We wear watches that analyze our activity and bracelets that study our sleep patterns. Data collection technology has dramatically improved in recent years and our analysis of energy consumption is slowly but surely following suit. Take the smart electricity meter – it is changing how the world understands its energy usage and now you are lucky enough to have one.
Smart meters perform the same basic function of the traditional meters that have measured a home’s electricity consumption for more than a hundred years. They look the same, but there are two main differences in the way it functions. First, a smart meter measures your electricity consumption in 30-minute intervals, rather than 30-day intervals like your old meter. The other major difference is that smart meters automatically send your electricity provider your usage information every day. The days of a human meter reader walking by your home to check your electricity usage are over.
Smart meters are safe too. Smart meters send information to utilities using RF waves – the same way your cell phone sends and receives calls. The American Cancer Society states that the amount of RF radiation you are exposed to from a smart meter is significantly less than what you’re exposed to from your cell phone.
Smart meters are successfully leading to a greater awareness of consumption habits, best practices and energy efficiency. Instead of providing consumers with 30-day consumption reports, people will be able to access 15 to 30-minute snapshots of their overall energy usage. They can zero in on specific times and dates to see exactly how much electricity they used, which enables them to pinpoint energy-saving opportunities.
If your electricity bill is higher than normal, you now have the ability to find out for yourself why. First, find the month that your usage is higher than you expected. Next, drill down on some of the days that exceed your daily target or are higher than other days. You will then be able to see your usage in hourly intervals. The next step is to understand why your usage spikes during certain times.
If you see that your usage is high in the morning, it’s likely because you have your water heater’s thermostat set too high. If your usage spikes when your kids get home in the afternoon, it’s likely because they turn on several electronic devices such as TVs, video games, and their lights when they arrive. If you leave for vacation, you should also check your usage while you are gone. If your home is still consuming significant electricity, it could mean that you left lights on or that your thermostat wasn’t set correctly before you left. Keep in mind that there will always be a base load, which comes from appliances like your refrigerator that run all the time, but this should be consistent over time and should be easy to identify.