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In this post, we’re going to have a quick look at “Smart Meters,” those new meters that you may see going in on your and your neighbors’ homes these days. As you can imagine, there are a bunch of concerns about these gizmos. Personally, when one went in on my own home, I truly didn’t give it a second thought until someone mentioned that they may not be as “innocent” as we thought.
This isn’t going to be a rant. I’m not really into that. Of course I have concerns about unnecessary microwaves and stuff like that. I’m not keen on holding my cell phone near my head for long periods of time.
I figure that this site is as good a place as any to at least explore the issue! So, I’ll add some of what my own curiosity has resulted in!
What is a Smart Meter?
A smart meter is basically an electronic device designed to record electric energy consumption and communicates the data to the supplier of the electricity for monitoring and billing purposes. In recent times, electric utility companies have been swapping out outdated analog meters (which are read manually on a monthly basis), with the innovative, high-tech digital smart meters.
Typically, smart meters take an hourly (or more frequent) record of energy use at least on a daily basis. They make two-way communication possible between the central system and the meter. Such an AMI (advanced metering infrastructure) differs from AMR (automatic meter reading) in that it facilitates two-way communication between the power supplier and the meter. Communications from the meter to the network may be done by way of fixed wired connections or wireless technology.
Is there really a privacy concern?
Smart meters are designed to measure the volume of energy use, according to the time of day, not how that energy is being used. Unless a home energy management system has been installed, smart meters are not able to detect whether the energy used is from your hairdryer, air conditioner, refrigerator or oven.
Additionally, utility companies adhere to stringent policies, being guided by state laws instituted to regulate personal information use for business and functions such as customer service billing. These meters are a landmark change enabling two-way communication between you and your utility company. They are quite similar to cell phones and banking. Utility companies keep your data secure and private, just like those industries and not unlike how it has always been.
What about Smart Meter Dangers?
Are there any dangers in having them installed on your home?
There is a popular myth that installing smart meters in your home can be dangerous. However, these meters have to satisfy safety requirements and standards outlined in the NESC (National Electric Safety Code). In addition, it is required by public service commissions that independent certification is acquired, proving that the meters are safe and are resistant to fire, heat, surges, self-heating and voltages.
Companies that produce smart meters create certifiably reliable and safe equipment. Nonetheless, smart meters must be installed and uninstalled by qualified and experienced professionals who exercise standard safety precautions.
Advantages & Disadvantages
Advantages for Electricity Consumers
After having fully installed its advanced metering infrastructure, the electric company provides the following advantages to electricity users via the smart meter:
• Enable customers to adjust their behaviors so as to reduce electricity use and by extension, lower their utility bills
• More detailed and far greater feedback about energy use
• Lessens the number of system-wide electricity failures and blackouts
The environmental advantages of smart meters include:
• Decreases pollution created by motor vehicles used when driving to read meters
• Prevents the need to create new power plants that generate greenhouse gases that significantly creates pollution and increases health risks
• Assists in curbing the emissions of greenhouse gas from existing power plants
All technologies have their advantages and shortcomings. While smart meters get a lot done, they present challenges to electric utility companies and consumers. However, most of these drawbacks are short term and there are currently no disadvantages to the environment.
Drawbacks for the Electric Utility Company
The following costs and challenges are among the financial commitments faced by electric companies:
• The cost as it relates to equipment development, personnel training and production to changeover to a new set of processes and new technology
• Acquiring customer acceptance and managing adverse public reaction
• Having to commit long-term to a significant financial obligation for the innovative metering technology
• Cost of ensuring the privacy and security of metering data
• Managing and providing storage for the vast quantities of the collected metering data
Disadvantages for Consumers
• An additional fee is charged for the installation of the smart meter
• It is difficult to verify whether the new meter is correct
Separating reality from the myths surrounding smart meters enables you to take full advantage of all the benefits offered by a smarter, more revolutionized electric grid. It is important to become more informed by learning about the variety of ways in which your utility company is deploying smart meters and smart grid to enhance their electric service.