Tag Archives: Review

Direct Energy Public Relations

I recently posted about the impending Direct Energy Water Heater Rental Rate Increase that I was notified about in one of my bills late last year. As it turned out, the new advertised rate seems to only apply to new rentals. Our monthly rate increase was less than one dollar (which is still annoying but reasonable) which was no where near the $22 per month suggested by the bill insert.

A couple weeks ago I received an email from a person who works for the Direct Energy Public Relations team.  She wanted to make sure I was receiving the “correct” rental price and was willing to have my account checked to ensure it was correct. After exchanging a few emails, I declined having my account checked. History has taught me that sometimes it’s best to leave well enough alone. I didn’t need them to discover I wasn’t paying enough (or something like that). ;)

Now, the interesting part about this is I’m one blogger complaining about a potential price increase and Direct Energy has people in their Public Relations team who are actively searching the internet for just this sort of thing. That actually makes me really happy. I didn’t expect anyone to contact me when I wrote the original article, it was more of a complaint about a potential massive increase.  I fully expected to have to contact Direct Energy and complain (and of course, blog about the whole process) if and when the massive increase actually happened.

Anyways, thanks Crystal of the Direct Energy Public Relations team for contacting me. I can only hope that other companies (ahem, Bell, I’m looking at you) can learn from this approach.

Direct Energy Water Heater Rental Rate Increase

Direct Energy Logo

UPDATED: I found my local copy of the 2009 Direct Energy buyout schedule. This is more relevant given the recent Direct Energy Rental Terms Change fiasco.

If you currently rent your water heater from Direct Energy, and you haven’t yet received your December 2009 bill, brace yourself. Direct Energy’s water heater rental rates are going up.  In some cases (like mine) – way up.  Currently I am renting a Polaris 34 U.S. Gallons natural gas hot water tank.  According to the pamphlet I received, my rental will be going from about $40/month to $62.34/month.  An increase of approximately $22/month!

Now, I know I have posted a fair bit about the problems I’ve had with my Polaris unit that I rent from Direct Energy. My only guess for Direct Energy’s 55% increase (is it really that much!?!) on my Polaris rental is due to the number of issues that they have had.

Here’s the 2009 Direct Energy Water Heater Rental Rates from their website:

2009 Rental Chart
Water Heater Type & Size Monthly Rental2 Hard Water Monthly Rental2
CV40 40 U.S. Gallons1 $11.64 $12.70
CV50 50 U.S. Gallons1 $13.00 $14.80
CV60 60 U.S. Gallons1 $15.48 $17.65
PV50 50 U.S. Gallons1 $20.81 $24.41
DV50 50 U.S. Gallons1 $20.51 $23.49
PV50 HI PV60 50 & 60 U.S. Gallons1 $22.97 $26.40
PV75 75 U.S. Gallons1 $27.63 $29.68
Electric 60 60 U.S. Gallons1 $10.25
Polaris 34 U.S. Gallons1 $62.34
CombiCor 50 50 U.S. Gallons1 $38.22 $41.55
CombiCor 75 75 U.S. Gallons1 $40.92 $44.45
Rinnai Tankless R75LSIN $33.50

1 Capacity in U.S. Gallons may vary, depending on specific manufacturer. U.S. Gallon = 0.8327 Imperial Gallons = 3.7854 Litres.
2 Rates are subject to change upon one month’s notice. Plus GST.

Ugh! From the same link above, I also found the 2009 Direct Energy rental water heater buyout schedule [PDF – no longer available]. According to that, my ~5 year old Polaris 34 Gallon tank would cost me around $3700 + tax to buy.  Double Ugh!

UPDATED: I found my local copy of the 2009 Direct Energy buyout schedule.

I managed to dig up the following 2008 rental rate information but it doesn’t seem to jive with what I am currently paying.

Direct Energy 2008 Water Heater Rental Rates

Direct Energy 2008 Water Heater Rental Rates

I guess that means I’m stuck paying $62/mon until my whole system craps out and I really have to replace something.  I had a furnace quote a while back and it came in around $8000 to replace my system (including a new hot water tank of some sorts).

Oh look, another shiny penny on the floor!  I should just bend over and pick that up…

Polaris High Efficiency Gas Hot Water Tank – Part 6

Our Polaris High Efficiency gas hot water tank is once again not working. It’s spewing out good old error code 1 – Pressure Switch Closed. Woo-hoo! I love when the pressure switch is closed because it means I get to call my buddies at Direct Energy and have them come out and order some new parts to try and fix the Polaris hot water tank for another few months. No, not really – this sucks.

Polaris gas hot water tank

Polaris gas hot water tank

I now have a stack of yellow receipts that I just leave on top of the hot water tank so each of the Direct Energy techs can see what they have done in the past. It’s sort of funny when one of the guys (Joel is his name) comes as he’s been here a few times. I almost feel like I should offer him a beer as he’s been to my house more often than some of my work buddies!

Anyways, Pressure Switch Closed is supposed to be a self clearing fault on the Polaris HWT but in my experience, it never clears itself. I’ve had numerous parts replaced – some have been done multiple times. I think the total value of replaced parts on the Polaris HWT is now over $4000. Yeah, I know, good thing I’m renting it and I don’t have to pay for those parts!

My “buddy” Joel tried a bunch of things the last time he was here (which was only last fall) and he had a couple new parts ordered and installed. I was hopeful at the time because both he and the second tech both seem to understand the Polaris HWT and it’s quirks. Unfortunately, they also both said that most people in the area with the Polaris hot water tanks are now pulling them out because they suck so badly. That really is unfortunate because the tank really does work well. It’s just too bad that they are not more reliable. Well, maybe they are reliable for some people but just not in this neck of the woods.

Updated: Yippee! I have hot water again. Interestingly, this time the tech didn’t actually replace anything. He spent some time going through the diagnosis and as soon as he hooked up his ammeter, the unit started to work. Bad ground! It turns out that who ever installed the unit (uh, Direct Energy guys installed it) had taken a short cut when hooking up the ground wires in the main power shut off switch. They just hand twisted the copper wires together with no marrettes! He cleaned that all up and the Polaris hot water heater is working fine now. Hopefully this will be the end of the 4 years of problems!

Pontiac Vibe Brakes

We recently noticed some new grinding sounds coming from our 2006 Pontiac Vibe when you used the brakes first thing in the morning. The first thing I thought was “Oh Crap.”. The second thing I thought was “Damn, I haven’t done anything with the brakes yet on this car.”.

That’s right folks, our 2006 Pontiac Vibe was over 85,000km on the factory brake pads and rotors. Now, admittedly, we do a lot of highway driving and very little in the way of stop and go driving. Even so, I figured that over 85,000km was a little much for a car to go on factory pads and rotors. We got the car into our local garage for them to take a look and let us know what the damage was going to be.

“There’s nothing wrong with your brakes.”

Yup, that’s what the mechanic said to The Boss. He mentioned that there were a few “hot spots” on the rotors that he was going to grind down but otherwise the fronts still had about 50% and the rears were still about 60%. Even the mechanic was very surprised when he realized these were the stock factory brake pads and rotors.

I really can’t complain about our 2006 Pontiac Vibe. We have only had to pay for a set of winter tires, oil changes and tire rotations. I think we’re in for a new set of all-seasons next spring but the car will be near 90,000km by then and again, I can’t complain about getting that much mileage out of a set of stock factory tires or a set of pads and rotors!

2006 Pontiac Vibe Review after 80,000km

We’ve had our 2006 Pontiac Vibe for about two and a half years now and we recently passed 80,000km (just shy of 50,000 miles). Overall the car has been working well for us. We’ve had no mechanical issues with the car and the only real cost has been regular oil changes. I think we’re soon due for a brake job though. We still have the original all-seasons on the car after 80,000km but we’ve put winter tires on for two of the three winters the car has gone through. Even with winters, the all-seasons tires still have around 55,000km.

2006 Pontiac Vibe

Our average fuel consumption for 2008 is currently at 8.34L/100km (~ 28 MPG). This isn’t very good in my opinion but it does include winter driving with the snow tires on. In the winter with the snow tires, we’re getting around 9.0L/100km (~ 26.5 MPG). In the summer months we’re down around 7.5L/100km (~ 31.4 MPG) which is a little better. It’s interesting because the US DoE has the 2006 Pontiac Vibe at 31 MPG (7.6L/100km) for highway with their readjusted numbers. My problem still stems from the fact this car was rated at 34 MPG (6.9L/100km) for highway when we bought it. The best fuel economy I’ve ever achieved in that car was a one-off 6.7L/100km (~ 35.1 MPG). That was when we were driving on secondary roads averaging 90km/h (~55 MPH), true “highway” driving. I also annoyed the snot our of The Boss on this drive as I was putting into practice some of the driving techniques I’ve learned from reading ecomodder.com. ;)

With some driving style modifications, I think this car should be able to do consistently in the 6.8L/100km to 7.0L/100km range in the summer. It’s very noticeable though when you turn on the AC as the little 1.8L engine has to rev higher to deal with the added load. This definitely contributes to worse fuel economy. One thing to keep in mind is that the defrost settings on this car also turn on the AC.

One other gripe about the car is that there is a very thin layer of paint. It seems that everything causes a small paint chip. I think if you sneezed while standing within 10 feet of the car it would get a paint chip. To try and keep the rust at bay, I bought one of those colour matched paint pens from the dealership and every couple months I have to dab a few more chips. Nothing major but it’s one maintenance annoyance I could do without.

We’re probably going to keep this car for many more years. It will probably get relegated to the “second car” in a few years as it’s not quite big enough for a growing family.