As technology continues to make our lives easier, the smart meter is a sight for sore eyes for many electricity companies. Smart meters, or the “Type 4” meter, is a smart technology that measures and records how much electricity a business or household uses in 30-minute intervals. But, how do smart meters work? Are they safe? And should Australians install them?
While comparing electricity providers, you’ve probably seen packages that come with either analog or smart meters. One question Australians have asked is whether or not there’s a benefit to installing smarter meters or whether it’s better to keep your analog meter. Let’s take a look.
Analog meters can only capture the amount of electricity used since someone last read the meter. Unless you’re physically present for the meter read, you’ll have no idea how much electricity you’ve used since the previous read until you get your bill from the provider.
On the other hand, smart meters serve two purposes: detailed and instant readings. As long as your smart meter is operational, your provider can read it without being psychically present because this data is sent remotely. All smart meters users can do the same through an app or by locating it on their property to determine how much energy they’ve used in a given period.
You may be wondering how smart meters actually benefit the consumer. After all, you’ve functioned just fine with an analog meter up to this point; why would you need to transition something else? Overall, a smart meter gives you greater control over your electricity bill by:
- Providing a graphical reading of your energy usage each day, allowing you to adjust.
- Giving companies the opportunity to offer better products and services, like apps.
- Allowing consumers to switch to a cheaper flexible pricing plan, as they can taper off their energy usage during peak hours, holidays, or long weekends.
- Allowing distributors to detect power outages instantly.
- Giving consumers access to more services, like battery storage.
Although these aspects of the smart meter will make your life easier, most Australians would have to opt-in to this technology in order to see any positive change in their lives.
Many Australians are concerned that installing a smart meter will lead to a breach of privacy. Although this concern is natural, it’s highly unlikely that a security breach could happen due to the large number of preventive safeguards the Australian government has implemented.
Overall, smart meters are considered safe as they must be installed and manufactured according to Australian Standards. Smart meters must comply with electromagnetic exposure limits and can only use a radio frequency wireless network, which is the same technology used for mobile phones. As of writing this, smart meters won’t produce any adverse health effects.
Smart meters are much more accurate than analog meters. However, light dimmers may make it difficult for some smart meters to record accurately. Still, smart meters are not held back by human error or estimated billing charges, which can sometimes leave families in a position where they can’t pay their bills. All smart meter readings are actual readings, not estimates.
Most of the time, installing a smart meter will cost you roughly the same price as installing an analog meter. Consumers will pay a fee for installing and maintaining their smart meter, which is taken out as a lump sum or in monthly installments and combined with their electricity bill. Distribution companies will recover the meter’s cost through your retailer.
Some retailers may offer you a product or service that requires a smart meter, so they’ll likely comp the cost of installing your meter. Always ask your electricity retailer if they’ll install your meter for free and do your own research to ensure you’re getting the best deal on your service.
No, smart meters aren’t tied to one electricity provider. After you install your meter and pay off the installation fee, you’re free to switch providers at any time. Even if you still have debt tied up with your current energy provider, you aren’t prevented from switching companies.
As a positive, having a smart meter makes it easier for consumers to switch providers because they don’t have to wait for a final physical reading for their last bill.
Whether you want one now or later, it looks like smart meters are here to stay. Smart meters can save homes and businesses money on their usage, as users can adjust their habits accordingly. Plus, consumers don’t have to worry about “estimated” readings.
Since they’re more accurate than analog meters, Australians are unlikely to be ripped off by their electricity providers. In the end, it makes environmental and money sense to switch. This might not detect the expensive crystals in your backyard but can help save a lot.