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Watch Duke Energy - Problem (Probably) Fixed - Day 3

By Sid of Stone Marmot

Feb. 25, 2015

I've been trying to find another way to contact Duke other than their customer service telephone line, which blew me off once already. I only live about 20 miles from their Florida main office, so I thought of going there in person. But I presently have a minor cold and probably should not be in public, plus I didn't think I would get too far there, either, in meeting someone who could actually help.

I was also having troubles getting a readable printout of the power meter photos from my printer. But I finally got a decent printout of yesterday's meter photos. So I looked at Duke's website to see if there was an address I could send a registered letter with photos explaining my problem. That is when I found that there is a customer service email capability on Duke's site. They promise a response in 48 hours. So I sent them a very brief description of the problem and a link to my website for more info and photos.

About five hours later someone named Nick from Duke Energy called me. He was very friendly and seemed knowledgeable, as opposed to giving canned responses like it seemed I was getting from the customer service telephone line. We discussed the problem and he found the actual handwritten reading the meter reader recorded. It did indeed show that 3847 was the reading off the meter on Feb. 16. Somehow it got entered into the system as 3877, which is what ended up on the bill. So it indeed was an honest mistake, as I suspected.

Nick said that he corrected the system entry and I should be getting a corrected bill in the next week. So the problem seems to be fixed. Of course, I need to receive the corrected bill and thoroughly examine future bills, but I am confident this problem is fixed.

I wish I had known about the email contact earlier. I've found in past dealings with large corporations that they tend to limit how the general public can contact them. In fact, it took me about ten minutes of punching numbers before I got an actual person to talk to me on their customer service phone line. I wasn't expecting something as simple as email would be available. There isn't much room for a message and no obvious way to add attachments, so including a link to a website with additional data in the email made our talk easier.

Incidentally, I don't really blame Duke too much if they don't look forward to customers contacting them. I give a lot of talks on how to save electricity. I frequently have people who attend these talks tell me that they can't be using as much electricity as Duke claims and that the power company is probably cheating them. Occasionally, if they make a convincing enough case, I'll agree to come out to their place to try to prove that they are being cheated. So far, for every single one of these cases, I was able to show that these people were using a lot more electricity than they thought and their power bills were probably correct. It is amazing the things that people overlook or think “That doesn't use much electricity, does it?”

If there really is a problem with your bill, it appears you can get it fixed. But you have to know what you are talking about and do your homework. Vague reasons like “My neighbor's house is the same size as mine but their electric bills are half as much as mine” don't cut it. In my own neighborhood of about 100 houses, all between 1000 to 1500 square feet, monthly electric bills range anywhere from less than $20 to over $400, with the average seeming to be between $150 and $200. How you live and whether energy conservation is a priority in how you furnish and maintain your house makes a very, very big difference. For most people, energy use has almost no priority and is, at best, an afterthought after every other desire has been met.

For completeness, I photographed my electric meter today, Feb. 25, 2015, at 3:30 pm. Figure 1 shows the reading that would be used for the “Present (Actual)” reading on the electric bill. It reads 3862 kwh, two more than yesterday, as expected.

Figure 1- February 25, 2015, meter reading of net power flowing into house.

Figure 2 shows a photograph of the reading that would be used for the “Current Received” value on the electric bill. It reads 13,814 kwh generated (actually, net power flowing out of the house). When subtracted from yesterday's reading of 13,811 kwh, it shows I only generated about 3 kwh of surplus power this past day. This makes sense since it has been very cloudy with absolutely no direct sunlight appearing the whole day before I took the pictures.

Figure 2- February 25, 2015, meter reading of net power flowing out of house.

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