Smart meters are becoming more widespread across Australia, but is it a smart move? Read on to find out more about what smart meters are and the advantages they can offer.
What is a smart meter?
A smart meter is a device that measures how much energy your home uses – plus how much energy your home sends back to the grid if you have solar power. The smart meter records electricity usage in 30 minute intervals and then sends this information directly to your electricity provider.
Your power bill is calculated based on this information. You can also review the information a smart meter records to find ways of improving your electricity habits and lower your consumption.
How does the smart meter compare to more traditional meters?
In Australia, there are 3 main types of meters which are used to record household energy usage. These are accumulation meters, interval meters and the smart meters.
Accumulation meters are the more traditional type of meter. They keep track of the total amount of electricity you use, regardless of the time of day you use it. An approved person must come to your property and read the meter every 3 months. The information displayed on your meter is recorded and sent to the electricity provider’s system where it’s used to calculate your electricity bill.
Interval meters – also known as time of use meters – record electricity usage in 30 minute intervals, which means you can be charged different rates depending on the time of day you use the electricity. Interval meters give more detailed information than accumulation meters. To collect the information gathered by the interval meter, a meter reader still needs to go to your property and download the information which is then sent on to the electricity retailer.
Smart meters are similar to interval meters in that they record electricity usage in 30 minute intervals. This means they gather more accurate information that can be used to charge different rates for peak and off-peak times.
Unlike interval meters and accumulation meters, smart meters are able to send the information directly to your energy supplier, usually on a daily basis. For homes with solar power, smart meters also record the amount of excess energy sent back to the grid.
Can a smart meter help you save on your electricity bill?
A smart meter won’t help you save on your electricity bill just by being installed. But it may help you reduce your energy consumption or change your energy habits by giving you detailed information about your energy usage. There are so many solar power myths out there, so a smart meter can help you keep a closer eye on the effects that your solar panels are having on your electricity bills. It can also give you the option of picking a different electricity plan that best suits your needs.
Accumulation meters only allow you to have the single rate tariff plan, in which you are charged the same rate for every time of day. Since smart meters record information in 30 minute intervals, you are able to have a time of use electricity plan which means you are charged a different rate for peak times vs off-peak and shoulder times. Being able to choose this plan could reduce your power bill, if it works with your lifestyle.
For example, by looking at the data gathered by your smart meter, you might see that you are using a lot of power during peak times when the rate is higher. You might then make some lifestyle changes which reduce your peak energy usage such as running your dishwasher, washing machine and other appliances during non-peak hours. Here is a blog on How to Read a Smart Meter With Solar Power
Smart meters and solar power
Whether you already have solar at your home or are thinking about solar power installation, there are a few ways in which smart meters can benefit you.
Choosing the right sized system for your household.
A lot of people aren’t sure what sized solar power system is right for them. With the detailed information that a smart meter provides about your home’s electricity consumption, a solar power specialist can design a system that is ideal for your household’s needs.
Monitoring your energy export / import
Smart meters allow you to monitor both the amount of energy you import from the grid as well as the amount of excess solar energy you export to the grid. This can help you keep a closer eye on your energy consumption patterns and find ways to be more efficient.
Peer to peer energy trading
Smart meters have made peer to peer energy trading a possibility. Peer to peer energy trading is when people buy, sell or swap excess energy among themselves. A number of trials of peer to peer energy trading have already been run in Australia, and it could become more widespread in the future.
Other advantages to having a smart meter
Apart from the money saving advantages outlined above, smart meters offer a number of other benefits.
Disconnecting power remotely
Smart meters allow you to disconnect and reconnect power at your home without physically being there. This could be beneficial for avoiding delays when moving house or changing retailers.
Monitoring outages and quality of power supply
With more detailed and more frequent information being gathered, smart meters make monitoring the quality of electricity supply more effective. Electricity distributors can detect an outage more quickly which means reduced numbers and lengths of outages that occur.
More innovation from the electricity providers
By having access to detailed information about electricity consumption, electricity retailers will be able to develop and offer customers more innovative services such as energy management apps.
Is it worth getting a smart meter?
In Australia, smart meters are replacing traditional meters, with some states such as Victoria already completely switched over. For other states like Western Australia, smart meters are not as common, but it is likely they will become standard in the future. Smart meters have a number of advantages that benefit both consumers and retailers. If you are wanting to switch over to a smart meter, contact your electricity retailer to find out more.