Dan_at_Avista turns into Dan – the troubled gas customer   

Tags: Avista Utilities, Natural Gas, Safety

My gas meter
My gas meter and new concrete work.
Close up of valve

A close up of the uncovered valve.

Post by Dan Kolbet
So, a funny thing happened to me this week. Dan_at_Avista, the guy who talks about Avista online, became Dan – the Avista troubled gas customer. Let me say first, that everything turned out great, but had some knowledgeable employees not inspected my gas meter, I could have been in a world of hurt.

It turns out that six years ago when we built our house (years before I ever worked for Avista), the concrete crew that poured the path around my garage to the backyard made a pretty big mistake. My natural gas meter is attached to the side of my garage, right on the paved sidewalk. Unbeknownst to me they paved right over the lower shutoff valve. I had no idea this was covered, since I’m no gas meter expert and I’d never had any problems or the need to shut off gas to my house.

As you can see from the pictures, if you didn’t know the valve was buried, you’d never know it was there. Full disclosure: there is another shutoff valve on the top of the meter that feeds into the house, so had an emergency occurred and the fire department or Avista needed to shut off service to the house, they could have. But I’d certainly rather have every option available.

A few weeks back, during a routine inspection of meters, Avista noticed the issue and created a service order to have it fixed. A Customer Project Coordinator checked it out Tuesday, left a detailed door hanger, business card and called and left me a message explaining the safety situation and that he was scheduling a crew to cut out the concrete under the meter to free up the valve in the next day or so.

I got a call yesterday from the crew on site, letting me know they were going to shutoff my gas service to perform the concrete cuts. They wanted to know when it was convenient for me to have a Gas Serviceman return to my house and re-light my appliances. They scheduled the re-light for a little after the time I usually get home.

So, when I got home last night I called our customer service department to double check that I was scheduled for a re-light that night. Indeed I was, and the serviceman was on his way. Sure enough, about 3 minutes after I got off the phone, my co-worker showed up.

After explaining to me what work had been done at the meter he came inside and re-lit my furnace and water heater. Unfortunately, I did get a stern look when he pulled out my air filter, that hadn’t been changed in a few months. “This is costing you money,” he said. Plugged/dirty air filters make your system work harder to heat the home – information I already knew, but had ignored in my laziness. (I’ll be picking up some new filters on the way home tonight, promise.)

In the end, I’ve learned a few things over the last three days. First, the Avista customer service that we talk about so much is alive and well. There’s no flag on my account that says “be nice to this one because he’s an employee,” this is how we treat everyone. Second, I was impressed with how quickly this issue was fixed once it was discovered. And finally, I need to keep better track of when to swap out my furnace filter. 

Do you have a good Avista story you can share? Drop me a note in the comments section.
Posted by  System Account  on  10/9/2009
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