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?
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.