When it comes to smart electric meters and using the information they provide- is it better to upgrade sooner or to wait? Should you upgrade at all? Knowing the potential risks and rewards is key to making the right decision. Below you will learn the most important pros and cons of smart electric meters.
What Makes an Electric Meter “Smart”
Smart meters are the newest upgrade to traditional analog meters. Smart meters digitally track and record information that is then relayed back to the utility company as frequently as once an hour.
The Pros of Smart Electric Meters
Actionable Information – In addition to the raw data smart meters provide, energy analysis software can help make more intelligent decisions about ways to lower energy costs and can help consumers and businesses see where more of their energy is being used.
Energy Costs – If smarter monitoring is what you or your business needs to reduce energy costs, smart meters may help.
No Manual Readings – If you are required to report your meter readings manually, smart meters will eliminate this need.
Balances Distribution More Efficiently – Smart meters can help prevent blackouts by monitoring power distribution more closely. As the demand for power increases, smart meters can help increase the longevity of old infrastructure and keep consumers online.
Enables More Pricing Options – While smart meters may not lower energy costs right away, they do allow you to make more intelligent decisions about energy usage. Further, they allow energy suppliers the option of reducing or raising rates depending on demand. For those with flexible energy needs, this could lower costs in the long run.
The Cons of Smart Electric Meters
Billing Errors Still Happen – Smart meters were initially thought to be the better alternative as they should have fewer errors and easier reporting. This has not been the case. As smart meters have been put into practice, billing errors are not more common, but they can be harder for the average person to notice and, if there is a fault in a smart meter, things can be blown out of proportion much faster than with an analog meter.
Potential Health Risks – Like cell phones, there are some concerns over the use of these wireless devices and the signals they produce.
Risks to Wildlife – Smart meters, like cell phones, emit radiation that can disrupt the lives of wildlife. This disruption can cause higher mortality rates in bee colonies. Similar effects are being studied on wild birds and other types of insects.
Lack of Privacy – One of the most common complaints about smart meters is the lack of consumer protections the afford their users. Your usage data reported as frequently as once an hour, and anything else tracked by the device has very few limitations on it in most areas.
Potential Difficulty Switching Providers – Smart Meters aren’t as universal as their analog counterparts, and there is no universal “language” for them. If you are offered a free smart meter with your current energy company, switching companies may mean you will need a new meter altogether as your original smart meter may be incompatible with the system of another company