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What is a smart meter and how it could be benefiting you

Can a Smart Meter Prove Beneficial for Household Consumers?

You are probably here as you plan to replace the analog electricity meter with a smart one. 

For the uninitiated, smart meters record the electricity usage after specific intervals and send the data to the electricity supplier.

Can the intelligent meter prove beneficial for energy consumers in Australia? Do retailers misuse consumer data retrieved from digital meters? Do smart meters emit radiation? 

At Elevated Electrical Solutions Pty Ltd, our electricians often come across these and other questions from curious customers. No worries, let’s quickly understand both the benefits and controversies of smart meters. 

Off-peak Electricity Rates 

Why do energy companies offer flexible time tariffs to consumers with a smart meter? Well, that’s because suppliers can access the power consumption reading during different times of the day. This is not possible in the case of an analog meter.

Depending on the energy provider in your region, you can opt for one of the flexible energy plans, including time-of-use tariffs. 

Plans and other charges may vary from one retailer to the other. However, with a flexible tariff plan, the electricity rate during off-peak times (overnight) is the lowest.

You guessed it right; simply scheduling the use of power-hungry appliances during off-peak hours helps save a considerable amount on the bill. 

Monitoring Energy Consumption 

The device retrieves and sends energy usage data after an interval of 30 minutes. 

You can access the information via mobile or web app. Analyzing the consumption pattern helps understand which devices draw more power. You can cut down unnecessary usage accordingly. And controlling the wastage of electricity will ultimately help reduce your bill. 

Better and Quicker Service in Case of an Outage 

Digital meters automatically notify electricity distributors in case of connection issues and outages. As a result, suppliers can operate more efficiently and proactively address potential issues.  

Connection and Metering Fees

The overall cost of switching to a new retailer is lesser if a digital meter is already in place. 

The connection fee (reconnection/disconnection) for properties with a smart meter is between $5 and $8. On the other hand, homes with old meters are charged $20-$25 for the same. 

Measuring the Electricity Exported by the Solar Power System to the Grid

No worries, there won’t be any changes in subsidies or feed-in tariffs. In fact, homes with solar systems get additional benefits from digital meters. 

You can open the web or mobile app and check the amount of electricity the solar power system has exported to the grid. Thus, calculating the annual savings on electricity bills becomes easy. 

Why Do Power Companies Incentivise Energy Users?

Due to lower tariffs, several consumers prefer using pool pumps, dishwashers, dryers, and washing machines overnight.

But why do power companies incentivize customers to use energy-guzzling appliances during off-peak times? Well, the answer is simple. Such a consumption pattern helps companies reduce stress on their aging network infrastructure during peak times. 

Concerns Surrounding Data Privacy

As someone rightly said, “With data comes great responsibility and power.”

The possibility of a breach of privacy is one of the main concerns surrounding digital meters in Australia. Yes, the energy consumption pattern does reflect the habits of people living inside the house. The real-time data retrieved from your smart meter can help power companies determine which appliance is in use and for how long. It is indeed easy to capture information about activities inside the house. 

However, regulations make it mandatory for power companies to obtain customer consent before sharing this data with third parties. 

The Privacy Act and National Electricity Law protect your energy data. 

Can Exposure to a Smart Meter Result in Adverse Health Effects?

Meters use low-level radio-frequency electromagnetic energy (EME) to send data. The unit emits non-ionizing radiation. Yet, the ARPANSA-Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency conducted studies to determine if the RF EME complies with regulations. You can read some of the related reports on the ARPANSA website.  

Long answer short, as per the ARPANSA, these devices do not result in health effects. 

There is no evidence to connect the low-level radio-frequency electromagnetic energy emitted by smart meters to health issues. 

So, Are You Ready for a Smart Meter? 

Regulations make it mandatory for retailers to install digital meters in case of both replacement and new connections.

You need to contact your energy distributor or supplier to install a smart meter. Once installed, the device cannot be removed or shifted to another property. 

Installation costs and ongoing charges may vary depending on the property location and supplier.