NV Energy’s efficiency programs for consumers sure sound great: mPowered sends a technician by to set up free smart thermostats for your home, and CheckMe Plus offers a cheap air-conditioning system inspection and possible upgrades that could save a good deal of money on your power bill. With triple-digit temperatures already here, I couldn’t wait to join the Nevada households that have saved about $500 million over the past five years.
But … I’m still waiting.
My mPowered house call, scheduled two weeks prior, was to happen between 8 a.m. and noon this past Saturday. Yes, the dreaded public-utility time window. At 12:05 p.m.—despite an appointment reminder call the night before—NV Energy still hadn’t shown up. I called the customer-service guy, who called the technician, who finally got around to calling me back, only to ask this:
“Can we reschedule for another day?”
“#*$^$%!! ^%#*&!!” I replied.
By the way, this is how public-utility rescheduling works: None of the NV Energy people I talked to on Saturday had the power to do it; I had to wait until Monday, when some other branch of NV Energy would call to set a new date and time window. Three days went by without a peep. On Tuesday, I called the service desk and left a message.
It’s now Wednesday, and before I try a different NV Energy number, let me tell you about my little CheckMe Plus surprise:
As I’ve written in this week’s Vegas Seven’s Summer Guide, NV Energy’s AC tune-up and inspection program is performed by certified contractors. There are instant rebates for the tune-up ($135 toward what the contractor charges for parts and labor), an air-duct inspection to check for leaks and such (although not every contractor does this), and potential fixes and upgrades. (See NVEnergy.com for details, and digest them with a grain of salt.)
I’d barely opened the door to let in my chosen certified contractor when my expectations short-circuited.
“That NV Energy program is very misleading,” he said. “I’d prefer to do my own planned maintenance.” He added that he’s been inspecting and fixing air conditioners in Las Vegas for 35 years, and his way produces results he trusts. “But I’ll do whatever you want.”
Soooo … no rebate?
He said if he did it the NV Energy way, he’d be at my house for 4 hours vs. 2½, so the extra labor charge would pretty much negate the rebate savings.
This guy seemed smart, honest, and he’d bothered to show up. So—despite the fact that (ahem) it would have been nice to have heard this information when I’d set up the appointment—I told him to go ahead with his planned maintenance: full inspection and tune-up on my three AC units for $170.
I chatted with him during the process. He told me that while he likes part of the CheckMe Plus program, overall it sounds like overkill, with a lot of superfluous testing, crawling around the attic and comparing numbers with a guy on the phone back at NV Energy headquarters. “But not everybody will agree with me,” he said.
CheckMe Plus has been extended through 2013, so something must be going right. (Given that I’d also argued with Cox Communications for an hour, maybe I was just having a bad utilities week.) There look to be valuable rebates for upgrading certain air-conditioner parts—and to replace your units with more modern, energy-efficient types—but you’d have to go through the CheckMe process to qualify.
In the end I was fine with the results, especially given that my units are 12 years old. My contractor took the temperature and pressure readings (there’s leakage somewhere in the ducts, and I might be able to get a rebate if I have it fixed … by another contractor who does that kind of thing). He cleaned the unit, tightened connections and checked out the electrical system. He told me not to use those high-end, pleated air filters, because most residential units can’t efficiently handle them.
And he told me to take up NV Energy on their mPowered program—says it’s a really good deal.
I’ll let you know when I find out.
Update: mPowered Makes an Appearance
Well, 10 days later, my mPowered man was at my doorstep—on time and ready to work. It took him only about an hour to set up my three thermostats, take some readings and walk me through the brave new world of controlling my home’s temperature from anywhere and at any time. If I’m out of town and the teenager “accidentally” turns the house into Ice Station Zebra, my smart thermostats will click them back to energy-efficiency mode (I’m going to try to live with 84 degrees during the day and 82 at night this summer) by the next programming checkpoint. Even better, with their large digital numbers and metallic up/down arrows, the shiny new thermostats themselves sure look a lot better—and smarter—on my walls than those clunky old manual ones.