As smart meters grow in popularity around the United States, you might receive the option to have one installed by your utility provider – or you could already be using a smart meter, also known as an Advanced Metering System. These devices provide a wealth of data about your electricity consumption, not only keeping you on top of how much energy you're using but also giving you the tools to make informed choices about where and how to adjust your appliance usage for maximum efficiency. The smart meter allows you to really track how much energy you consume and how much you spend on it.
Smart meters provide an easy way to track your energy consumption, while enabling suppliers to offer free electricity at certain times of the day or week and online tools to help customers track their usage. Smart meters have already been implemented in countries all over the world, including Italy, Japan, Canada, and Australia.
Before you dive into reading your meter, take a moment to understand how a smart meter works, so the numbers and calculations will make more sense to you. Essentially, smart meters supply you with near real-time information about how much electricity you are consuming, compared to the old analog dial meters which display the total energy used, but no information about when the electricity was consumed. That means access to monthly and daily usage reports versus just the monthly bill.
The smart meter uses a wireless network to send this information to your utility provider in 15-minute increments so they also have access to accurate and up-to-date data about your usage. This link allows the utility to instantly receive an alert in the event of an interruption in service or another problem, giving them a head start on restoring power or resolving whatever the issue may be – often without even having to send a representative to your house.
The real benefit to you, however, is the data you can receive from your smart meter. This data can inform your decisions on how and when you use electricity to save money on your bills. With traditional electricity meters, while you could try to keep an eye on the total to get a general idea of your consumption, you don't really know how much energy you've used until the bill comes at the end of the month. Smart meters can provide usage updates much more frequently.
The smart meter also helps you track your usage more effectively so you can conserve energy by turning off appliances when not in use and adjusting the thermostat. When households and businesses decrease their energy usage, the lower demand for power generation contributes to better air and fewer pollutants. What's more, utility companies reduce their vehicle fuel consumption because they have less reason to send their employees out for property visits.
If you go outside to look at your smart meter, you may notice different figures flashing on its screen. Bear in mind there could be some variation in what you see depending on your utility provider. If you see a message like "CLS," that's good news – it means a switch in the meter is closed and electricity is successfully flowing into your home. If the display instead reads "OPN" it means that there is no power to your home, which you may have already figured out if you tried switching on the lights or using an appliance.
After the "CLS" or "OPN" indication flashes on the screen, next should come a number which will tell you the total kilowatt-hours (kWh) you've used for the current billing period. This is a handy figure to have – but smart meters are also capable of revealing much more granular information about your electricity usage. Your utility or supplier may be able to provide you with more detailed data, which can help you save energy.
Another advantage of a smart meter over a regular meter is that it makes it easier to calculate your bill. Just look at the total kWh for the billing period – which you can see on the outside meter – and multiply that figure by the amount you pay per kWh. For example, if you've used 900 kWh in a month, and you pay 12 cents per kWh, you will owe $108 on your upcoming bill. If your current billing period isn't yet over, you can calculate the average usage amount per day or week in the billing period so far to help you estimate what your total usage for the month might be. Just like that, you need never be surprised by an excessive utility bill again!