La Casita (little house) with two meters

by Robert Yang | May 22, 2021

It’s one thing to lend your neighbor a cup of sugar or pet sit their dog over the weekend, but how about paying for their electricity? I don’t think people love their neighbors that much. If my neighbor could use as much electricity as he or she wants and I’m stuck with the bill, then that would be an issue. Yosselyn De Abreu, co-owner of La Casita, a family-owned restaurant in Waipahu specializing in Central American cuisine, called on Hawaiian Electric to investigate why she had two meters — and two bills.

Yosselyn requested assistance from our Customer Business Management Services (CBMS) team when she noticed her restaurant was receiving bills for two different meters. “I just wanted to make sure we were receiving the correct service we were promised and that we weren’t paying for our neighbors’ electricity usage,” Yosselyn said.

Our CBMS team headed over to investigate and I tagged along. I wanted to find out how our company would help Yosselyn resolve the issue. Sharing this story may also help a lot of customers out there who have been puzzled by the existence of a second meter on their property.

When we got to the restaurant we noticed that there were two circuit breaker boxes located in the kitchen. A CBMS representative installed a wire tracer to each box, which sends an electrical signal to its respective meter and discovered the meters located on the side of the building. With a receiver, they confirmed the businesses’ two meters each received a signal that was sent back to the wire tracers. The signal on the wire tracer lit up, confirming that the two meters were connected to each box.

“Commercial spaces change over time. Two spaces could easily be merged and leased as a single space. The opposite can happen as well. Not everybody reconfigures their electrical wiring when adjusting their spaces,” said Emmeline “Emme” Buenrostro, a CBMS specialist and analyst. The team turned each breaker switch off and on to ensure they were connected to areas within the business. Some switches were nonfunctional while others worked.

A CBMS member checked on La Casita’s neighbors to make sure they didn’t lose power during the switching process. If they did, it would have been an indication that Yosselyn was paying for their electrical use. Fortunately, none of the next-door neighbors lost power. CBMS advised Yosselyn to leave the nonfunctional switches off and confirmed that her billing was indeed accurate since the meters connect to each breaker box. “Confirming billing accuracy coincides with maintaining good rapport with our customers. It reassures them that they’re getting the service they pay for,” said Emme.

From what I saw, the business did not look large enough to have two separate commercial spaces previously so I wondered why it would’ve had two meters. CBMS explained that the business could be using both single-phase wiring and three-phase wiring. Each type of configuration requires its own meter because the quality of electrical service it delivers is significantly different. Three-phase wiring will benefit equipment with high energy demand such as refrigerators and freezers. Single-phase wiring is efficient for delivering power to equipment with lower energy demand like lights and certain kitchen appliances.

With the mystery solved, Yosselyn now runs her restaurant with peace of mind, serving her customers delicious handmade pupusas and baleadas from the little house or “La Casita” — with two meters.

If you’re a business customer and have a question about your second meter or your electrical service, please visit our website for more information on how to contact us.

Robert Yang is a digital communications and social media specialist at Hawaiian Electric Company.

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