HECO's home visits often unnoticed
We went shopping recently and were gone between 8:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. When we came home, the power was off. I called Hawaiian Electric Co. and was told to check the circuit breaker, which was OK. Then they said to check the master switch, which controls all the power in the house. The switch was off. Someone from HECO had come through our gate and turned it off. Afterward, we found a note that had fallen down, saying, "Please turn on your master switch." HECO said it had to change the master switch box, but no one told us this was going to happen. The dangerous part is, what if we had gone on vacation? Why didn't HECO let us know this was going to happen, and how can they just come on our property?
Answer: It turns out HECO routinely inspects electric meters and is allowed to enter a customer's property without advance notice.
Per its tariff with the Public Utilities Commission, "HECO is required to have access to inspect and maintain its equipment," said spokesman Jose Dizon. That includes having access to read customers' meters every month.
For routine inspections, inspectors will knock on doors to see if anyone is home, or walk around the house, calling out, to see if the homeowner could be in the back yard, Dizon said.
That is what happened in your case, he said, when an inspector arrived between 10 and 10:30 a.m. for a routine inspection and found no one home. Because the inspector "determined maintenance was needed," he switched off the main circuit breaker.
But after completing his work, he could not turn the breaker back on, Dizon said. So, he contacted an electrician to replace the circuit breaker, then moved on to his next job.
After the electrician replaced the breaker, it should have been returned to the "on" position.
"We deeply apologize for the inconvenience the prolonged outage" caused because the breaker was not turned back on, Dizon said.
If nothing had gone wrong, you would not have known that an inspector had even been there, he acknowledged.
"Typically, on-the-spot meter readings, inspections, maintenance and meter replacements take a short period of time to complete," he said. If power is disrupted, field workers "work to keep it to an absolute minimum."
For known problems, HECO will work with a customer to coordinate the best time to do any work, unless safety is an issue, he said.
Maintenance on your meter took five minutes, but "the disruption due to the bad circuit breaker could not have been anticipated," he said.
As it was, it took one hour from the time the inspector arrived to when the electrician replaced the breaker, Dizon said.
He also pointed out that circuit breakers are "customer equipment, not HECO equipment."
But because the inspector did not know when you would be home, he called for a replacement breaker "at no cost" to you.
Got a question or complaint?
Call 529-4773, fax 529-4750, or write to Kokua Line, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210, Honolulu 96813. As many as possible will be answered. E-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
. See also: Useful phone numbers