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Are Smart Meters Essential for Reducing Energy Usage?

image credit: Photo courtesy of geralt via Pixabay

Smart meters transmit data about a customer's energy usage directly to a utility provider. That arrangement eliminates the need for a company representative to come to people's homes to read their meters. One of the main perks from a user standpoint is that they can help households save money. Is having a smart meter crucial for people who want to cut energy usage? 

Smart Meters Can Make It Easier for People to Take Action

Consumers often find it challenging to read their electricity bills and compare how their usage changes over time. While in that situation, they may make incorrect assumptions about their average energy usage and how to improve it. 

Using a smart meter does not guarantee a household will use less power or save money. However, it does give more visibility to facilitate making more intelligent choices. It's up to residents to learn how to track their usage and commit to making decisions that decrease their energy usage metrics. 

However, a smart meter is only one of many options for measuring and reducing energy. People can also purchase plugs that have built-in monitors. Those give users a chance to see the power used by something they plug into the outlet. These accessories also often enable turning appliances on or off according to a set schedule. 

Utility Metrics May Tie Into an Enterprise's Corporate Social Responsibility Goals

Company leaders may decide it's in their best interests to use smart meters to keep energy costs down. If a business sets milestones according to a corporate responsibility strategy, the statistics gathered by the meter can confirm whether energy-saving measures are working well or not causing the expected gains. 

Many smart meter providers also offer customer interfaces with graphs and other tools that let people see when they use the most energy or which pieces of equipment are the most power-intensive. Having those insights could make it easier for businesses to decide when to replace equipment that's so old that continuing to use it could prove cost-intensive. 

If companies use compressed air in their operations, an air compressor control system could help them achieve maximum energy efficiency. Experts concluded that more than 50% of industrial plant air systems could make savings gains on their energy costs. An air compressor control system detects leaks and pressure fluctuations, alerting technicians to problems. Whether companies get metrics through smart meters or another option, the details should help them improve efficiency. 

Smart Meter Specifics Eliminate Estimates 

The coronavirus pandemic caused utility providers worldwide to temporarily stop meter readings in the interest of public health and social distancing requirements. Some companies in places like India and Ireland urged consumers to check meters themselves and submit the data through internet portals. That's not always possible, however. If a person lives in an apartment complex, the management company might keep the meter boxes locked. 

The handy thing about smart meters is that that they keep utility professionals safe and don't require customers to retrieve their readings. People who did not send data to companies typically had estimated bills — some of them higher than what they usually paid. 

Pandemics make meter readings more difficult, but so could events like natural disasters. In such circumstances, people get the peace of mind from knowing they only pay for what they use and will not receive bill estimates. 

Home Improvements Cut Energy Costs

Many people decide to make tweaks to their homes to save energy. For example, they might learn how to seal air leaks with caulk or insulate a residence's hot water pipes. 

These positive changes don't require people also to have smart meters. It's only necessary for residents to dedicate themselves to the tasks they choose to carry out. It also helps if those involved conduct sufficient research to determine which alterations would result in the most substantial benefits for their circumstances. 

Learning about the expected impacts of certain energy-saving home improvements versus others will help people set accurate expectations. The knowledge will also lead to wise spending.  

Smart Meters Can Pay off but Are Not Magic Solutions

Smart meters are undoubtedly helpful advancements. They cut out the need for manual meter readings and give users more information about how to minimize their consumption. 

People should not see smart meters as the sole option for reducing their energy usage, however. Some individuals prefer using them for that reason, but other choices exist, too. Even low-tech changes — such as getting into the habit of turning off the lights when walking out of a room or unplugging all electronics after using them — can cause meaningful and noticeable differences in energy consumption.

Emily Folk's picture

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Discussions

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Jul 27, 2020 1:49 pm GMT

Are they essential? Theoretically, no. But data empowers the most effective action-- and even more important, smart meters need to disseminate (to customers and utilities) the most relevant data so that it can be actionable. Excited that this is becoming a more and more common trend

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