Do an Internet search for ‘smart meter' and the results aren't pretty. Most of the top results are articles or blog posts complaining about smart meters and pretty much suggesting that everybody that has one is going to get cancer. To that, I say, hogwash. In fact, I'll go so far as to say that I love my smart meter. Yes, I used the word ‘love' and even if I'm the only person in the world, so be it, but I think as time goes on, more people will find that their smart meter is not something to complain about, but instead something to embrace.
Smart Meters 101
First of all, what is a smart meter?
For those that might not have yet been introduced to the concept, a smart meter is a different version of the standard electrical meter that sits on the outside of your house that measures usage. The traditional meter has dials that have to be read to calculate energy usage. A smart meter has a digital display. In addition, a smart meter transmits this data on a regular basis to the electrical company.
This data transmission is where people seem to have the problem and think that they're evil. I'm here to tell you that they're not.
Here are four reasons that smart meters are good:
Smart Meters Are Automatic
Say there's a big storm and your power goes out. You have to let the power company know by picking up your phone and calling them, right? Not so with a smart meter. A smart meter, by design, will check in every few minutes, so if the power company sees that a meter or group of meters is not checking in, they'll know that the power is out. They'll also know the size of the outage.
Now, of course it doesn't hurt to call the power company anyway to report the outage, but if you have a smart meter, chances are they already know by the time they take your call.
Smart Meters Are Accurate
Three times out of the last twelve months, our gas bill was completely off. Two of those were during the winter months, when snow made it hard for someone to come read the meter, so they estimated our usage. The other time someone either read the meter wrong or wrote down the wrong number, so our bill was much higher than expected.
Although they fixed it, I had to make a call and spend time traipsing outside to get an accurate reading.
With a smart meter, the meter transmits your usage and that creates your bill. Simple as pie. No estimated bills. No mixing up of numbers by someone reading the meter. Ever since our smart meter was installed a few years ago, we've had 100% accurate results.
Smart Meters Save Energy
Our power company offered us a device that allows us real time tracking of our electrical usage. All I had to do was plug the device in, plug it into our internet router, install an app, spend a few minutes while the device and our meter synced up, and now I can go into the app at any time and see real time usage.
I've gone through the house, flipping on and off lights, or turning on and off appliances, and have seen the change instantly. Data like this can help people make better decisions. And, I think the possibilities even go beyond that. We sometimes go away during the winter months. We can launch the app, while we're away, and see that usage is taking place so that we know the furnace is cycling on and off at a regular basis.
Say we logged into the app and saw a stop in the pattern, we might know that we'd better call someone so that we can avoid coming home to burst pipes. This is a localized program for our company in the Detroit area. I'm guessing that it or something like it will eventually be standard so that we we can individually tap into the smart aspect of the smart meters.
Smart Meters Are Safe
For some reason, smart meters seem to be the one device that people think will give them cancer because of transmitting data. This is from people that likely have a wi-fi router in their house, who use cell phones, cordless phones, and other forms of wireless communication, and did I mention that all of those devices are on the inside of your house, so they're the ones that would likely be more worrisome, whereas the smart meter is sitting on your outside wall, therefore providing less exposure to any invisible death rays. A
Even though smart meters are regularly sending out pings and data information, it's only actively transmitting around 1% of the time. All things considered, if you're really worried about invisible communication waves frying your brains, smart meters are probably pretty far down the list of real, actual problems.
One of the concerns that people have is that they actively choose to put wi-fi routers and cell phone routers and other devices in their home, where often they don't have a choice in whether a smart meter is installed. The power company just shows up. While I see this as a concern, I think, again, that of all the things to fret about over which we have little or no control, there are many others things that I think would come up above a silly, old electrical meter.
Readers, what do you think about smart meters? Would you pay not to use one? Would you use the monitoring and real-time tools available?