5 Things You Need to Know About Your New Electric Meter

ComEd is launching $2.6 billion in upgrades to the power grid over the next decade, and that includes installing new “digital” electric meters, also called “smart meters,” at every home in its territory.  Here’s what you need to know:

No. 1: What is a smart meter? 20140203_NewMeters_web

The technology behind our old electric meters dates back to the time of Thomas Edison. Since our very first power bill, we’ve been denied the kind of usage details that could help us cut costs. Instead, the only information we’ve been given is the total amount we use each month.

Your new digital “smart” meter is the first step toward changing that. It can transmit usage information to you and the utility almost instantly. Not only does that make it much easier for ComEd to bill you accurately, but it also gives you access to much more information.

No. 2: How will I know I’ve got a new meter?

• ComEd will notify customers in a number of ways: by mail, phone call and even a knock on the door when a neighborhood is due for new meters.
• A ComEd worker with uniform and appropriate ID will replace your old meter with a new one in the same spot. If you have any questions about the ComEd employee or the meter, call the company at 1-866-368-8326.
• The whole process will take about 10 minutes, and may include a brief interruption of your power.
• Afterwards, the meter number on your electric bill will begin with a “2.”

No. 3: Do I need to do anything before I get the new meter?

Just sit back, relax and wait for installation.  As long as the old meter is outside and ComEd can safely access it, you don’t need to be home when the new meter is put in. ComEd technicians will do a safety check, and if they find a problem will postpone installing a new meter until any potential safety hazards are addressed.

No. 4: What are the benefits of a smart meter?

Get ready for all this:

New choices. Most of us pay a rigid rate for electricity that hardly ever changes. But smart meters break that mold, opening the door for flexible, money-saving electricity plans, such as Real-Time Pricing and Peak-Time Rebates, which provide incentives for using power during low-demand, cheaper times of day.
Eliminate estimated billing. The old meters were supposed to be read in-person each month, but regulations allowed ComEd to skip readings and estimate usage. Unfortunately, the estimates were often inaccurate, leading to huge make-up bills and consumer headaches. The new meters, with their ability to easily transmit meter readings to ComEd, should all but put an end to estimated bills.
Better reliability. Smart meters and other improvements to the power grid will help notify the utility of a power outage much more quickly, and even reroute power to avoid costly, widespread blackouts.
Improve efficiency/reduce waste. All customers pay for wasted power that is not charged to a particular account. For example, vacant office buildings that continue to use electricity in downtown Chicago cost consumers about $35 million a year. Smart meters would allow ComEd to turn that power off. They also would help cut down on electricity theft and unaccounted energy—such as when a customer moves into a new home and uses power before the account has been opened.
Reduce market electricity prices. If special power pricing plans and other “smart grid” improvements can reduce “peak demand”—the busiest part of the day when businesses and homes devour the most electricity—they can help lower power prices for everyone.

No. 5: When can I start saving?

You don’t need to wait for your smart meter to begin saving money. The free online service, CUBenergysaver.com, recommends hundreds of energy-saving actions customized for your home, tracks real savings through your electric bill, and rewards customers who save electricity with restaurant and shopping discounts. Most importantly, it’s been showing consumers how to cut their utility bills by an average of $100 a year.

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About Jim Chilsen

Jim is director of communications for the Citizens Utility Board (CUB)
This entry was posted in Electric bills, Energy, Saving Money. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to 5 Things You Need to Know About Your New Electric Meter

  1. Louise Pennington says:

    Power grid? How about CUB or the ICC paying the $3.00 per month charge for ten years for the Smart Meter?

  2. Gerard H Schilling says:

    Jim,
    As a concerned citizen who has always been aware of electrical fires and know all electrical apparatus in or on our homes must be UL/CSA certified. These requirements are spelled out in the national electric and fire codes incorporated by reference into our state, county and city codes. Could you explain to me why smart meters are exempted since many fires throughout our country including IL. and maybe at least one in Naperville which killed two people have occurred. Last week UL announced certification capability for all makes and models of smart meters. Since you group fights for the consumer how about demanding for us these plastic fire bombs be UL certified? Not to do so indicates they can’t pass muster and indeed are fire hazards. .

    • Jim Chilsen says:

      Thanks for your comment, Gerard. Our information is that there have been a few incidents in which smart meters in IL have caught on fire, but that was tied to the home’s wiring, not the smart meters. Still, a few fires are a few too many. We’ve called on ComEd to take every precaution to make sure these devices are safely installed. Installers check for any potential problems, and report problems that are beyond their ability to repair. Plus, for the time being the utility has promised to perform remote daily temperature scans on smart meters to ensure none are overheating. You can’t do a temperature scan with the old meters. (And by the way, there have been incidents of old meters catching on fire too.) The chance of fire is always in your home with any appliance. I sure wish we could do the same kind of temperature scans for other items that are inside a house, such as space heaters and even Christmas trees. (Between 2007-2011, U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 230 home fires a year that were connected to Christmas trees.) We’ll keep pushing ComEd to take every necessary precaution–as any company should do with any of its household equipment: computers, coffee makers, etc. Take care, sir.

  3. Sandy Glass says:

    Hey Jim, when will CUB really be for the consumers and not for the utility companies. Look at the financial mess the “smart meter” project is causing Naperville? Smart Meters are nothing but big data collection on our home activities, the first step in the power companies controlling our homes, and paying a whole lot more for a whole lot less. Sweet that the consumer is paying for his own dog collar! The only green this is about is big green bucks flowing out of our paychecks to the utilities and crony big business. Our young families, elderly, retired, disabled and sick, who must be home during the peak hours of 12 Noon until 9 PM will pay the most or have to abandon their homes so they won’t have to choose between paying their electric bill or eating cat food. America needs and has bountiful energy sources so we an build our businesses and compete on the global market, take care of our families and live comfortable lives. Why are we being reduced to a third world country, where we have to look at some website to see if it’s “ok” to take a shower, turn up our heat, make dinner, or bath our children or our sick. This is the biggest scam to hit Americans, and it will only drag our unemployment higher, our cost of living higher and our quality of life equal to Cuba.

    • Jim Chilsen says:

      Thanks for your comments Sandy. We probably could debate this for hours, but I’ll simply say that as a consumer advocate, I’ve seen how difficult it is for people to pay their bills now, under the current, aging system. There are no simple solutions, but these power grid improvements are an opportunity to build a more reliable and more affordable power grid for consumers. The optional power pricing plans more consumers will be able to take advantage of, such as hourly pricing, are just that: Optional. It’s not for everyone–that’s why it’s optional–but hourly pricing has been saving customers an average of 15 percent on their bills. I’m sure more customers would like access to such optional pricing plans. Our power grid is a mess right now, prone to power outages and extremely expensive for consumers. Smart meters are not a magic bullet, but they open the door for consumer benefits and we’re going to do everything we can to tell consumers about those benefits. Have a good day!

      • Sandy says:

        Naperville Electric Company estimated that “optional pricing” would save the customer $1.00/month. As long as people are willing to pay the mortgage, insurance and property taxes but be willing not to use those homes for 10-12 hours per day, sounds great. Wow, let’s all check our e-portal to see if we can turn up he heat for the baby, cook dinner, bath our elderly or wash the bed clothing of our sick or elderly. The Citizen’s Utility Board, in my opinion, is just a mouth piece for the utility companies and crony big business. Great negotiating the $21.00 fee for those who opt out. Wow, it seems like the consumer was sold down the river again. The only “green” is the money flying out of the customers paycheck to pay a whole lot more for a whole lot less. Great news for the most fragile of our citizens. Electricity is only for the wealthy now, the rest of the unwashed masses can enjoy their homes after 9:00 PM.

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