If the mistakes by the SmartMeter were not reason enough to cause a headache, we were then told by the company that if we were "just a bit more conscious" about our energy use we'd most likely be able to be billed entirely at their lowest rate. That was music to my ears, until I checked my bill more closely. It turns out that the only way to stay inside that low, "baseline" rate is basically if I took my family away for a month-long vacation.
On the first bill, we were allowed 10.25 therms of use at the lowest rate of $.94/therm. The next month we were allowed 16 therms and the third 15.5 therms. After those respective allotments, we were bumped up to the next "Over Baseline" rate, which averaged out to be roughly $.25/therm higher.
"A normal household of four is usually allowed two therms a day," one rep at PG&E told me.
I was not the best at math in high school and college, so perhaps I'm missing something. If we are all allowed two therms a day, shouldn't we be paying a "baseline" rate for the first 60 therms used? The way they have it on the bill basically breaks down to roughly 15 therms allowed every month, which is only a half of therm per day.
"Roughly one person uses six therms per month just for showering alone," said another company representative when I inquired further on normal gas usage.
So, what they are saying is just by taking one shower per day, an average-sized family of four is using 24 therms per billing cycle. That in itself is 10 therms or so above the low flat "baseline" rate I should be billed at if I were "just a bit more conscious." I am all for being environmentally friendly - for Mother Nature and for my wallet - but apparently my local gas and electric company expects us to forgo hygiene when it comes to being energy-conscious.
"It can get much higher than that, too, if you take really hot showers. Gas dryers and flat screen televisions are also huge energy users. Maybe your bill is high because you have a lot of flat screen televisions in your household?" she asked me.
Since we only have one, a 42-inch Samsung, I highly doubt that's the reason. It's also the exceptionally high gas portion of the bill in question and the last time I checked, our boob tube ran on electricity.
As we investigated our meter readings further, we found out that on most days we used just one therm per day. For some reason, that number spiked to three therms and even an occasional four on some Wednesdays and Saturdays.