2023-02-22

Energy companies

I am actually rather concerned over energy company billing.

I mean some are not bad, and Octopus are possibly the best, but they too have issues. But they are the gold standard compared to almost anyone else.

We (A&A) bill people for broadband and telephony and all sorts, and we try hard to make the bills clear. When mistakes or corrections or adjustments (e.g. leaving mid month) happen we issue a clear credit note to correct it and make it clear. We very carefully follow VAT rules on such things.

But I had no idea how good we were until I saw energy bills. I really think they are just unbelievably bad, and even to the point that there is systematic fraud going on (and I do not say that lightly). Either that or quite negligent levels incompetence.

I mean seriously, this is such a mess I struggle to make sense of it.

What they seem to do is re-bill some period and maybe do some sort of credit or maybe not, it is not clear. I have had British Gas bill me for several months again with no explanation why, and no actual clear credit or cancelling of specific previous bills in some way. So.Energy are just as bad.

In fact I don't think I have ever had any change of energy supplier that has not involved an error. This is pretty serious. And talking on social media, this seems common. This seems systematic.

From what I can tell there is some industry process of "handover readings" for meters. But even then, it seems to not work, and apparently there is no such process for export readings at all!

I have had a company swear blind I have to pay some new balance after leaving to a new meter reading even though the previous final bill was based on a "smart meter reading", yet somehow at the same time be adamant that the smart meter reading is not wrong. A direct contradiction that they somehow manage to hold in their head (electric monks would be proud of this). And yes, none of them understand the word "final". That case was a small amount and cancelled as "good will".

I currently have two cases with the energy ombudsman. They are the same bunch that caused me a lot of stress as an ISP, but putting that aside, so far they are sort of working.

So.Energy

This is the lesser of the problem companies of late. Their issues are simple. They were unable to make the meter show export, but they were unable to accept a meter reading without but import and export entered. So when I left them they did not have supplied closing readings from me for each. (Gas was OK).

But this was not the only problem. They had a smart meter reading for import, and raised a bill. But they cancelled that and raised a new bill with a massively higher closing reading (hundreds of pounds more). They ignored all my emails and complaints.

This new reading was totally made up and wrong. They knew it was wrong as they had a smart meter reading during the day I left. It was so wrong that in the hours since the smart meter reading, to be right, would have blown the supply fuse. I can only conclude this is criminal fraud, in my opinion, making up false data (a lie) for financial gain. Then refusing to fix it makes it worse.

They also "estimated" the export. Well, once I left, Octopus gave me a smart meter reading for export. Simple. So I told so.energy and they just ignored me.

And that was it - they would not fix - they just harassed me for payment.

What is worse? Well, I took to ombudsman and of course they agreed with me. But so.energy insisted the new made up closing reading was what octopus gave them. It was not. Octopus provided screenshots of their submissions on the industry process for this. It was a lie. A lie for financial gain, also known again as criminal fraud. They lied to the ombudsman. I have reported to Action Fraud. Surely this means directors going to prison? But no, that won't happen.

What is worse? Ombudsman told them to sort final readings. They told ombudsman they have implemented their decision. Guess what? Another lie. They have changed import final reading but not export, as ordered by ombudsman. That will be another of those lies for financial gain, also known as criminal fraud. Another case for directors to go to jail? I mean it could be incompetence but it would have to be on a monumental scale for this many errors.

I await outcome - I'll update here.

Bulb

Bulb are even more special, and this is really crazy.

I was with them a few years at my old address. And we started off OK, ish, but then they went quiet for a couple of years, no bills, just regular direct debits. No requests for meter readings. Nothing.

When I left they did a final bill, and refunded the over collected balance. I thought that was it. *final* bill paid.

But no, over two years later, a credit to cancel the final bill and a £14,000 bill, and repeated demands for payments over over £7k by email and telephone.

So I looked in to it, and they actually had charged me based on electricity from a reading of 09796 when actually final reading from previous supplier was 51485. This is a huge difference. It appears the first bill they did was from 46791, which was also wrong. How is this simple process of a reading handover so broken between suppliers.

What I also found was that the previous "final bill" (no, none of them know the meaning of "final") was they charged for a period covering more than a year. This is not allowed, not just by OFGEM rules but by their own terms and conditions. So the bill I actually paid was not valid and I am due a refund.

Of course this new £14k bill was also for usage more than 12 months before, being over 2 years after leaving them, so invalid. That is not allowed by OFGEM rules or their own terms and conditions.

If they had not done this I would not realised I had already been ripped off on the previous final bill.

So over to ombudsman, and an update will be here soon.

But their harassment is over the top - calls and emails constantly demanding money, even though they know it is with the ombudsman. I am seriously tempted to sue for compensation for the harassment once this is sorted anyway. It is very stressful.

2023-02-15

BLE Temperature sensors

I mentioned the hot tub, and tracking that temperature is working well.

But there are some more options now I have them working so well...

Environmental monitors

My small environmental monitors already work with various temperature sensors including SCD30 (not very good), SCD41 (good, but slow startup adjustment), and DS18B20. Adding an option to read from a BLE sensor was really easy. This has solved a problem where the downstairs (small) toilet radiator was linked to the hall, and reportedly "hotter than the fires of hell" (actually 33℃). It was not convenient to wire up its own sensor before. Now it has one of these BLE sensors on the wall. It works really well.

Radiators

For now, I am using my environmental sensors to control both radiators (winter) and aircon (summer). They way it works radiators is using a Shelly Plus flashed with tasmota and a (wax based) actuator - works well. The environmental sensor turns it on/off for the corresponding radiators (GroupTopic). They then tell a FireBrick to turn a profile on/off, and a linked set of profiles tell a Shelly driving the boiler to turn on if any of the radiators (on a floor) are on. Complicated, but works.

I suspect what I need to make is some ESP32 code for the Shelly that does this directly - the control of the radiator actuator directly from the Shelly, and using the BLE sensor for reference. This could then announce from all radiators that are on, so that some other ESP32 code in a Shelly for the heating can turn on if any radiator in its area is on. All done with no WiFi, in theory. Both bits of code will be a doddle, but actually the harder part is setting the required temperature setting for each radiator, and then the fact that I may want to control the aircon. So actually, for me, these are probably better using my environmental sensors for now (which also have a nice display). I can see how this would work for most people though.

Daikin air-con control

The other thing that could perhaps be made simpler is the Daikin wifi control modules (amazon). At present these provide simple web control and status, or they can work with my environmental sensors to manage them based on a separate temperature from that sensor (or, now, even from a BLE sensor).

What would be cool is a direct mode to work with an external BLE sensor - no need for the environmental monitor doing the control. It could be related to a status display!

This would actually be really cool for most people - whilst I have a complex system of radiators and/or aircon in various rooms, for most people with air-con the control should be simple. And being able to literally stick the temperature reference where you need it - e.g. by a bed - would be ideal. Even better if it works with no need for an MQTT broker (or even wifi, apart from set up).

So what next?

I think both are good ideas, so planning to work on them. For aircon, some simple start and stop times may make sense as well.

The real trick with all of these is setting the target temperature. I currently use a configuration file, JSON, over MQTT, which is fine for me, editing a config file. But not for most people.

I suspect I need to make an interactive graphical temperature target profile graph edit thing in HTML. That will be a pain in the arse! It should be possible though, and then apply to all there different approaches here. I may end up just making a time/temp table, sort of like old school heating controllers. I'll have to see...

Comments welcome... What do people want?

2023-02-10

Fun with BLE and a hot tub

I have found some rather nice little BLE temperature sensors with 5 year life, and waterproof.

Obviously the first thing to do it put one in the hot tub :-)

Of course I need something to receive this, and these are actually nice and send a proper temperature reading in the BLE advertisement every few seconds. So time to make some code for ESP32.

The problem is water and radio to not work well, so I actually need to put it close to the hot tub.


So this is the ESP32 gateway - it is one of the smallest boards I have made, and designed to go directly in to a USB socket.

And now I have a garden BLE/WiFi gateway :-)

Breaking my heart

One of the things I suffer from is tachycardia. My first memory of this was in secondary school, when I got a flat tyre cycling to school an...