Tuesday, August 19, 2008

My personal energy crisis

Time for me to spew some rage about the state of things in my pocketbook:

I just spent 45 minutes on the phone with Delmarva Power and Horizon Power, our "third-party energy supplier," trying to figure out why my electric bill went from $250 in July 2008 (which is already about $100 higher than July 2007) to $400 in August. WTF?! In this time bouncing between Delmarva and Horizon, on hold and trying to decipher multiple accents and speech problems, I received quite an education about what all that babble on the three pages of our bill actually means.

So here's the deal: Our usage is up about 500 kwh in August for some unknown reason (faulty, old, inefficient a/c is most likely culprit), so that's nothing that the power companies can control. However, I learned that Horizon, the supplier (Delmarva just owns the lines and acts as our electricity distributor) charges a variable rate each month per kwh. This past month's was 19 cents/kwh...compared to Delmarva's 11 cents/kwh. WHAT?

Of course none of this makes any sense to me, and I had to keep calling separate 800 numbers to talk to reps from each company until I finally got someone who could explain it in English. Turns out we signed up with Horizon crook because they said we would save up to 20% each month, but this variable rate business was part of the fine print. (Silly me didn't even know that one is charged a rate/kwh...that's how dumb I've been all these years, just sending the checks without knowing what the line items really mean.) I had been complaining that our electric bill jumps around a lot -- sometimes it's really high, but sometimes it's really low -- and now I know why. They basically just skip around the rate from month to month. So in the past year, our bill has gone from a consistent average of approximately $140/month to a jump-around range of $80 to $400/month. And I am enraged! Seriously, by the time I hung up the phone, I thought the top of my head was going to just pop off.

So anyway, I'll pay the bill, begrudgingly, and we'll survive on mac-and-cheese and hot dogs this month. I switched back to regular old Delmarva, though. Our bills were at least consistently high with them, instead of this jumping around crap.

Moral of this story requires me to mix a couple of hatefully trite adages: Always stick with the devil you know than switching to the devil you don't, because if a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Oh, and to really enhance my pain, after writing the check for this month's oil bill (yes, we're still paying for last winter's oil), I called to find out what the current price cap is. We're locked in at $3.12/gal until January 1, which is a good thing because the current rate is $4.99. Which is down from about $5.50 a few weeks ago. Again I say, WTF?!

To put that in perspective, the oil tank holds 270 gallons...so one fill-up would cost $1350. And they usually fill it three times a year...so that's $4050/year, divided by 12, and you've got $337/month...which is $200/mo. more than what we currently pay. Awesome. I don't know what we're going to do if that doesn't go down substantially before January 1. i'd better start stashing money away now.

So we'll be sitting in the dark and cold this winter because we can't afford the luxury of lightbulbs or heat. And I won't even get started on lamenting the grocery bill. (I did our biweekly big grocery shopping today, too, and even with coupon-clipping and circular-studying, I spent $122. Came home with about enough food for, oh, 10 days, but we will certainly have to supplement this with at least another $100 in here-and-there purchases of milk, bread, produce, and lunch stuff before the next pay day.)

OK. That's enough. Rant over. I'm feeling better. I know you're feeling the same pain, and misery loves company (I'm just throwing around the adages left and right, eh?)


Christy said...
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Sara said...

Ack! Tori, what a crappy setup Horizon has. I'd have been snookered into the switch with the lure of 20% off, too. Not fair of them to hook you with something that is unlikely to happen.

As for the oil bill, ouch. It looks like things are moving steadily downward so I hold out hope for you o that front. Lord knows what we'll be doing for heat this winter since PECO has yet to install our natural gas line and our oil company contract ends (without any more fillups) on Nov 1. If they don't install the damn thing soon, Ken won't have time to install the gas heater that's sitting in our family room in time for us to actually have heat. Already the nights are kind of cool, and luckily our house has been staying comfortable anyway. But that won't last as fall approaches.

Utility companies SUCK!!!! There. I said it.

TallGirl said...

fear not, sara. i once heard that even in the dead of winter, your house will remain a balmy 50 degrees without the heat running. just layer on the sweaters.

TallGirl said...

oh, and christy, the $122 grocery bill didn't include meat and produce...i'll pick that up at other (cheaper) stores this weekend. and nothing that wasn't either on special, discounted with a coupon, or both!

Christy said...
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