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Smart Electric Meters
Old 04-01-2010, 04:54 PM   #1
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Smart Electric Meters

Here in Texas Metroplex, Oncor is installing new smart meters to measure monthly electric usage and taking out the 50-year-old analog meters. There has been a hullaboo from some people saying that they are getting a bill 2,3,4 times as large as prior bills. I smell two rats. (1) Either the meters' software has a flaw or (2) some lawyers are smelling a big settlement created by a "flaw" that no one can duplicate. A possible 3rd rat is that people complaining had a defective analog meter and now they're caught.

I understand that Smart Meters have been installed in other places, specifically California. Any feedback? We're trying to get them to do a side by side test with the old meter; we'd like to prevent the large shock and awe bill BEFORE we get it. So, I'd appreciate any comment pro or con about these smart meters.

Oncor - Press Releases
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Old 04-01-2010, 05:30 PM   #2
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Our electric co-op installed new smart meters last year - we got ours in July. I saw no noticeable change in my electrical usage or bill with the new meter (we're all electric).

One interesting feature of the new meter is the ability to go online and see our daily usage. ( They are working on real-time information, no doubt in preparation for time-of-day rate metering .) YTD our daily cost has varied from a high of $17.00 (a cold day in Jan) to low of $3.69 (last Thursday). I can definitely tell when laundry day rolls around and the clothes dryer gets heavy use.
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Old 04-01-2010, 05:40 PM   #3
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This week I got a call (voice mail) from Alabama Power informing me that I would be getting a smart meter installed in the next few days so it will be interesting to compare the usage from past years. I have 15 years of data so should be able to tell if the meter makes any difference.

If the smart meters were installed in the last few months, the very cold winter over much of the country may be a big part of the increased usage -- not sure if your area experienced colder temps for a much longer period this winter but my usage increased by at least 50% this winter (house is all electric). I even had a monthly bill of $200 which was a record by far -- the previous high had been around $135.
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Old 04-01-2010, 06:09 PM   #4
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Mine was installed last October with no change in monthly bill. Wait till they start time of day billing with higher rates for peak usage periods.
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Old 04-01-2010, 06:12 PM   #5
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Remember that as the old mechanical meters age, any error is likely to be in favor of the consumer: wear generally increases friction, not reduces it.
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Old 04-01-2010, 06:14 PM   #6
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I had a meter break once. Noticed it when we checked it at the end of the month. Reported it. The electric co changed it and never billed us for the time it was off! In fact we got a letter saying that that the electric company had investigated our complaint and found no problem! No problem for me! Idots.
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Old 04-01-2010, 06:25 PM   #7
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We've had one for the last 16 years (due to our off-peak heating system) which requires a smart meter to allow the system to not run only at certain times of the M-F (non-holiday).

They added the auto/central reading about three years ago, and added the online access to the current usage records, and comparision of electric use to others that have the same house size....
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Old 04-01-2010, 08:28 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Eagle43 View Post
I understand that Smart Meters have been installed in other places, specifically California. Any feedback? We're trying to get them to do a side by side test with the old meter; we'd like to prevent the large shock and awe bill BEFORE we get it. So, I'd appreciate any comment pro or con about these smart meters.

Oncor - Press Releases
Well, heck, if we can't see the little wheel spinnin' then clearly that newfangled meter ain't workin'.

There've been lots of complaints about electronic meters:
PG&E Customer Revolt - BusinessWeek

But it's not clear whether the problem is with the meter or with customer's expectations. I'd find it difficult to believe that all brands of electronic meters are equally fraudulent, and older meters may indeed be less accurate.

We have an Itron Sentinel multimeasurement meter (type SS1S1L FM2S) that someday HECO will use for time-of-day metering. It doesn't seem to work any worse than the analog meter, and it can report how much energy our photovoltaic array is dumping into the grid as well as how much we use. Its numbers generally agree with our PV inverter. I don't see how the meter improves our life and I miss watching the analog disk spinning backwards, but I'm willing to have an electronic meter if that's what it takes to be eligible for TOD metering.

The meter readers are a different story. A couple years ago one of them pulled the wrong numbers off the meter (it switches among three different displays plus a clock and a self-test) to give us an electric bill >6x our usual. Their billing computer flagged it but confused the humans even further by reporting that our average electric bill was about $35 (which was correct) and that the latest bill was $220 (which is higher than some HECO customers but lower than others). PV systems were still unusual back then so no one thought to check HECO's files for our net-metering agreement. They ended up sending out their power-stealing team to see if we'd been busted.

I don't understand why HECO still employs meter readers-- at least they're equipped with PDAs. You'd think that an electronic meter could report its performance to the utility using power-line networking...
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Old 04-01-2010, 08:42 PM   #9
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You'd think that an electronic meter could report its performance to the utility using power-line networking...
Having once worked for a electric company, my impression is that they are, generally speaking, a technologically conservative. No incentive to do otherwise if competition is limited.

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Old 04-01-2010, 09:27 PM   #10
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I don't understand why HECO still employs meter readers-- at least they're equipped with PDAs. You'd think that an electronic meter could report its performance to the utility using power-line networking...
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Having once worked for a electric company, my impression is that they are, generally speaking, a technologically conservative.
Heck, even my rural co-op used power line transmission to read the previous meters ("turtle meters") which were installed 8-10 years ago. The switch to smart meters last year is the third generation of meters we've had since moving out here in the sticks.

Yep, I'd say HECO is definitely 'technologically conservative'...
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Old 04-01-2010, 10:28 PM   #11
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Hey, thanks for all the replies. A coincidence.... the local news tonite broadcast an admission that 1827 meters were not read correctly when the new ones were installed. Murphy's Law, anyone?

Texas Public Utility Commission to test smart meters | Business | Dallas Business, Texas...

Quote
While contending that new digital meters are accurate and exceptionally cold weather was the overwhelmingly predominant cause for soaring electric bills in recent months, Oncor spokesman Chris Schein said there were "1,827 instances of human error" related to Oncor's installation of 780,000 smart meters.

Errors typically occurred when a meter reader misread the number on an old meter or a made an error writing the number, Schein said. As a result of dial systems on the old meters, "almost all" the errors resulted in customers being overbilled rather than underbilled, he said.

Unquote

Imagine that... overbilled rather than underbilled. who would have thought?

My smart meter should be installed this month. Just about the time that 90 degree weather arrives.
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Old 04-01-2010, 11:19 PM   #12
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... there were "1,827 instances of human error" related to Oncor's installation of 780,000 smart meters.
Heck, that's just a rounding error-- unless it happens to be your bill that's rounded up to the next-highest hundred dollars.

"1827" sounds awfully precise for a company that can't even write numbers correctly...
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Old 04-02-2010, 12:26 AM   #13
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Here in Texas Metroplex, Oncor is installing new smart meters to measure monthly electric usage and taking out the 50-year-old analog meters. There has been a hullaboo from some people saying that they are getting a bill 2,3,4 times as large as prior bills. I smell two rats. (1) Either the meters' software has a flaw or (2) some lawyers are smelling a big settlement created by a "flaw" that no one can duplicate. A possible 3rd rat is that people complaining had a defective analog meter and now they're caught.
I live in Dallas and will be getting a smart meter in 2011. We just lived though one of the coldest winters on record here in Dallas and I'm guessing that if the meter was read correctly, several people with much higher bills did not take into account the much colder weather and the effect it had on their electric bills. Another factor is that if people don't shop around for the best rate, their electric company usually sticks them with the highest month to month rate. That could have also contributed to their higher bills. I helped a friend lower his electric rate by 30% last year just by shopping around for a different electric company.

I'm guessing that there might have been a few meters that weren't working correctly, but they were were probably a major exception.
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Old 04-02-2010, 01:25 AM   #14
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The electro-mechanical meters do lose accuracy. It's called "creep" and there's a creep test that can be done.
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Old 04-02-2010, 10:08 AM   #15
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There've been lots of complaints about electronic meters:
PG&E Customer Revolt - BusinessWeek

But it's not clear whether the problem is with the meter or with customer's expectations. .
I'm pretty sure the California PUC investigated and determined that the meters were accurate and that higher bills were due to both higher approved rates and higher usage.

In Texas, Oncor just got a rate increase, which may be part of what is driving the higher bills. Weather was extreme recently, so usage was up. And in the "human error" department, most folks aren't smart enough to account for seasonality (that was true in CA). They compare a December bill to a November bill and wonder why they owe so much more . . . "must be those new fangled meters are cheating us."
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Old 04-02-2010, 12:59 PM   #16
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I think some of the confusion that I read about had to do with the Time of Day metering that was implemented with many of these. If people did not shift their usage to the off-peak times, their bills were higher. That is how it is supposed to work, but this caught some people by surprise.

Having some metering system with the ability to do some real-time monitoring and comparison with history would be great for me. It could be packaged so that your computer could warn you of anomalies in your usage. Most people wouldn't care, and I'm not sure the cost is justified or not, but I'd want it at the right price.

I recall seeing some super-simple DIY set up, can't find it now, but it was just a light sensor that recorded the wheel spins and recorded the counts every X minutes, and it was easy to load into your computer for analysis. I bet I'd learn something from that. Based on the Kill-a-Watt readings I've taken so far, and estimates from other things, I really don't know where most of my consumption is going.

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Old 04-02-2010, 01:34 PM   #17
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We just got smart meters a couple of month ago. So far bills seem ok. Data is supposed to be viewable with Google PowerMeter, but the utility still has bugs in their setup and so far data is very sporadic.

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Originally Posted by ERD50 View Post
....
Having some metering system with the ability to do some real-time monitoring and comparison with history would be great for me. It could be packaged so that your computer could warn you of anomalies in your usage. Most people wouldn't care, and I'm not sure the cost is justified or not, but I'd want it at the right price.

I recall seeing some super-simple DIY set up, can't find it now, but it was just a light sensor that recorded the wheel spins and recorded the counts every X minutes, and it was easy to load into your computer for analysis. I bet I'd learn something from that. Based on the Kill-a-Watt readings I've taken so far, and estimates from other things, I really don't know where most of my consumption is going.

-ERD50
Sounds like one of these devices might work for what you are looking for.
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Old 04-02-2010, 06:28 PM   #18
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I think some of the confusion that I read about had to do with the Time of Day metering that was implemented with many of these. If people did not shift their usage to the off-peak times, their bills were higher. That is how it is supposed to work, but this caught some people by surprise.-ERD50
Exactly. The new meters allow them to charge extra (perhaps alot extra) when people actually want to use electricity. If you want to run the A/C during the day then you'll pay dearly. Unless the really give you a break at night I don't see any benefit. Unless on average people bills drop I don't see an advantage to consumers.

This is the first wave of global warming taxes to hit you directly.
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Old 04-02-2010, 07:06 PM   #19
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Our electric company offers energy saver meters which look like what you all are describing. They go by time of day pricing and reduce rates 50% off peak hours but increase rates 40% for peak hours. They charge you $3.25/mo if you elect to participate.

At least they buried in the fine print wrote in the brochure that if you do not use 5000 kwh/year or 450 kwh/month you probably will not save money and it may even cost you more.
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Old 04-02-2010, 07:34 PM   #20
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Heck, even my rural co-op used power line transmission to read the previous meters ("turtle meters") which were installed 8-10 years ago. The switch to smart meters last year is the third generation of meters we've had since moving out here in the sticks.

Yep, I'd say HECO is definitely 'technologically conservative'...
Heck, how is HECO supposed to use power line transmission when they've got hundreds of PV hobbyist homeowners randomly noise-jamming their system by dumping juice back into the network at every conceivable voltage and frequency?
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