Kansas City Power & Light (the utility company, not the entertainment district), which is on track to raise its rates September 1
, wants to put an extra $6 a month on your bill a little sooner.
It's using telemarketing calls to push its surge-protection plan
. The rep who called me Tuesday, from a number in Minnesota, explained that KCP&L installs equipment on the rate payer's meter. The device -- called a metal oxide varistor
-- guards against surges that could damage appliances and electronics; the plan provides replacement coverage in case the device fails to work.
KCP&L's Web site warns that surges are silent but deadly (to your stuff, not to you):
Do I really need surge protection?
Without some type of surge protection, excess voltage goes into your
appliances or anything plugged in and can cause damage. You may not
notice damage at the time a surge occurred, however, over time it will
shorten the life of your appliances.
So your toaster could get way
fucked any minute, and you wouldn't even know it.
KCP&L spokeswoman Ione Villegas says the program is part of the utility's unregulated business, so funds spent on marketing and equipment don't come from revenue generated by rate payers. She says the Duluth, Minnesota, marketing company, Customer Link, specializes in work for energy utilities. Everyone in the business knows that Minnesotans work a special hoodoo when it comes to getting customers to opt in.
Why hire an outside firm and chase $6 a month from customers? To generate revenue, of course. Just because your bill doesn't cover the surge-protection program's overhead doesn't mean KCP&L isn't gonna make out.
My homeowner's insurance agent tells me that I have a $1,000 deductible for the same coverage in my policy, allowing me to replace $5,000 worth of computers and TVs and toasters. But he adds that the KCP&L plan has a lot of loopholes, chief among them that you're shit out of luck (my insurance agent would never say "shit out of luck") if your house takes a direct lightning strike. Also, surges that arrive through phone or cable lines or are carried by plumbing pipes aren't covered. And your air conditioner and furnace aren't protected appliances. And the yearlong contract has a $250 early termination fee.
If you already plug your TV, DVD player, computer and stereo into surge protectors (many of which also filter phone and cable connections and come with their own limited warranties -- keep your receipt when you buy one) and unplug your expensive stuff when you leave town or can no longer stand the sound of Katie Horner's voice
during a storm, you're probably set without the extra service. But if you have an extra $6 a month and want to practice giving it to KCP&L, storm season is coming up.