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PSEG's parent launches new warranty service for some electrical parts

The plan would cover damage to exterior equipment, such as from storms, which the company says normally would be the customer's responsibility to repair. 

A PSEG Long Island truck along Montauk Highway

A PSEG Long Island truck along Montauk Highway in West Islip in July 2014. Photo Credit: Newsday/John Paraskevas

Electric customers across Long Island have begun receiving mailed notices for a new PSEG-branded service that covers the replacement of electrical parts they may never have known existed.

Called PSEG WorryFree, the new warranty service notice comes in an envelope alerting customers to “Important Information Regarding Your Exterior Electrical System.”

Inside, customers are told that electrical parts, including a weatherhead, insulator, riser, meter base and service entrance conductor are “your responsibility to replace” if they break, because normal wear-and-tear of the products are “not typically covered by basic homeowners insurance.”

The PSEG WorryFree exterior electrical service costs $5.99 a month and covers up to $5,000 of repairs, the company said.

PSEG Long Island emphasized that the new company is not a direct affiliate. The service offering is the product of a joint agreement between Newark-based Public Service Enterprise Group (the parent of PSEG Long Island), and HomeServe, a Norwalk, CT.-based company that offers a myriad of home heating and air-conditioning services.

Joseph Forline, chairman and CEO of PSEG WorryFree Long Island, and vice president for PSE&G’s gas department, said that while profits from the new business will go to the PSEG parent company and its shareholders, the company is completely separate from PSEG Long Island, which operates the Long Island electric grid. He said the motivation for launching was improving customer satisfaction, not profits.

PSEG customers and electrical experts who’ve reviewed the offer in recent days expressed skepticism.

“It seems to me PSEG could better serve their Long Island customers by going out and evaluating the condition of older exterior electrical systems and fix them before there is a need for emergency repair,” said Mary Ann Fox, a resident of the all-electric Leisure Glen in Ridge. “I will definitely not be participating in PSEG WorryFree and have many concerns on why they feel this program is necessary.”

Mike Bailis, vice president of SUNation Solar Systems, a Ronkonkoma company that does electrical work as part of its installations, said while the $5.99 a month for the service is “pretty nominal,” the need for the service is “quite minimal.”

“The normal wear and tear from the mast down to the meter pan is not much,” Bailis said. SUNation charges around $500 to replace a meter pan, but failure of that and the other items “does not happen all too frequently.”

Rick Walden, vice president for customer services for PSEG Long Island, agreed that meter pan replacement tends to be rare —a round 10 to 20 have been replaced as part of the 100,000 new smart meters installed this year. PSEG will replace the pan free if damage is caused during removal, he said.

“If we’re working on a meter pan during the normal course of business and pull a meter pan that’s been in there, and something happens and we damage it, we will make a repair at our cost," Walden said.

If the parts are damaged by a fallen tree or pole in a storm, PSEG workers may make safe, temporary fixes to this equipment and tell customers they need to finalize the repair using an outside contractor. Such storm damage would be covered under PSEG WorryFree’s plan, said Myles Meehan, a HomeServe spokesman.

Marian Goldstein, a Baldwin resident who successfully sued PSEG for power-surge damage to equipment in her home caused by PSEG’s negligence, called the new offering “absurd.”

“They’re asking for us to pay for things they normally covered,” she said, noting the utility once replaced her meter pan without charge. “They’re transferring responsibility to the homeowner of something they had prior.”

It’s not just the exterior electrical equipment that the new company will be covering. While the mailer offers coverage of the exterior electric system, it also refers customers to the PSEG Worry Free web site, where there are warranty offers for indoor electric systems ($7.99 a month), cooling system installation, heating system repairs and boiler replacement, among others.

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