What’s So Smart About Smart Meters?

By Vernon Trollinger, October 2, 2012, Energy Efficiency, Save Money

Smart meters have been making consumers smarter about managing their electricity. By providing precise usage data in real time, consumers can become more aware about their usage habits and learn how best to manage their Texas energy usage. Better managing your home’s energy uses has become more and more important during the last two summers in Texas where electricity supply has been stretched thinner and thinner in spite of rising demand. Consumers have learned that cutting back usage during peak use hours can mean avoiding black outs for their entire communities.

Smart meters are smart because they give consumers ways to monitor and control their electrical usage that were never possible before with the old mechanical meter. From any place on the globe that provides you with an internet connection, you can control the electrical usage in your home because smart meters have a unique identifier. You can turn lights on, lower the temperature on your water heater, and turn off the TV because your daughter is up past her bedtime.

Ideally, this means you can connect your smart meter through your Home Area Network (HAN) with your HAN-capable appliances (ie: refrigerators, stove, washer, dryer, dish washer, lighting, and thermostats ) to provide you with an accurate profile of your energy use in 15 minute intervals via your computer or hand-held device. Of course, many households do not own the expensive cutting edge smart appliances mainly because the engineering specification, ZigBee, wasn’t first finalized until 2004 (sort of like the Blue Ray vs HD DVD fracas). Since that time, HAN appliance manufactures are playing catch up and — like what happened with Blue Ray disc players — the prices are sliding. In the meantime, a lot of innovative products are out there that let you take charge of your old appliances’ energy use.

Smart outlets plug directly into an existing wall outlet. These also have a computer network interface (USB, Ethernet, or wireless) that allows you to monitor them via your home computer and lets you program the energy usage of what’s plugged into it. For example, many TVs rely on stand-by power to keep them ready for use. With a smart plug, you can program power to them to be cut while you are away at work. Currently, there are 3 or 4 manufacturers with prices starting around $75.

However, if you don’t want to spend the money, there is another way to get the benefits of using your home’s smart meter to control your Texas electricity. Smartmetertexas.com lets you set up a free account to access your usage data from your smart meter online. You can view your daily usage in 15 minute increments and use that information to take manage and control your home’s energy usage and reduce your carbon footprint. Again, the best thing is that it’s free to Texas energy consumers in ERCOT. Also, if you’ve happened to buy a smart thermostat or refrigerator, you can add it to your Smartmetertexas.com profile and monitor it there as well.

Because smart meters are read remotely, Bounce Energy has launched weekly usage emails to our customer to show them their weekly energy usage. This allows their customers to gauge future bills and adjust their usage to save themselves money.

Which is pretty smart.

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About 

A native of Wyomissing Hills, PA, Vernon Trollinger studied writing and film at the University of Iowa, later earning his MA in writing there as well. Following a decade of digging in CRM archaeology, he now writes about green energy technology, home energy efficiency, DIY projects, the natural gas industry, and the electrical grid.

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