A smart meter is an electricity meter, the device found on the outside of your home or business. It tells the power company how much electricity you have used for a given month. The key difference in a smart meter, is that it communicates directly with the electric company to provide them with reports of your energy usage at least once an hour, and often more than that. These meters range from hourly check-ins to real-time meters with built in two way communication, capable of recording and transmitting information continuously.
What benefits do they offer utility companies?
For a long time, utility companies have sought ways to match the energy that they are generating with that which is needed. Excess energy goes wasted and causes energy generation and rate prices to increase. By matching the amount of energy produced with what is needed, the companies are able to reduce energy costs to users, extend the life of our already aging power grid, while helping them maintain a profitable company. Smart meters also let the companies monitor potential troubles that may arise, such as power surges and outages. This allows a faster response rate, potentially avoiding the catastrophes that weather conditions can cause, like month-long outages. By eliminating the travel requirement of employees, smart meters save utility companies money and cut down on their carbon footprint by transmitting the data electronically.
What’s the benefit to me?
Smart meters provide many benefits to energy users, including increased privacy and security. No longer will the ‘meter-reader’ need to stop by your home or business to check and see how much energy you’ve used; the device will automatically transmit that data to the utility company. The meters also allow for the utility company to detect outages faster and restore power to your area. The reports produced by these meters show peak usage times and can allow you to make more informed decisions about your power usage and help you to potentially save energy. Some cities have implemented tiered pricing, which means that power costs are more expensive at certain times of day. This allows you to adjust your usage to avoid the higher costs.
How do you get a smart meter installed?
It’s easy. There are already more than 37 million smart meters installed across the United States with more demand being met each year. To have one installed, contact your power company and request one. According to a plan being put into effect in 2015, all upgrades to a smart meter from a standard meter come at no cost to the user. Having a smart meter does not prohibit the switch of energy companies, either, allowing you to change providers at will. If you want to wait, upgrades on all meters across the country are scheduled to start in the fall of 2015, but they are available in select locations now.
Smart meters stand to change the way the energy infrastructure of America works. They have the potential to allow us to save energy and money by reducing the wasted energy that’s generated by the utility companies and adjusting our energy usage to take advantage of times when energy costs are lower. Additionally, the ability to reduce outage times will eliminate the inconvenience of extended outages. Smart meters are growing in popularity and power companies across the nation will be encouraging their use in the years to come.