an Elster (no AMR system) meter index and not an ITRON meter index the meter reader had to input my meter reading manually. Since this driver never stopped and read my meter (my mother witnessed this meter reader simply drive past our meter without stopping to read it) I think this meter reader estimated my meter reading.

    This other couple indicated their meter was read by another person they didn't know and their electric bill was higher than normal. Their friend who also lives in HPP indicated a spike in their bill as well.

    I think something's messed up here
    Last edited by craigwatanabe; March 22, 2008, 01:25 AM.
    Life is what you make of please read the instructions carefully.

  • #2
    Re: Helco bills spiking

    1. Turn on printer
    2. Print your post above
    3. Sign it
    4. Add your phone #
    5. Mail it to HELCO and the PUC


    • #3
      Re: Helco bills spiking

      i understand completely, craig. geez, i try so hard to save energy (my tenant doesn't) and was doing fine until several months ago when heco (my dad used to work for them before passing away) had a couple of rate increases. i unplug the coffee maker, the toaster, turn off the computer, try to use the dryer as little as possible, etc., etc. we were paying around $150 (four people). now, with mom home 24/7 (she's incontinent so lots of washing and drying) it's over $200. our meter had to be changed out because the original was over 50 years old and rusted, rusted, rusted. the new digital one cannot be read unless the meter reader comes into a gated area. most times i know when they come because the dogs go crazy and won't let him/her in. they are always on foot in kailua.

      doesn't compare to your costs, so i should feel lucky?!
      Last edited by kani-lehua; March 22, 2008, 09:15 AM.
      "chaos reigns within.
      reflect, repent and reboot.
      order shall return."

      microsoft error message with haiku poetry


      • #4
        Re: Helco bills spiking

        A Heco meter reader advised me not to change my 50-year-old meter because any misreadings would be in my favor.... I dunno about that.

        I do know that, to move the meter on the side of my house 18 inches to the right, so that it is visible to the street, would cost at least $10,000, according to HECO.
        Burl Burlingame
        "Art is never finished, only abandoned." -- Leonardo Da Vinci


        • #5
          Re: Helco bills spiking

          Does you bill show the meter reading? HECO provides the meter reading and says if it is an estimate. Also HECO provides a breakdown of the charges.

          I see:
          Customer charge
          Non-fuel energy
          Base fuel rate
          Temp. fuel rate
          Interim increase 2005
          Interim increase 2007
          Interim surcharge
          Energy cost adjustment
          IRP cost recovery

          There is also a chart that shows the history of your usage by Kilowatt hour.

          Compare the latest statement with your older statements to see what has changed. Was it an actual increase in usage or is it an increase in fuel charge?

          If your Kilowatt hours are much higher than in previous months then look at (and take a picture of) your meter.. Then go to this web site to learn how to read the meter. Compare the reading you get with the reading on the statement. It’s going to be higher because you are reading the meter later than the meter reader did. But you can calculate pretty close to what it was the day the reader was there.

          If the reader did make a mistake it will be corrected on the next bill assuming the reader gets it right this time around.

          The main thing to check is that the type of service has not changed (residential) and the multiplier is the same.

          Oh, one other thing check the meter number on the statement with the one on your meter.
          "Reason is not automatic. Those who deny it cannot be conquered by it. Do not count on them. Leave them alone."
          Ayn Rand


          • #6
            Re: Helco bills spiking

            Originally posted by buzz1941 View Post
            A Heco meter reader advised me not to change my 50-year-old meter because any misreadings would be in my favor.... I dunno about that.

            I do know that, to move the meter on the side of my house 18 inches to the right, so that it is visible to the street, would cost at least $10,000, according to HECO.
            That was good advice as meters tend to slow down over a period of time. They are calibrated to run with a positive-error factor (utility companies that order meters can specify how fast they want their meters to be dialed in at the manufacturer) But as far as misreadings I doubt that as a misread can actually cause a high-bill situation as well. Dial indexes were meant to be read from right to left so if the righthand most dial didn't pass the zero on it's face then the dial to the left should be a 9 instead of a 0.

            If the reading was 30000 according to your bill but the "thousandths" digit didn't pass the zero position yet and the 10-thousandth digit clearly indicated a 3, your true reading should have been 29000. Mechanical dials can go out of alignment after a period of years so to verify the left dial you have to read the right dial first.

            In this case the misread by a casual reader will be 30000 with a dial multiplier of x1 for a total Kwh reading of 30Kw when your actual reading should have been 29Kw. A difference of 1Kw more than you're being billed.

            Now let's say the thousandth dial did pass the zero point but the 10-thousandth dial stayed at 2 for a reading of 20000. And let's say your last month reading was 28555. It's as if the meter went around the block and HELCO's CIS (Customer Information System) database that tracks accounts tallies that up to 120000 instead of 20000, with a multiplier of x1 that would mean you would be billed for 91.445Kw. Your electric bill will be F*CKIN OUTRAGEOUS!!! Only because one dial was off. How could the meter reader have caught that error? By reading the meter index from right to left.

            I know this because I worked for the Gas Company and I had to investigate high bill complaints and almost all of the time it's because of a misread due to a defective index.

            As for surcharges, all you have to do is to look at your usage to see any spikes in wattage consumption. The surcharges won't change usage. In my case the usage increased (spiked). That is determined by the meter reading. And readings can be misread...or estimated. This is why going AMR is so important because the meter reader cannot affect change to a reading.

            And it makes no sense to move a meter because the meter reader cannot read your meter manually. You can request an AMR to be attached to your billing meter (ITRON AMR) so the reader can queary your meter remotely with a handheld wand. The downside to doing that is you will probably lose your 50-year old meter and will have it replaced with a new meter/AMR.

            ITRON has both a handheld wand for individual readings up to 300-ft (open field conditions) or use a vehicle mounted device that can queary both sides of a street in a moving vehicle travelling at a rate of 40-mph. Most utilities don't use them because meter readers are typically union workers and the unions felt that was going to put meter reading positions in jeopardy. AMR systems have always been a sore spot in union negotiations in virtually every state.

            ITRON is owned by Actaris which bought out Schlumberger which was owned by Sprague which was bought out by Textron. And for those who don't know who Textron is, it's the company who's major shareholder was our Vice President Dick Chaney who was accused of using his VP influence to fatten up his stock in Textron in the Iraq war clean up contracts where Textron was a major player.

            Textron also owns Bell Helicopter. Bell Helicopter back in the Vietnam war was considered a major war vehicle that the Pentagon used quite a lot. Bell Helicopter also had a major shareholder with high political influence, his name was LBJ. YEP the Vietnam war made LBJ friggin rich, just like Dick Chaney.
            Last edited by craigwatanabe; March 22, 2008, 10:43 PM.
            Life is what you make of please read the instructions carefully.


            • #7
              Re: Helco bills spiking

              For what its worth I've noticed everything is going up, water/gas/sewer, electric, cable, gas for car, etc.

              I have never seen anyone from the electric company actually read my meter.

              It seems for electric its gone up 80 bucks or so in the last year and for water about 80 bucks too.



              • #8
                Re: Helco bills spiking

                Our Electric Bill has been going down for several months because we use ___.


                Auntie Lynn
                Be AKAMAI ~ KOKUA Hawai`i!
                Philippians 4:13 --- I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.


                • #9
                  Re: Helco bills spiking

                  Just chiming in here. I live in a 2 bedroom condo. Until recently, my electric bill was somewhere in the ball park of $65/mo. My last 2 or 3 bills averaged $102. I feel your pain.


                  • #10
                    Re: Helco bills spiking

                    Well this Sunday's Hilo Tribune Herald says it all:

                    Electric bills stun isle residents

                    Sunday, March 23, 2008 8:43 AM HST

                    Fuel surcharge adds $76 to typical home's cost

                    by Jason Armstrong
                    Tribune-Herald Staff Writer

                    Big Island residents are feeling skyrocketing oil prices at the light switch as much as they are at the gas pump.

                    Hawaii Electric Light Co. is billing its residential and business customers a fuel surcharge of 15.2 cents for every kilowatt-hour of electricity they use, said Curtis Beck, manager of HELCO's Energy Services Department.

                    That means an extra $76 a month for a typical residential customer and $760 for the average isle business, he said.

                    The "energy cost adjustment," which fluctuates monthly based on oil prices, is in addition to the 7.6 cents per kWh "base fuel energy" charge the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission approved in 2001, he said.

                    A kWh is the amount of electricity consumed by running a 100-watt light bulb continuously for 10 hours.

                    "We've been getting a lot of calls, understandably," Beck said Thursday. "We understand that when costs go up, it hurts people, and they're going to call."

                    For Hilo businessman Jim O'Keefe, higher oil prices have meant that his power bill is rising faster than the bread dough used at his O'Keefe & Sons Bread Bakers.

                    "Power costs have been going up pretty substantially in the last year to year-and-a-half," he said.

                    Despite consistent power use, O'Keefe said the $2,500 monthly electric bill he was getting a few years ago is now $5,000.

                    "We've absorbed much of it," he said of his business that relies heavily on electricity for refrigeration and lighting needs. "We're hard-pressed to share those increases with the customer. We try to be modest with those."

                    O'Keefe said his bill would double again if he didn't use ovens that burn fuel oil similar to diesel.

                    "If we were on electric power for our ovens, people wouldn't be able to afford our bread," he said. "It would be $10 a loaf."

                    Already using florescent lighting and a more fuel-efficient delivery van, O'Keefe said he's considering switching to newer ovens that are up to 40 percent more efficient because he expects oil prices to continue to rise.

                    "It's a difficult challenge," O'Keefe said of the rising electric bills. "We have to look at ways to serve our customers and give them a good value."

                    Oil was selling briefly for $88 a barrel in early December before reaching a record high of $111.80 on Monday. However, it fell to $101.84 a barrel Thursday.

                    HELCO calculates the fuel surcharge in advance each month, with follow-up adjustments should its prediction be high or low, Beck said.

                    "We do have to pass them through the bill," he said, noting February's energy cost adjustment actually was 1.1 cents per kWh more than the March price.

                    "It came down a little bit," he said.

                    Beck suggested customers consider the energy-savings tips HELCO offers. The utility company also offers a "home energy check" or customized analysis of each family's energy costs online at

                    Residential and business customer Laurie Bass said she and others are considering going even further to ward off oil-related spikes in their power bills.

                    "Everybody's talking about going to a different means of electricity," she said Thursday.

                    Bass said she uses a gas clothes dryer, gas stove, fluorescent light bulbs and solar-powered water heater at her Pepeekeo home, yet has not escaped higher electric bills.

                    "It's about $100 more (a month) than it used to be," she said in comparing her latest bill with the one she paid in October.

                    That price jump prompted her to contact HELCO recently.

                    "I just stomped on down there," she said, adding a HELCO employee then read her meter and discovered an error that resulted in a $12 savings.

                    Jason Armstrong can be reached at
                    Life is what you make of please read the instructions carefully.