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The Smart Meter: An Energy Meter For The Twenty First Century

Posted on: Friday, October 12, 2012

If you own or rent a home, then you are probably familiar with electrical and gas meters. They're located at the utilities' service entrances to your house or flat, and they measure the amount of electricity and gas that is used on your property. A meter reader from the power company will occasionally visit and record the reading from the energy meter, or maybe you report it yourself over the phone or the internet.

The units that these meters use can be hard to put into perspective. You're aware of when your energy costs are higher than normal, and no doubt you've noticed a seasonal difference. However, these old fashioned energy meters are intended to make sure that you are charged the correct amount for your energy use. They are not convenient for learning about how you use energy, helping you save money on your energy use, or helping you contribute to a more sustainable society.

Electrical Smart Meters

Within the past few years, energy retailers have introduced government subsidised smart meters. These meters make up for the shortcomings of standard electrical meters. Rather than tracking the total power used, they give you a minute-by-minute report on how much electricity is currently moving through your main switch. That means that when you turn on something that is powered by electricity, you can immediately see how much it uses. You will be surprised at how little electricity some appliances use compared to others, and you'll also become aware of unnecessary uses of power: lights left on, televisions with nobody watching, and mechanical systems that may be old and inefficient. You will be able to cut down on your energy use through awareness.

Some smart meters don't just monitor your energy use, they also give you information about the state of the electrical grid. When the grid is under heavy use, you can help maintain a dependable energy supply for everyone by avoiding the unnecessary use of power. 

Thinking about Your Natural Gas Usage

Smart meters are generally used for electrical services. The best way to save money on gas is to buy a high efficiency boiler, furnace, water heater and/or cooker and make sure that your home is draft-proofed and well insulated.

Talk to Your Energy Retailer

Smart meters are generally government subsidised and available for free from your energy retailer. 

The optional type of smart meter is easy to install. The most common variety comes in two parts. One snaps over your main supply wire. The other is an attractive, portable readout that can stick to your refrigerator door, hang on a wall, or sit on a counter. 

In some areas, energy retailers are replacing all of the traditional gas meters with smart meters. These meters keep track of your total energy use and give you immediate feedback, as well. They can be used to charge you more for energy use during peak periods and less for energy use during non-peak periods. Some people are resistant to these new meters because all they think about is the "pay more" half of the equation. The fact is, mandatory smart meters can save you even more money than a clip-on smart meter, because when you choose to use your high energy appliances during non-peak periods, you're charged less.

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