Gas bills and the people ready business.

It’s a constant puzzle to people from the US and Europe that Britain seems to be split brained about weights and measures. We buy our petrol in Litres, but our beer in Pints. My French car gives me a read-out of fuel consumption in Miles per Gallon, but is taxed in Grams of CO2 per Kilometre. Yet our roads are measured in miles. I think of the pressure in my car tyres in pounds per square inch, but the pressure in a diving cylinder in Bar.  The two pound Christmas pudding which is currently waiting to be turned into ice cream only says on its label that it is 908 Grams.  The list is endless. The BBC reported just before Christmas that the pint was to be allowed to stay. (It’s not the first time that has been reported ). Of course the 20 ounce Imperial pint perplexes Americans where the 16 ounce pint rules (after all with 16 ounces in a pound, why shouldn’t it … ) And giving body weight in Stones … I might was well give my height in Atto-parsecs

Still… in an age when things are supposed to measured metrically its a wonder to me that the Gas meter we had installed a few years ago measures gas in Cubic feet. Or to be strictly correct about it hundreds of cubic feet. I mention this, only because I have spent more of this morning than I care to admit trying to figure out how my estimated gas bill for the next year was worked out. Gas is priced in Kilowatt hours, so there is a conversion from  Hundreds of cubic feet,which goes.

  • Take the difference between the two meter readings.
  • Multiply by an unexplained correction factor of 1.02264
  • Multiply by 100 to get cubic feet, then multiply by 0.02831 to get cubic meters.  Truncate this number to 2 decimal places.
  • Multiply volume by calorific value, which isn’t in calories, but in Joules per cubic meter (39,099,990 on my bill) ,
  • Since a watt is a Joule per second, 3600 Joule Seconds is a Watt hour, and 3,600,000 is a kilowatt hour, so divide joules by that

This gives a number to the nearest 0.01 kwH, even the reading is only accurate to the nearest +/- 50 CU ft (about 15 kWh)

Once upon a time the Gas company would send a little man round to read the meter every so often, but my last bill was an “estimate” which was more than double the amount of gas I’d used. Based on this estimate they made a guess at how much gas I would use next year.  So I tried to work out what that would be, and I was left thinking that a people ready gas company would quote their conversion numbers in kWH per measured cubic foot (0.314 on my bill), then you could get there in one step. What surprised me is having told the gas company I used LESS gas than they estimated, they’ve sent me a recalculated forecast for my usage will be for the next year … and they’re estimating it will be More !  Of course there is no hint for how the estimates are arrived at, but my simple estimate of “average of the last few years” , suggests a far smaller number.  It’s well within the capabilities of the systems the company has to put this information on a bill.

Comments (3)

  1. Andy Parkes says:

    I’ve just spent an hour trying to figure mine out too

    I got a letter telling my monthly figure was going up

    Just did the sums and it’s going up 350%

    That’s based on an estimate of a how much i used last quarter!!

    I’ve just spoken to them on the phone and it also turns out they have my electricity readings the wrong way round

    Night rate for day rate and day rate for night rate….wonderful!

  2. Joe Hayhurst says:

    "I was left thinking that a people ready gas company would quote their conversion numbers in kWH per measured cubic foot (0.314 on my bill), then you could get there in one step"

    There is a simple reason why they don’t do it like that, and that is because they don’t want you to be able to understand your bill. If you did you would be more likely to switch to another supplier. I recently changed supplier after I worked it out and found that the ‘35%’ increase they had publicised was actually 50% for me, due to the way they changed the calculations. As you usually pay 2 different tariffs (tariff 1 up to a certain amount used, then tariff 2 for anything after that, with tariff 1 being more expensive), they just moved the tariff 1 goalpost so that more of my gas was used within the tariff 1 limit.

    So they are ‘people ready’ – ready to rip people off.

    Incidentally the two-tariff system is stupid because the more gas you use, the cheaper it gets! Way to solve global warming!

  3. Kirk Jackson says:

    Hi James,

    On our bill, the ‘unexplained correction factor’ is related to the height above sea level, and presumably corrects for different levels of pressure.


Skip to main content