Electricity and First-World Conveniences

$187.74. The electricity bill. That’s pretty high.

“Did you miss a payment?” Rusty asked.

“No. I overpaid.” I pay random amounts and usually end up months ahead. Why? I don’t know. Bill ADHD. I try to get ahead of the months I know will be higher. This is one of those freaky post-recession financial behaviors I still do, even though I’m blessed to be paying my bills and eating food on a regular basis now. Vegetable gardening is the other freaky-post-recession behavior. But that’s kind of fun.

I analyzed the bill. Usually I don’t–it’s sort of like looking at a scale. No one really wants to know the truth. Ever. The truth is better left ignored.

Sure enough, $87 for the electricity itself and $90 for distribution. And some random fees and taxes because the bill wasn’t quite high enough. That makes sense. But fifty percent of the bill seems an awful high fee for “distribution.” I think they hired a drug dealer to do this job and then jacked the fees accordingly.

I thought understanding my Verizon bill was tough. The Verizon bill makes me jump up and down on the phone getting transferred to “sister companies” all over the world who tell me “You need the business department,” or “Sorry, that’s the Internet division.” I jump up and down faster, even though they can’t see this gesture of frustration and say “I just want to pay you!” in four different languages until I finally give up and keep my money just a little bit longer.

But the electric bill is testing the limits of my education. We should use that for the high-stakes graduation requirement. All students who understand it completely graduate. We’d save a lot of standardized testing money and the rainforest trees used for making diploma stock would live to see another day.

I want someone to put a big number on one piece of paper and say, “Listen, moron. Here’s your bill. You’re living in the 21st century. You have lights. Internet. A refrigerator that keeps your food from killing you. Shut up and pay. It costs a lot. Empty your checkbook and resume your regularly scheduled first-world behavior.” I want a bill that can be tweeted to me, “$187.74. Pay or lose your air conditioning.”

electricity billI don’t really need six itemized lines that require me to take classes in nuclear obfuscation. What is a “LIHEAP Enhancement Charge?” or the $11.01 I’m being charged for “Energy Efficiency Programs?” $11 a month to teach someone to turn off a lightbulb? There’s a “transmission charge,” a “transition charge,” and a “distribution charge.” Are they bringing electricity to me three separate times?

According to the paragraph on the side, I have the right to dispute, and there is an “explanation of billing terms available.” But I’m smart. I Googled LIHEAP. The acronym reminded me of “lie a heap,” which sounds like a political term, so I was intrigued. Turns out, it’s “Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program.”  I support that. State law, I researched, says that it may not be more than ten dollars per year. Mine is eighty-three cents. It seems they broke down my ten dollars into thoughtful installments, but in the end, I am charged over ten times more more to contribute to training people in the fine art of turning off lightbulbs than I donate to helping people in need. Maybe more people need to learn to turn off lightbulbs.

If I flip the bill over, there’s a helpful graph. It shows how I barely used any electricity before, and in June I used half a power plant. I filed that under “happiness” budget, not “utilities” though, because my husband hates summer. June is when the A/C wars begin. He puts the air conditioning as cold as he can get away with and I change it as soon as he turns around. He tells me to put on a sweater. When I was younger, my dad used to say “Put on a sweater” all winter. I’m traumatized. I’m an adult. I refuse to do that now–especially during the summer. We have an ongoing scientific discussion. Rusty says that because I change the temperature when I’m uncomfortably cold and he’s not home, all the molecules in the house must recool, which ultimately costs more money. Therefore, the bill is $187.74. I’m sure he’s right. But I’m cold. I’ll give an extra few bucks under a line item they should list on the bill “molecule recooling comfort fee.” Or the “marriage preservation tax.” Either of those would be fine by me.

So, I paid the bill. And found the remote control to the stand-up air conditioner and turned it up a few degrees, because my sweater is in the bedroom and everyone’s asleep. I don’t want to wake them. I’m rather enjoying the peace and quiet.

Bills paid, I’m going to go make some more hot coffee while I wait for the room to warm up.




8 thoughts on “Electricity and First-World Conveniences

  1. It seems like EVERY utility bill is starting to look like something out of the Congressional Budget Office. At this point, they could completely be making up these charges and none of us would ever know, so inured to taxes and fees and assessments everywhere we go. This post was very funny, but sadly true!

  2. I live in Lithuania in one of these old Soviet housing blocks http://andreasmoser.wordpress.com/2013/03/03/savanoriu-prospektas-winter-evening/ – and I have to read the meters for electricity, gas, hot water and cold water every month myself, note down the numbers and then e-mail them to my landlady, who is friendly enough to enter them in the web interfaces of the different utility companies, calculates the amounts to pay and accepts one total amount from me which she divides up and passes on to all the different providers.
    I like this combination of old-fashioned (having to go into the corridor to read the electricity meter myself) and modern (web interfaces for data entry).

    • I lived in one of the government dorm buildings near Novoslobodskaya in Russia, where we had a domoshnaya to handle such things… in a strange way, I got used to the Soviet inefficiency, which helped one to make and appreciate relationships and to get around the system. In many ways, it helped me to learn get around the road blocks of teaching (http://cafecasey.com/2013/04/11/teach-like-a-soviet/) and make some of the best and most meaningful friends.

  3. We pay a fortune in the summer. I think of it every time I push the little down arrow to make this joint less sweaty hot. But, I do it anyway. You and I probably can’t be friends. Sorry.

  4. You might check and see if they have a monthly bill leveling system available. Here they call it “budget billing” and adjust it quarterly, but usually not much. In my mom’s area it’s called “level pay” and it gets adjusted less often. It means you pay the same year round, more or less, which in my case means not facing $500+ electric bills in summer. It’s especially good for budgeting if you don’t have natural gas or other fuel expenses for heating in winter.

    Our contribution to help poor people with their electric bills is optional. It can save a family $17/mo on their bill, though. We also have the option to pay extra for solar power. How they tell the solar-generated electrons from the nuclear-generated ones baffles me, though.

      • Yes, well, when you’re trying to keep the inside of a poorly insulated house 40 degrees cooler than the outside, it burns through those kwh’s!

      • Our raised ranch was buttoned up so tight that an ice cube cooled it, but this one’s stone, so that holds the temp–warm or cool.

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