Well, the meter may be smarter, but me?

4 Jun 2012

A smart meter

People have been talking about “smart electrical grids” for awhile now.  I posted this earlier this year.  And, if the hype is to be believed, someday,  a 21st century grid will provide benefits like:

  • Reliability — by reducing the probability and consequences of widespread blackouts
  • Economics — by reducing the amount paid by consumers and creating new jobs
  • Efficiency — by reducing the cost to produce, deliver, and consume electricity
  • Environmental — by reducing emissions by enabling a larger penetration of renewables and improving efficiency of generation, delivery, and consumption
  • Security — by reducing the probability and consequences of manmade attacks and natural disasters; and
  • Safety — by reducing injuries and loss of life from grid-related events

This is what the DOE was projecting two years ago.  One of the first steps toward the smart grid is the so-called smart meter.  Little did I know that I had already received one of these gizmos until I spoke to someone at DTE recently.  DTE describes the smart meter here.  The main visible difference is that it is digital and does not have those spinning “odometer” type wheels.  I understand that DTE now is in constant radio contact with my meter, meaning no more meter readers (does this savings off-set their cost?) and automatic power-outage detection (although DTE still wants me to call their hotline when a summer storm knocks out our power).

At some point, I am supposed to get access to my energy usage information via the Internet “to better manage my energy costs.”   While that sounds nice, unless DTE is going to vary rates over time and tell me when the rates are lower so we can do our laundry then, I’m not sure knowing what my daily usage really does for me vs month-end statements.  At the end of the day, I still need to invest in more energy efficient appliances and use them more intelligently – no meter is going to remind my family to turn off the lights when we leave a room or not stand with the fridge open.  Sometimes more information doesn’t really change anything, as it is the human element that needs to get smarter.  I hope the folks at DTE will let me know how to use this new smart meter to be more environmentally and energy efficient because right now, I’m not sure.

Leave a Comment to “Well, the meter may be smarter, but me?”

  1. Joel Ungar 04. Jun, 2012 at 1:15 pm #

    Good points in that last paragraph. The information is only good if we can somehow act on it.

  2. gar 09. Oct, 2013 at 11:25 am #

    131009-1152 EDT

    You do not need variable rates to save energy.

    Information from your smart meter is available at your account at the DTE website. Data is quantized to 0.01 kWh, and per hour at the site. This is the finest resolution at present. It is delayed until about mid-afternoon of the day after the energy was used.

    At the meter directly the numeric resolution is 1 kWh updated about every 9 seconds. But that rate does little good at the 1 kWh resolution. A dot sequence display allows 0.001 kWh (1 Wh per dot step) resolution at a rate determine by your load. The dot sequence can be used to study small loads, but is inconvenient compared to a numeric display.

    With the data available you can study energy usage, look for unknown loads, evaluate your present equipment, make determinations related to selection of new equipment, and look for ways to change your lifestyle to reduce energy use.

    I have written a set of notes relating to the DTE Smart Meter. This is titled “Reading, Collecting, and Using DTE Smart Meter Data to Help Reduce Energy Use”. You can view a discussion and the Table of Contents at http://beta-a2/energy_c.html .

    Also I have another set of notes titled “Electrical Energy Measurement, Conservation, and Methods to Reduce Your Electric Bill”. This is outlined at http://beta-a2.com/energy.html . Here use of the Kill-A-Watt and TED 1000 System are discussed.

    To save energy you have to be willing to do something. Instrumentation, such as the DTE Smart Meter, can help you study how you use energy.


  3. Arthur Siegal 18. Oct, 2013 at 8:11 am #

    Gar, you’re right – my point was that the meter may provide important information to DTE, it doesn’t tell me where the “leaks” are in my system. If I had a broken window, I’d fix it because it would be letting cold out in the summer and heat out in the winter – the smart meter doesnt tell me where Im losing electricity.

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