Questions and answers on smart meters
In recent years, several utility companies have opted to either start installing wireless smart meters or to replace regular analogue meters with wireless smart meters — but before we dive into further details, you need to know that, with smart meters, comes a change in the energy industry.
Introducing smart meters as an alternative to regular meters helps both consumers and utility companies better understand our energy consumption habits. This is because smart meters can provide more detailed information about energy usage in real-time, whereas non-smart meters only tell us the total amount of energy used at the end of each month.
If you have questions about smart meters and how they work (e.g. What is a smart meter and why should I use one?), this post will walk you through some of the most frequently asked questions regarding smart meters and how smart meters can affect you personally. Plus, we will also be debunking some common myths regarding smart electric meters.
What is a smart meter?
A smart meter, also known as an advanced metering system, is a digital electricity metre that’s able to measure how much electricity is used and when it is used. These devices can send this information directly to your utility company. In contrast, regular or analog meters simply log how much electricity is used and are checked by a utility company employee once a month.
Do smart meters emit radiation?
Smart meters emit RF (radiofrequency) energy, just like cellphones, pacemakers and wireless routers. When absorbed in large amounts, RF energy can lead to burns and body tissue damage. However, you don’t need to be concerned about the RF energy emitted from your home’s smart meter for a few reasons, according to the Government of Canada. Unlike the RF radiation emitted from cell phones, the RF radiation is usually transmitted at a greater distance to the human body and results in low RF exposure across your entire body.
Furthermore, smart meters aren’t constantly transmitting data – outside of the short bursts where smart meters transmit data and emit RF energy, smart meters don’t emit any RF energy. According to My Health Alberta, most smart meters only make these radiofrequency waves for around one minute per day.
Are smart meters dangerous?
Even when your smart meter is transmitting data, the RF energy released has been found to be far below the human exposure limits in Canada.
In short, while smart meters emit RF energy, the amount they emit is much less than the amount it would take to harm us.
What is the minimum safe distance from a smart meter?
If you’re been wondering “How far away from a smart meter is safe?”, you don’t need to worry. Again, the levels of RF energy released are well below the human exposure limits in Canada, so you won’t need to take special measures to distance yourself from your smart meter.
How does a smart meter work?
Smart meters send information about your utility usage (e.g. water, gas, or electricity use) right to your utility company using RF waves. Unlike regular meters, smart meters don’t need to be manually read each month by a utility company employee, which makes the meter reading process much more accurate.
How many smart meters are in Canada?
According to NB Power, more than half of Canadian households have smart meters. An article from Statistics Canada indicates there are approximately 12.4 million households in Canada – that means there are more than 6.2 million households with smart meters.
Are smart meters good or bad?
As with everything, there’s a good side and a bad side to smart meters. Below, we have listed some of the smart meter pros as well as some of the disadvantages of smart meters.
Smart Meter Advantages
- Outage notification – When there’s a power outage, smart meters can tell your utility company exactly when an outage is occurring in your area.
- More accurate billing – With smart meters, you will pay for the exact amount for your usage rather than an estimated amount. It also reduces human error-related billing inaccuracies.
- Usage tracking – Smart meters can help you monitor your utility usage and consequently help you adjust your habits and save money on your utilities.
- Better network and infrastructure – The data utility companies collect from smart meters can help optimize and improve their network infrastructure to reduce the chance of power losses.
- Time-of-use tariffs – Smart meters can provide more insight into when energy is used the least and where energy is used the most. Consequently, utility companies can offer time-of-use tariffs to make energy cheaper for consumers who use energy during off-peak hours.
Smart Meter Disadvantages
- If your utility company is choosing to switch over to smart meters, you may have to pay an extra fee each month if you want to continue using your analog meter instead.
- Some people have privacy concerns regarding the data that’s transmitted from smart meters to utility companies.
How does a smart meter save you money?
With smart meters around, utility companies won’t have to hire meter readers to manually read your meter every month – that also means less administration fees. As such, utility companies can pass down the savings onto their customers.
In addition to this, you can use the information from your smart meter to adjust your habits and to help manage and reduce your energy use.
Are smart meters banned anywhere?
Smart meters aren’t banned anywhere in Canada.
Can you refuse to have a smart meter installed?
You’ll have to contact your utility company to know for sure. Some utility companies charge an extra fee to opt-out of using smart meters, such as EPCOR.
Why are there are so many smart meter conspiracy theories?
Misinformation, a lack of information or a fear of new technology, in general, all contribute to people worrying about possible smart meter dangers.
For example, there are health risks associated with RF energy, provided that the amount of emitted RF energy is high enough. While smart meters do emit RF energy, the amount they emit is well below the human exposure limits outlined by Safety Code 6 in Canada.
It’s also worth noting that the human exposure limits outlined by Safety Code 6 have a wide safety margin and are therefore still far below the amount of RF exposure threshold for adverse health effects.
Other people may be concerned due to smart meters being potential fire hazards. In 2015, thousands of smart meters were removed from Ontario due to fire hazard concerns. As stated by a CTV news article this was a problem with a particular smart meter model (Sensus 3.2 meter) and other similar meters rather than all smart meters as a whole.
Something else that people may be concerned about is their privacy when it comes to smart meters. After all, smart meters would be transmitting specific data about your energy usage from your home to your utility company every day. However, there doesn’t seem to be any need to worry. According to an article from the CBC, utility companies like Epcor state that the only information that’s transmitted is the usage amounts and the meter number – there’s no personal identifying information such as an address. Even still, all transmitted information is protected and encrypted.
What is the smart grid?
According to the United States Department of Energy, the smart grid is the outcome of modernizing the electric grid with “cutting-edge technologies, equipment, and controls that communicate and work together to deliver electricity more reliably and efficiently can greatly reduce the frequency and duration of power outages, reduce storm impacts, and restore service faster when outages occur.” A modernized grid benefits both consumers and utility companies. It enables consumers to better manage their energy consumption and costs due to easier access to their usage data while utility companies will benefit from reduced peak loads, as well as lower operational costs.
Do smart meters increase bills?
The amount you owe on your energy bills is based on factors like the amount of energy used and administration fees – not whether your energy usage is being recorded by an analog meter or smart meter. If you do note that your bills increase significantly after switching over to a smart meter, you can contact your utility company to ensure that your smart meter is calibrated correctly.
Learn more about your energy costs