What is a Smart Meter? | Saving Energy and Cons

What is a Smart Meter?

by | Energy

In order to measure electricity usage in every home, utilities have long used meters. These devices record the amount of energy consumed in each home so the utility can provide billing for its customers. In order to get accurate consumption information, the utility must send meter readers to your house to confirm your energy usage each month.

A smart meter is very similar to the traditional meter on your home in that it measures and records energy consumption data. However, the smart meter differs because it’s a digital device that can communicate remotely with your utility. It will send your consumption information to your utility every 15 minutes to one hour and eliminates the need for a meter reader.

In addition to reporting your energy usage, the smart meter can inform the utility immediately if there’s a power outage in your area (like Texas smart meters, for example). It can quickly dispatch crews to resolve the situation and get your power back on as soon as possible. Once everything is back to normal, the smart meter will notify your utility of the resolution.

How can you save energy with a smart meter?

One of the biggest benefits of a smart meter for consumers is the ability to track energy usage. Most smart meters come equipped with a digital face that displays up-to-date information on the energy you’ve used. Though it won’t tell you what’s using the most electricity in your home, being aware of how much energy you use can guide you to make improvements.

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Some states governments or utilities even offer online programs that allow you to track your energy consumption data. The Texas government, for example, offers a program called Smart Meter Texas which allows residential and business customers the ability to track energy consumption data in 15 minute intervals, as well as monthly and daily usage information.

If you decide to modify your energy use, you should be able to see how the changes play into your overall energy consumption each day and over the course of a month.

Texas smart meter example - what are smart meters?

What’s the downside of using a smart meter?

Across the nation there’s a lot of controversy surrounding the implementation of smart meters. One issue has been the fact that some smart meters have caught fire. Some believe the issue lies in faulty meter panels on the home, not the smart meter itself. Proponents of the device argue that when utility workers pull off the old meters they sometimes jar a defective part of the meter base. Since it’s not working properly, it overheats and has caused some instances of house fires. It’s also important to note that millions of smart meters have been deployed throughout the United States and very few have caught fire.

Another issue with smart meters is the amount of radiation they project. Some people claim the meters cause dizziness, memory loss, headaches or even cancer. However, these claims aren’t backed by science. Smart meters use the same technology as cellphones, which have relatively low radiation levels, but these advance meters have a radiation threat that’s even lower than a cellphone. The Huffington Post reports that even if you stand three feet from a smart meter the microwave exposure is 1,100 times less than holding a cellphone to your ear. Smart meters are typically placed outside the home, in the back or side of the property in places people don’t usually hang around. So the risk of exposure to radiation is even lower.

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