Exactly How Smart is Your Smart Meter?
In Texas, Smart Meter deployment first started in 2008 and smart meters were almost fully deployed in the state by the end of 2012. This change from the older analog meters to the wireless digital meters provided many benefits for customers. But what are those benefits and how can your household make use of them?
To get a full, accurate and, hopefully, easy to understand answer, we sat down with Shuchi Roy, Director, Big Data Strategy and Analytics, at Direct Energy.
What is a smart meter?
It’s a digital meter with wireless communications technology that continuously records and transmits your home’s electricity usage every 15 minutes.
What makes these meters smarter than the old ones?
In short, a lot. Unlike the older analog meters, smart meters can be read, connected and disconnected remotely. That eliminates the need for a meter reader to physically visit your house. In addition, any disruption in service, like a power outage for instance, is instantly communicated to the transmission and distribution company so it can be fixed as soon as possible.
Also, the digital communications technology in the smart meter allows service requests — like starting and stopping electricity service — to be processed much faster compared to analog meters. Most important for you as a homeowner, however, is the fact that you can get granular insights into your electricity consumption any time you want.
And why would I want that?
To help become more energy efficient and potentially save money. Before smart meters were deployed, home owners would get a monthly energy bill with the cumulative monthly energy usage in kilowatt hours (kWh) and the associated dollar amount. That one data point at the end of the month was all the information you had about your energy consumption.
Since smart meters provide energy usage data every 15 minutes, your smart meter provides four kWh reads an hour, 96 kWh reads a day and about 3000 kWh reads a month.
With that granular information, you can understand not only how much electricity you’re using, but also when you are using the electricity, so it is easier to make informed decisions about becoming more energy efficient and saving money.
Figuring out how and when to adjust everything sounds time consuming.
It doesn’t have to be! Direct Energy has built an energy insights platform called Direct Your Energy to help customers use less energy.* All our customers have access to this interactive online dashboard that shows usage and the day-by-day cost, with a weather overlay. Each day is color-coded based on energy usage so you can quickly identify not only your usage patterns but also the impact of the weather on your usage. You can also see itemized usage, to quickly identify how much energy each of your major appliances like the HVAC, pool pump, dishwasher, clothes dryer etc. are using so you can decide how, when and where to adjust your usage, in order to most effectively save energy and money.
Another popular aspect of Direct Your Energy is the ability to see your past, present and future energy usage. We use the past month’s energy bill and, based on your current usage patterns, we can predict your future bill. So not only can you budget better, but if your energy usage and the ‘future’ bill are trending higher, you can reduce your use and bring down that projected bill amount.
What does the electricity provider do with all that data?
At Direct Energy, we use the data to develop new products and services for our customers. For example, we now offer a Free Power 100 plan which provides free electricity every weekend from 6 pm on Friday to 11:59 pm on Sunday night. Direct Energy’s Free Power 100 plan provides more free electricity hours than any other plan offered by any other energy provider in Texas.**
Having free energy on the weekends means you can save some of the more energy intensive chores — like laundry and baking, and do them on Saturday and Sunday when all those kWhs are free.
Direct Energy also uses the smart meter data to help identify customers who participate in our Reduce Your Use Rewards, a program that rewards customers for using less energy during periods of peak demand. Those rewards come in the form of savings on future energy bills. In fact, about $75,000 in bill credits were awarded back in 2016 to thank customers who reduced their use through the program. So customers who participate in the program not only save money, but they reduce their energy consumption. That helps both the environment and the electricity grid.
*The latest Direct Your Energy platform features are only available to postpaid and residential Texas customers with smart meters.
**Most free hours weekend electricity claim as of September 25, 2017 when compared to other retail electric providers offers listed on the powertochoose.org website. Subject to change.