Over the past decade or so, there has been a movement to modernize our electricity grid so that devices throughout the grid will be able to talk to each other in order to increase reliability, cut costs and boost energy efficiency. This is known as the smart grid, and one of its most important components is the smart meter.
What is a smart meter?
A smart meter is essentially a traditional electricity meter with a digital measurement device and the ability to communicate readings via the Internet. This means the electricity provider can track your energy usage instantly and bill you without having to send out meter readers. It also means you can easily track your own electricity usage in real-time.
Do I have a smart meter?
Smart meters started rolling out across the U.S. a few years ago. As of 2017, there were 78.9 million smart meters, also known as advanced metering infrastructure, installed by U.S. electric utilities. This accounts for about half of all U.S. electricity customer accounts, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
The easiest way to check is to call your electricity provider and ask. If you do not have a smart meter yet, be sure to ask when they plan on installing them in your area. Remember, the more consumer interest the provider hears, the more likely they are to roll out smart electric meters in a particular neighborhood.
What are the benefits of a smart meter?
As with any new technology, there are pros and cons to smart meters. Some of the benefits include:
- Real-time data for utility and consumer without manual meter readings
- More detailed feedback on energy consumption
- Ability to make adjustments in response to usage
- Reduced number of blackouts and power outages
Some of the disadvantages include:
- Slow to roll out across the U.S.
- Potential for additional fees for installation
- Potential for security and privacy issues with data collection
How can I monitor my energy usage with a smart meter?
If you currently have a smart meter, you have the power to boost your energy efficiency and lower your electricity bill. While there are free software downloads or aps that may be of use, in most cases your utility provider will offer a way to monitor consumption such as the Simply Energy app for customers of Simply Energy.
Once you have your software or app set up, you’ll be able to:
- See when you use the most electricity – You’ll be able to see your usage on a daily, weekly or monthly basis so you can see not only how your usage changes month to month, but how it changes during a given day.
- Predict your monthly costs – Instead of getting a nasty surprise at the end of the month, you’ll have a very good idea how much your electricity bill will be before it shows up.
- Cut your usage and lower your bill – When you can see exactly how much energy you are using, you can get instant feedback on any changes you make. Increasing efficiency and cutting waste becomes a satisfying game.
Can I still monitor my energy usage if I don’t have a smart meter yet?
If you do not yet have a smart meter at your home, you still have options to keep track of your electricity use through a variety of apps or devices. For instance, the EnergyElephant and EnergyCloud apps help you monitor your electricity usage. Devices like the Smappee Energy Monitor or Nest Thermostat can track energy consumption and make recommendations.
If you live in a deregulated energy state, one of the easiest ways to decrease your electricity bill is to shop around for the lowest rate. Call Allconnect® to find the best energy rate in your area.
Originally published 03/12/16. Last updated 1/21/19.