Common questions about Smart Meters

installing commerical smart meter

Common questions about Smart Meters

Why do we need new meters?
These state-of-the-art meters will help us improve your service and provide you with many benefits now and for years to come.. Eventually, I they will become powerful tools that give you better control over your energy use and your bill.

Will my bill go up because of the new meter?
No. Your monthly bill will continue to reflect the normal fluctuations in your energy use. Any change on your bill of a year ago might be caused by a 2.5 percent rate increase that took effect Jan. 1, 2011.. This increase was not to cover the cost of the new meters. Rather, those costs are being recovered through reduced operating costs. Your first bill after installation will show your electricity use under your old meter and after the smart meter was installed.

Have the new meters been tested?
Yes. Both we and the manufacturers have extensively tested our smart meters. In 2010, we successfully completed more than 18 months of comprehensive testing of the first 78,000 meters installed. Our smart meters and network passed more than 140 in-depth tests for functionality and accuracy. Plus, we continue to test meters in each shipment before installing them. We're also are taking the extra step of having a meter reader check your smart meter for one to two months after installation.

Does SMUD have any defective meters like the PG&E meters that have been in the news?
No. PG&E's defective smart meters were manufactured in 2008 and early 2009. We did not begin deploying smart meters until late in 2009. The manufacturer has verified that we didn't receive any meters from the defective batch.

How are the new meters different from the old meters?
Our new smart meters measure your energy use with digital technology that enables us to read your meter remotely.. Smart meters will help us provide even better service when you contact us. Eventually, seeing up-to-the-minute information from the smart meters will give you better control over your energy use and your bill.

Will the new meter cost me anything?
No. The new meters will not cost you anything. In fact, we expect the meters to provide efficiencies that will actually help us save money and maintain some of the lowest rates in California.

How long will the installation take?
Installation of a meter only takes a few minutes.

Do I need to be home to have my meter replaced?
No. You do not need to be home when the new meter is installed. However, technicians will need unobstructed access to your meter.

Will SMUD be installing my new meter?
Meter installation will be done by Utility Partners of America (UPA), a SMUD contractor. In limited situations, one of our technicians may install your new meter.

With a smart meter, can electric service be connected or disconnected remotely?
Yes. For example, if you're moving, you'll no longer need to wait for a field service technician, leave your gates open, or worry about your pets.

Will my power be out when you change my meter?
Yes. There will be a brief interruption in electricity during installation. You may need to reset your alarm clocks and other devices with digital timers like aquarium filters, sprinklers and automatic coffee makers .

Will the new meter interfere with my home electronics?
No. The new meters are designed not to interfere with your home electronics.

What if I have a Blue Line PowerCost Monitor?
If you have a Blue Line PowerCost Monitor or anything connected to your meter, please remove it prior to installation of your new smart meter. Please do not attach the PowerCost Monitor to your new smart meter. If you have a PowerCost Monitor provided by SMUD, we've mailed you additional information regarding the compatibility of the PowerCost Monitor and the smart meters.

How will I know the meter has changed?
You'll receive a letter in the mail to notify you when your meter will be replaced. We'll leave a door hanger with information the day before your meter is replaced.

What if you can't change my meter?
If the technician isn't able to replace your meter, he or she will leave a door hanger with information and additional instructions.

Will my energy use information remain confidential and safe?
Yes. Your energy use information will be safely transmitted over secure servers to SMUD. The company that provides SMUD's wireless network uses the same types of security as the Department of Defense and the online banking industry.

How do the new meters help the environment?
They'll help in several ways. Since meter readers will no longer need to read every meter each month, that will reduce pollution, fuel consumption, and traffic. Also, the meters will let us use new technologies that will allow you to make decisions about using less energy, at your discretion, which can reduce the amount of electricity demand.

How do I read my smart meter?
The smart meter uses a digital readout alternating between four different displays. The number in the corner represents the type of information being displayed. To capture your energy use, you will need to use display 020 showing your energy use in kilowatt-hours (kWh).

To know how much energy you're using, record a reading then record a reading at a later date and subtract the difference. For example, you record 1,260 today. At a later date, you record 1,810. Subtract your first read from your second to get your energy use of 550 kWh (1,810 minus-1,260=550 kWh used during that time period). See more details about reading your meter.

Do smart meters generate radio frequency (RF) fields?
Yes. Smart meters emit about 1 watt. This is less than the 1 to 2 watts emitted by cell phones or wireless routers. Smart meters transmit radio signals only once every four hours with each transmission lasting only 5/100ths of a second).

Due to the low power of each meter and the need for each smart meter to create a network in order to function, each smart meter may acts as a "repeater" (part of the communication chain) for nearby meters.

There are several other reasons that smart meters may communicate throughout the day, including reporting of outages, voltage fluctuations, alerts about power thefts and tampering, and on-demand reads done at a customer's request.. However, these communications are infrequent and of very short duration.

Comparison of RF power density in the daily environment

Device Relative power density
in microwatts per square centimeter
FM radio or TV broadcast signal 0.005 microwatts
Smart meter device at 10 ft. 0.1 microwatts
Cyber cafe (wi-fi) 10-20 microwatts
Laptop computer 10-20 microwatts
Cell phone held to ear 30-10,000 microwatts
Walkie-talkie at head 500-42,000 microwatts
Microwave oven, 2 inches from door 5,000 microwatts
 
Source: Richard Tell Associates, Inc.

 

Are smart meter RF fields safe?
Yes. Key factors for exposure risk are the power and frequency of the emission and the distance from a person. Smart meters emit only about 1 watt and, when installed, no transmitter is located within the home. Cell phones are considered riskier since they're held to the head.

Although our smart meters meet all FCC testing and certification, SMUD took the extra step of including vigorous RF testing during the initial rollout. Even when meters are grouped together such as at apartment complexes, their RF emissions are low compared to FCC exposure guidelines.

Will smart meter RF fields interfere with my electronics or medical devices?
SMUD's smart meters have been certified by the FCC and shouldn't interfere with devices in or around your home.

Read more about FCC guidelines regarding RF exposure.

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