Residential Gas Meter Error


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Old 12-10-12, 06:59 PM
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Residential Gas Meter Error

My husband and I received a $2200 natural gas bill for the month of Oct ---164,300 units of usage (whatever the measurement is in?) on an older unoccupied house. The average bill for that time is $20-$25 --- 200 units of usage. This bill is as much as the last four years of usage --- all in one month! Though no one lives in the house, the restroom facilities are used six days a week by employees of a business we own. We have a gas hot water heater in operation for hand-washing but nothing else was used during that time. There is a gas wall heater in the bathroom used in the winter, a stove in the kitchen occasionally used during extreme cold to keep the pipes from freezing and a floor furnace that has not been used in many years. There is enough traffic through the house to have noticed a gas leak. The gas company came out to check for leaks and found none; then made a second trip to use a sniffer under the house and found nothing. We explained (and they could see) the house is vacant and there was no way that much gas was used. They made a third trip to change the meter (which has been here for many, many years) and said they would send it in to check the indexing, did so, and called to say the meter checked out fine. We have never smelled gas anywhere on 'their' side or 'our' side of the meter, no leaks have ever been found, the new meter appears to be accurate with usage in the past. I don't know what I would have to run or how long I'd have to run it to use that much gas, or if it's even possible. We double checked the numbers ourselves (I was smart enough to get a picture of old meter reading before it was sent off) and are at a total loss except the METER had to be wrong. The gas company has been good to not run the charge through our checking account (we have auto-draft payments) but I'm on the agenda to meet with the board this week and would like to offer any other possible explanations, before they try to make us pay for gas I know we did not use. I would sincerely appreciate any ideas. Thank you.
 
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Old 12-10-12, 07:08 PM
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Another utility mystery.

You have the readings on the old meter that show the usage as of today.
Do you have last month's bill and do the numbers show you used 164,300 cubic feet ?

That's 164,300,000 btu's of heat

What is your average daily temperature there in Ok. ?

Where is that new hideaway spa you just built
 
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Old 12-10-12, 07:11 PM
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Dang

Well, maybe they would be willing to bill you according to the past two years average for that month?

Ask them to settle for $100 bucks and call it a day?

The next question is, was the seal broken on the meter or had anyone tampered with it?
 
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Old 12-10-12, 07:22 PM
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The "units" are either cubic feet or Therms. It is unlikely that it is a meter error that would be so far in favor of the gas utility, more likely a "slow" meter that would favor the consumer.

Someone leaving a hot water faucet on and running for a prolonged period of time could indeed use that much gas in the water heater.
 
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Old 12-10-12, 07:24 PM
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A high water bill would explain the water being left on maybe?
 
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Old 12-10-12, 07:31 PM
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Our average temp for this October was in the upper 70's...extremely warm. I don't know how much 164,300,000 btu's of heat is but four years worth of anything in one month seems like a lot ... and you can rest assured my husband will have some explaining to do should I find the hideaway spa.
Boilernut, I like your idea of offering a settlement amount: I think I feel so much the powerless underdog in this I might have just let them tell me how much to pay. We have been customers for 35 plus years and never had a late payment; I'm hoping they take that into consideration so I don't receive a paid gas bill instead of a real gift for Christmas!
 
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Old 12-10-12, 07:35 PM
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might be worth a 100 bucks just to get it behind you?

who knows what really happened?

is that your fault, no
 
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Old 12-10-12, 07:43 PM
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We would have noticed a faucet left on for any length of time as the house isn't that large and we really do have conscientious employees; the water bill did not increase either.
I'd gladly pay the $100 and move on. With a new meter installed I don't worry about this happening again. As with so many things, it's the stress of the whole mess plus time spent trying to figure out what happened that is the most irritating.
 
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Old 12-10-12, 07:43 PM
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On a lighter note, when I had the old Victorian house we ran a $1100.00 a month bill one time and about pooped my pants lol

We really did use it and owe it though, big difference when owe it.
 
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Old 12-10-12, 07:48 PM
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Did you find last month's bill. Did the listed useage match ?
 
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Old 12-10-12, 08:09 PM
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Sorry PJmax for failing to answer in a timely manner. Yes, meter readings matched.
 
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Old 12-10-12, 08:32 PM
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Silly question maybe but is this a digital or dial style meter? If it is a dial style, are you absolutely sure the reading is correct? It can be easy to misread that type of meter.
 
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Old 12-10-12, 08:45 PM
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Not a silly question as the dial meter, as I have, isn't easy to read. However, several of us read it and it matches the gas company number.
 
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Old 12-10-12, 08:50 PM
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Had to ask. Mistakes like that have been made many times, even by those who do it everyday.
 
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Old 12-11-12, 09:21 PM
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Are you able to post a picture of the meter dial?
 
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Old 12-12-12, 12:52 AM
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Gas Meter Dial

 
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Old 12-12-12, 12:59 AM
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Photos of Gas Meter Dial and Bill

It doesn't look like I can get the photo to post here. I posted both the meter picture and the numbers from the gas bill on our flickr account. If you don't mind following the link, here are the photos (along with some really cool pictures of plants we grow in our nursery!).
Flickr: DoubleDB's Photostream

Also do you know what I would have to run to use 164300 units of gas in a month? Thanks for looking!
 
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Old 12-12-12, 01:21 AM
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Unless I've dropped a zero somewhere that looks like an average consumption of slightly over 200,000 BTUs per hour continuously for 34 days. The average home heating furnace burns around 100,000 BTUs per hour so this billing would be similar to having two furnaces running continuously for the billing period.

Either a significant leak in the piping after the meter, someone running the furnace continuously without your knowledge or a faulty meter register. Yeah, I'd fight it.

Oh, your billable units are cubic feet of gas.
 
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Old 12-12-12, 01:55 AM
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Thatís EXACTLY the kind of information I need to take to the board. I have said all along it HAS to be the meter. We donít use that much gas in our nursery, heating propagation houses, during any month in the winter. I donít believe that much gas ran through the meter at all: I think there was some sort of malfunction in the dials (or something). They checked for gas leaks, we sure did not fix any, we have employees plus ourselves in the area pretty-much continuously (scary thought too: we have many employees who smoke every time they go on break) and have not used the furnace in the house in many years. Iím going to the board Thursday evening with my information and hopefully they realize we really did not use the gas. I will post the outcome Ö good or badÖ so everyone will know the ending to this story (please, let them have the Christmas spirit).
 
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Old 12-12-12, 01:59 AM
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Your addition looks pretty close.

I'd fight it too. Just doesn't make sense.
 
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Old 12-12-12, 01:06 PM
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Each unit of gas as measured by the meter is 100 cubic feet of gas consumption.

So the meter showed 1643 ccfs of gas consumed, which is 164300 cubic feet of gas.

The meter reading on 10/29 according to the bill was 8794.

The meter reading on your picture of the gas meter was also 8794 on 10/31.

So no gas consumption indicated between those two dates.


You really need a lot more information than you've posted to investigate this further.

Possibilities would be a meter that's been switched, perhaps years ago. Confusion with another address or meter.

A meter that's been tampered with --- I don't see evidence of a meter seal in your pictures, but a seal might be there and not visible.

Keep working with the utility. Talk with supervisors if need be.

I used to deal with thuis kind of problem both as a gas utility CSR and field repairman. I never encountered anyone not interested in overbilling a customer. But LOTS of strange things can happen and cause thuis kind of issue.
 
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Old 12-12-12, 11:38 PM
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More info than you probably want to know...

Greetings SeattlePioneer:

8754 was final reading on bill, gas company noticed increase on our bill and sent out service reps. They found no leaks, etc and left. Came back in a day or two with sniffer to check under house and found nothing. Obvious to all there were no leaks, no repairs, no one living in house. I happened to be there and took the picture of the meter because I wanted to compare the numbers to bill (hoping the numbers were just entered incorrectly). They pulled the meter a day or two after that and put in a new meter. With our normal usage, I'm not surprised the meter they pulled still read the # on questioned bill because it wouldn't be unusual for the usage to be 200 or 300 cu ft which would only change the meter 2 or 3 digits...I think.

Previous meter readings all reflect the correct #'s ... below are the usage amount and bill paid for the last two years. I

[TABLE]
[TR]
[TH]Period[/TH]
[TH]Acct # 10.0230
Empty House[/TH]
[TH]Usage
cu ft[/TH]
[/TR]
[TR]
[TD="align: right"]11-20-10 - 12-20-10[/TD]
[TD="align: right"]$ 134.44[/TD]
[TD="align: right"][/TD]
[/TR]
[TR]
[TD="align: right"]12-20-10 - 01-20-11[/TD]
[TD="align: right"]$ 174.22[/TD]
[TD="align: right"]11600[/TD]
[/TR]
[TR]
[TD="align: right"]01-20-11 - 02-20-11[/TD]
[TD="align: right"]$ 160.96[/TD]
[TD="align: right"]10600[/TD]
[/TR]
[TR]
[TD="align: right"]02-20-11 - 03-21-11[/TD]
[TD="align: right"]$ 57.53[/TD]
[TD="align: right"]2800[/TD]
[/TR]
[TR]
[TD="align: right"]03-22-11 - 04-19-11[/TD]
[TD="align: right"]$ 36.31[/TD]
[TD="align: right"]1200[/TD]
[/TR]
[TR]
[TD="align: right"]04-20-11 - 05-20-11[/TD]
[TD="align: right"]$ 31.01[/TD]
[TD="align: right"]800[/TD]
[/TR]
[TR]
[TD="align: right"]05-22-11 - 06-22-11[/TD]
[TD="align: right"]$ 23.05[/TD]
[TD="align: right"]200[/TD]
[/TR]
[TR]
[TD="align: right"]06-22-11 - 07-21-11[/TD]
[TD="align: right"]$ 23.05[/TD]
[TD="align: right"]200[/TD]
[/TR]
[TR]
[TD="align: right"]07-22-11 - 08-22-11[/TD]
[TD="align: right"]$ 25.70[/TD]
[TD="align: right"]400[/TD]
[/TR]
[TR]
[TD="align: right"]08-22-11 - 09-22-11[/TD]
[TD="align: right"]$ 23.05[/TD]
[TD="align: right"]200[/TD]
[/TR]
[TR]
[TD="align: right"]09-22-11 - 10-22-11[/TD]
[TD="align: right"]$ 21.73[/TD]
[TD="align: right"]100[/TD]
[/TR]
[TR]
[TD="align: right"]10-21-11 - 11-21-11[/TD]
[TD="align: right"]$ 23.05[/TD]
[TD="align: right"]200[/TD]
[/TR]
[TR]
[TD="align: right"]11-21-11 - 12-21-11[/TD]
[TD="align: right"]$ 121.18[/TD]
[TD="align: right"]7600[/TD]
[/TR]
[TR]
[TD="align: right"]12-22-11 - 01-22-12[/TD]
[TD="align: right"]$ 174.22[/TD]
[TD="align: right"]11600[/TD]
[/TR]
[TR]
[TD="align: right"]01-22-12 - 02-22-12[/TD]
[TD="align: right"]$ 137.09[/TD]
[TD="align: right"]8800[/TD]
[/TR]
[TR]
[TD="align: right"]02-22-12 - 03-24-12[/TD]
[TD="align: right"]$ 77.42[/TD]
[TD="align: right"]4300[/TD]
[/TR]
[TR]
[TD="align: right"]03-22-12 - 04-21-12[/TD]
[TD="align: right"]$ 94.66[/TD]
[TD="align: right"]5600[/TD]
[/TR]
[TR]
[TD="align: right"]04-26-12 - 05-24-12[/TD]
[TD="align: right"]$ 105.26[/TD]
[TD="align: right"]6400[/TD]
[/TR]
[TR]
[TD="align: right"]05-26-12 - 06-24-12[/TD]
[TD="align: right"]<78.30>[/TD]
[TD="align: right"]500[/TD]
[/TR]
[TR]
[TD="align: right"]06-25-12 - 07-26-12[/TD]
[TD="align: right"]$ 23.00[/TD]
[TD="align: right"]200[/TD]
[/TR]
[TR]
[TD="align: right"]07-26-12 - 08-28-12[/TD]
[TD="align: right"]$ 23.00[/TD]
[TD="align: right"]200[/TD]
[/TR]
[TR]
[TD="align: right"]08-28-12 - 09-25-12[/TD]
[TD="align: right"]$ 23.00[/TD]
[TD="align: right"]200[/TD]
[/TR]
[TR]
[TD="align: right"]09-25-12 - 10-29-12[/TD]
[TD]
$ 2,414.22
pulled meter
[/TD]
[TD="align: right"]164,300[/TD]
[/TR]
[TR]
[TD="align: right"]10-29-12 - 11-28-12[/TD]
[TD="align: right"]27.80[/TD]
[TD][/TD]
[/TR]
[TR]
[TD][/TD]
[TD][/TD]
[TD][/TD]
[/TR]
[TR]
[TD][/TD]
[TD][/TD]
[TD][/TD]
[/TR]
[TR]
[TD][/TD]
[TD][/TD]
[TD][/TD]
[/TR]
[TR]
[TD][/TD]
[TD][/TD]
[TD][/TD]
[/TR]
[TR]
[TD][/TD]
[TD][/TD]
[TD][/TD]
[/TR]
[/TABLE]

We are rural, own 250 acres and the only other gas meter is to our plant nursery and home. That meter is on the opposite side of the road, different account number and the highest bill we have had in the last two years was $522.95 for a usage of 37900 cu ft (Jan 2011) so the nursery bill isn't even 25% of incorrect bill. The gas for nursery at this time of the year averages maybe 4000 cu ft a month.

The gas company said they sent the meter off for indexing and it was fine. I'm not sure what indexing is but [after reading online] wonder if that is just the measurement of gas going through the meter and maybe not checking the calibration of dials?!?
I know we didn't use the gas and hope we get an explanation .... I hate mysteries. Having a new meter relieves my mind about it happening again --- so I must think it's the meter. I haven't been by to check the reading on new meter but will do so tomorrow. The bill we just received is right on target so I believe all is well ... well, except for the $2200 gas bill still hanging over my head.

I don't know about a lock on the meter but I'd be willing to bet there is one. Our rural gas authority is small and I've spoke with service reps and supervisor too. When he called to tell me the meter checked out fine, I asked him what my next step was since I knew we had NOT used the gas. He said he could put me on the agenda for next board meeting...which is where I'm headed.

My thoughts are to go to the board meeting tonight (Thursday), give them info on bill, explain vacancy of house, show usage history, trips by their service reps who found no leaks, no repairs. If there had been a gas leak, 'leaks' don't just fix themselves; take electric and water bill to show they have remained same. Explain that the usage on this one bill is as much as last FOUR years combined, explain how using that many btus would be equivalent to running two furnaces 24/7 for 34 days (when we don't even run one furnace) and remind them of our 35 plus years of perfect payment, ask them to average our bills for the last two or three years (preferably for this time period) and accept that as full payment. Anything else you can think of?

Thank you!‚Äč
 
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Old 12-12-12, 11:51 PM
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You have things well in hand. I personally can't think of anything else you can do.

Please keep us posted as we are all interested in this case. Good luck !
 
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Old 12-13-12, 03:55 PM
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Trying to help

Hello I have been reading this and I'm taking a guess. ,

Do you have an outside meter set and if so how close is it to your house?

This is just a stab but if you have a remote meter set. There maybe be a possibility that the buried house line before it enters your house may be leaking. This would show as gas consumtion.

Just a thought
 
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Old 12-14-12, 02:28 PM
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Interesting situation.

The gas utility where I worked would pull out the gas meter and test the ability of the meter to measure gas consumption on highly accurate test equipment.

Pretty much NEVER did gas meters read significantly more gas consumption than was used. 99% of the time any failure resulted in zero gas consumption being recorded.

So just based on my experience, I would suppose there was some kind of error in where the meter was located, which meter was read or some other syetematic kind of gross mistake or error.

But frankly, I don't have an explanation for the facts as you present them. The experience I describe above might not be relevent to your particular situation.

I would invite you to continue to post your experience with your utility. They probably have far more resources to identify what might have happened, and I'd be curious to find out when that is ulitmately figured out.

Sorry I couldn't be of more help. Not so far, anyway.

The only other thing I can offer is that I never encountered anyone at the utility where I worked who was interested in charging anyone for more gas than they actually used. Utilities live or die by the accuracy of their gas meters, so they have a big interest in charging people only for what they use, in my experience.
 
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Old 12-14-12, 10:37 PM
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UPDATE after board meeting

Update: After taking our case before the gas board last night, we are still on hold. The gas company rep said the meter tested out fine. Just before the meeting started, a lady from the utility office handed us a paper from a meter service so we had zero time to review the results or the company that checked the meter. The paper (no certification #s or signature) lists the meter type to be AL-259 (the photo I took of dial was at an angle showing the brand to be Singer; American Meter Company), the meter #, type of test (Two-Point), test equipment as a sonic nozzle, and shows results to be 98.2 open, 98.6 check. There was a comment in the note section stating ďthe meter was found to be running with specifications (+/- 2.0%) in both open and check conditions during the Two Point testĒ. The manager of the gas company said the meter is one of the few left in their system thatís not tracked electronically to where they would be able to tell us the date and time of the purported increased gas use. They said their employees had been out a couple of times after they saw the high reading and the meter was running correctly. We agree, for the most part. We believe it probably is running accurately Ė except for the time the dials jumped like crazy.

One of the board members pulled out his calculator and started calculating how much gas would have had to go through the meter and line to the house per hour to use that many cubic feet. He said his calculations showed it would be at 200 cu ft per hour, 24/7 for the entire 35 days. His knowledge of the subject quickly lost me at this point but he was talking about half-ounce rate and ĺĒ line (my husband thinks there is a one inch line going into the house) and how it might could be done but (from what I gathered) it would be somewhat of a strain on the equipment.

So, if thatís going to be a strain and they say the meter has been running accurately Ö how did it pump out that much gas in a shorter period of time than the whole 35 days and not be too much for the meter??? Maybe Iím wrong, totally misunderstood and there is no limit as to how fast gas can come through the meter?

I agree they are not TRYING to charge us for more gas than they believe went through the meter, we just donít believe the gas actually went through the meter ... which is where the gas manager again said ďthereís nothing wrong with the meterĒ. The meter is not a long distance from the house and there are no signs of a gas leak. If there were a leak severe enough to lose gas at this rate, it wouldnít have repaired itself and the new meter is showing usage consistent with our history.

The question of how close their (gas company) figures are on the amount of gas they buy to the amount of gas they bill out was answered ďpercentages are pretty closeĒ. We were not privy to the actual numbers. One of the board members asked the gas company if there were any wrench marks, excavations or signs that something might have occurred to the meter/gas and they said they saw nothing unusual.

The board went into an executive session and came back to tell us they were going to turn the figures over to an engineer to review the possibilities. I havenít a clue how this is going to turn out. In many ways, my husband and I felt we were fighting a losing battle last night (itís impossible to prove a negative: we did not receive/use the gas) but, on the other hand, we donít feel the gas company believes we stole the gas. Actually, I donít have a clue as to what they must think we would have done with that amount of gas or how we could have accidentally used that much gas and not have known it.

There was some talk about us paying Ďtheirí cost but then they started mentioning payment for the gas meter test, time and gas for taking it over (an hour and a half away), etc etc. We are going to start doing some face-to-face networking to find out more about the meter company, flow rates, etc.

Thank you for listening and all of your help, ideas and advice. Iíll continue to post updates.
 
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Old 12-14-12, 11:46 PM
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One of the board members asked the gas company if there were any wrench marks, excavations or signs that something might have occurred to the meter/gas and they said they saw nothing unusual.
This tells me a lot about the board members. What rocket scientist made the above statement. Of course there were no signs of tampering. Who would be stealing gas AFTER the meter


I know you were banking on the meter reading incorrectly but based on how they are built they just can't run faster.


List all the possible things that could possibly have happened. Eliminate them one at a time from the list and the last one left, even if thought highly improbable, must be answer.

1) You stole the gas
2) You had a massive leak
3) Someone came into house and turned on every gas consuming device and left them on all month.
Floor furnace
gas hot water heater
gas wall heater (bathroom)
Stove in the kitchen
4) The gas meter is the issue.


On edit: I thought I had figured out an error in the calculation math but I forgot to use the meter multiplier factor
 

Last edited by PJmax; 12-15-12 at 12:02 AM. Reason: removed incorrect calculations
  #28  
Old 12-15-12, 01:49 AM
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As I stated earlier the possibility of the meter reading high was almost nil but the register making a significant error is far more likely. I'm pretty sure these terms went right over the head of everyone reading and commenting except for SeattlePioneer. The meter is the part enclosed in the big casting and the register is the removable part that contains the dials that are read to note consumption. The way that the meter portion is constructed is as close to bullet-proof as can be made but the register having numerous gears CAN "slip" under some conditions of wear.

Unless the "meter shop" ran a long-term test on the meter, long enough to cause every single individual dial on the register to move, they simply cannot certify that the register did not slip a number. Registers are often changed in the field on operating gas meters because their failure rate, while low, ARE high enough to cause concern. I strongly suspect that a forensic examination of the register would find it has a less-than-perfect gear or bearing. I also suspect that by now the possibility of the register still being intact are slim.

I don't think the utility is trying to screw anyone over but I also doubt that they will go to any great lengths to prove it was their error either. You are going to have to hammer them with the possibility of a worn, malfunctioning (at least part-time malfunctioning) register and hope for a negotiated settlement. Also hope that a similar experience never happens with your gas account.
 
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Old 12-15-12, 12:55 PM
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As a gas utility employee I talked to THOUSANDS of people convinced that they had been billed for too much gas. In 99.9% of the cases, they were wrong.

So earnestly believing you didn't use the gas isn't convincing by itself.

Analyzing the meter, the history oif gas consumption, possible tampering, errors or mistakes are far more likely to be the cause of the problem. It sounds like the utility is making a real effort to decide what might have happened. I'd keep working with them.

I recall a newspaper report about a water bill issued to the University of Washington for $250,000 or so beyond the modest amount typically registered on this particular meter. Investigation proved that the meter was in a poor location and hard to read, and that the largest digit on the meter hadn't been read for years ---- so the catch up bill they were issued was in fact correct.

I recall a homeowner who called to complain about the monthly gas bill they had received for $16,000! The homeowner said they couldn't possibly have used that gas. A utility repairman sent out to investigate found the outdoor pool water to be at a toasty temperature in January. Apparently the homeowner's college age kids had returned home and tunred on the pool boiler!

Lots of odd things can happen.

Keep soldiering on. There's an explanation somewhere, but I don't know what it is!
 
  #30  
Old 12-15-12, 01:06 PM
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Yes I think that some way the gas was used.

But the mystery is how

Are you forgetting an appliance that could have been running

1. Such as a Natural gas generator if the power went out.
2. A suana or pool heater as stated in a previous post
3. Gas fired logs
etc...

Trying to help figure it out.
 
  #31  
Old 12-15-12, 01:13 PM
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Actually, I doubt very much that the gas was used.

It's unlikely that the appliances used it and VERY unlikely that a leak could have caused the problem and then gone away.

Something happened though. I don't claim to know what.
 
  #32  
Old 01-20-13, 07:13 PM
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UPDATE...two months later

So, we've been waiting for the gas company to get back with us on the $2200+ bill. The last we were told, during our meeting with the board, is they were going to have an engineer look at the usage. No contact at all since then...until this week when a secretary called to say they were reducing the bill to $38 and offered no explanation. I asked, she claimed not to know. We figure they must have figured something out and don't want to admit their error, liability or who knows what. Frankly, I'm so relieved to not have to fight this I don't care. That said, THANK YOU -- THANK YOU -- THANK YOU so much to each of you who helped me by providing ideas, asking questions and educating me on gas usage. I felt at a real disadvantage speaking with the gas company alone but with your tips and ideas, going before the board I felt I had a chance --- and seriously, I felt your backup is the one that got me through this. Thank you again!!!
 
  #33  
Old 01-22-13, 12:14 PM
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Thanks for the update.

Glad you got a fair resolution of this issue, even if no explanation was available. It might be that the engineer had no expl;anation either, but decided that there was an error someplace even if it couldn;t be identified.

That was pretty much my conclusion anyway.
 
  #34  
Old 01-22-13, 04:05 PM
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Great info. for all who followed this thread...now you know what to expect if you ever have an outrageous utility bill. Resolving this nightmare is a great way to start the New Year for sure. I can't imagine going through this.

 
  #35  
Old 01-22-13, 05:55 PM
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[I] used to do customer billing inquiries for a gas utility, and I dealt with probably thousands of customer high bill complaints over a period of about four years.

The utility wanted every one of those calls to be investigated carefully, since mistakes of some kind weren't unusual, and the utility was interest only in billing people for the gas they used.

It sounds like the utility here had a similar interest. It sounds to me like they made a reasonable and determined effort to investigate this unusual bill and to determine what, if any, error might have been made.
 
  #36  
Old 01-22-13, 08:53 PM
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Glad to hear things worked out. Like everyone else, I'd like to know what, if anything, the utility found but we probably never will. In any case....
 
 

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