Smart Meters - Tool for Consumer to Use Electricity Wisely
By Teresa McUsic
This summer's brutal temperatures show up more than just on the thermometer. You can also see them in your electric bill.
But now instead of just looking at your month’s usage, you can access a free online tool tied to your home’s smart meter that will provide you a lot more details on where your electric dollars go. The tool, at www.SmartMeterTexas.com., tracks your electricity usage by 15-minute intervals, provides graphs and charts of usage over two years and allows you to analyze just how many kilowatts that old air conditioner or that new big-screen television are pulling in to run.
Accessing the tool is easy and can lead to savings on your monthly bill.
Traditional Meter and Smart Meter
Arlington homeowner Nick Schroeder embraced the smart meter technology and checked in daily as he made energy changes to his house and his usage habits. The results? A 33 percent savings on his electric bill. “A lot of my changes were little things to save on energy that added up to a lot,” said Schroeder, facilities engineer at the University of Texas-Arlington.
Oncor has installed smart meters in most of North Texas over the past two years. The electric wires and transmission company has close to three million smart meters installed, most of its customer base, said Chris Schein, Oncor spokesman. Remaining customers will have the new meters by year end, he said.
While the utility installed the meters for several reasons, including determining outages, regulating the grid during peak demand and eliminating meter readers. But the technology also allows Texas homeowners to see exactly how they are using their kilowatts. “Once people go to take a look at their usage on the website, it’s got a pretty high retention level,” Schein said. “They may not go back daily or weekly, but they do return on a semi-regular basis.
”The real prize for electric customers offered by smart meters may be the future of something called ‘time-of-use’ rate plans. Because smart meters can calculate when we use energy, along with how much, electric retailers will be able to offer plans that offer different rates at different times of day.
Only a handful of electric retailers offer time-of-use plan available in North Texas, including Reliant and TXU. The plans offer lower rates in off-peak hours, allowing savings for customers who want to switch some of their usage needs to other times in the day.
How to Access Your Smart Meter
- Find your more recent electric bill.
- Go to www.SmartMeterTexas.com. If you don’t have a computer, the website allows you a way to give permission to a friend or relative to access your data.
- Plug in your meter number and ESI ID number on your electric bill and an email address. (Note: If you the meter number has a WE on the end, you may still have the old analogue meter. Also, it takes at least three weeks after getting a smart meter to be able to access the website data.)
- You will be sent an email with approval for access that will give you a temporary password. Go back to the website and log on, then change your password and select a security question.
- Click on Usage tab to access your home’s energy use from 48 hours earlier either by 15-minute intervals, day or month over past two years
Note: Some Texans have opposed the rollout of smart meters, most recently at a legislative hearing in Austin at the end of August, citing over charging, privacy and safety concerns like radiation. However, the Federal Communications Commission has rated the smart meters as safe. The radio frequency radiation levels are much lower than those emitted by cellphones. Your Comments are always invited.
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Teresa McUsic is an Arlington-based writer focused on consumer, environmental and health issues for a number of local and national publications. Her column, The Savvy Consumer, appears in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. She can be reached at TMcUsic@aol.com