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Smart Meters
updated: Nov 27, 2012, 3:35 PM

By Robert Price

After all the tumult over the smart meters this year I thought it would be nice to show what the meters are capable of. When we got our October electricity bill we were surprised to find a large jump in our usage. October was colder and we have a new addition to our family but we also replaced some major appliances so I wasn't sure where we were using so much more energy. I was concerned that our new energy efficient appliances were not so efficient after all.

So I logged on the the smart meter page and found that I could download the usage data for every hour of every day since June when our meter was installed. After some data formatting I was able to pop the data into Excel and graph our energy usage by each hour for each day of each month. I found it to be very detailed.

First I graphed all the data for each hour of every day for June through October:

I can see some AM spikes for October that I do not see for the other months but it is noisy so I plotted the data for each month, again at an hourly basis adding an hourly average line. Most months resembled September's profile:

Then when I graphed October's hourly usage I could clearly see the increased usage is in the early morning hours:

For us, this definitively answered the question as to where our increased electricity usage was coming from, and thankfully it is not from our new energy efficient appliances Rather at the beginning of October we had also purchased a small space heater for our baby's room which we only used at night. With this data in hand we were able to increase the household thermostat a touch, which uses natural gas, and decrease the temperature on the space heater and reduce its usage. Overall we have been able to reduce our electricity usage while maintaining a reasonably comfortable temperature in our baby's room thanks to the powerful data collected by our smart meter.

Comments in order of when they were received | (reverse order)

 COMMENT 347343P agree helpful negative off topic

2012-11-27 03:42 PM

Umm . . . Oh-------kay. Keeping busy, I see.


 COMMENT 347347 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-11-27 03:45 PM

Wow. Reminds me of when I used to take adderall.


 COMMENT 347351 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-11-27 03:58 PM

My life is just too busy to spend time doing this stuff.


 COMMENT 347352P agree helpful negative off topic

2012-11-27 03:59 PM

LOL - you have got to be an engineer. I have been married to one for 52 years and that is the kind of information he keeps giving me. I keep telling him, just give me the time, I don't want to know how to build a clock. But I still get told how to build a clock and sometimes it is hard to pick the time out of the explanation. I get the graphs of pros and cons too. If it all makes you happy, then all is good.


 COMMENT 347354 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-11-27 03:59 PM

It sounds like your smart meter is rubbing off on you!


 COMMENT 347356 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-11-27 04:04 PM

I see a business.


 COMMENT 347357 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-11-27 04:05 PM

cool post. Edhat has been pretty boring lately, and I found that interesting.


 COMMENT 347361 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-11-27 04:12 PM

Ever since we had our smart-meters installed, we've seen a $10 per month increase on our energy bill, but we're not using any more electricity than before... I don't get it, I thought smart-meters were suppose to save us money?


 COMMENT 347366 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-11-27 04:17 PM

I too am an engineer and this looks exactly like something I would do.

Fact is that the majority of people either do not have Excel or do not know how to use Excel well enough to be able to suck out the relevant data.

What we need is a computer program / website / app which culls this info and give customizable displays so the average user can benefit.

My power bill is relatively low so I don't think I'll be accessing this info, but I think it would be cool to get an automated text message alerting me of an unusual power consumption due to me leaving the house and forgetting to turn off the space heater.


 COMMENT 347369 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-11-27 04:23 PM

Keep in mind that anybody at SCE can look at your usage. If they see a couple days with abnormally low usage they will know that you are on vacation. They might find it convenient to inspect your home.


 COMMENT 347370 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-11-27 04:26 PM

Also, the cable company installs cameras in set-top boxes so they can watch what you're doing while you watch TV. Be careful.


 COMMENT 347384 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-11-27 04:57 PM

I can't believe nobody has said anything about leaving an electric space heater running unmonitored in your baby's room!


 COMMENT 347387 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-11-27 04:58 PM

Very nice. This is the way everyone we hang with thinks - seems common sense. I guess there's a reason we don't find these other types interesting. They probably spend their time talking about the latest sit-com....


 COMMENT 347391 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-11-27 05:02 PM

I love graphs! Thanks for sharing. :)


 COMMENT 347392P agree helpful negative off topic

2012-11-27 05:03 PM

Well, this is timely for us. Our smart meter was installed in March. Nothing unusual. I wondered what all the fuss was about.

In October we were startled to find a guy outside our window early morning. He said he was there to read the meter because it wasn't responding. Our next bill jumped 34%-- and for for the first time, there was no actual meter reading. I had an unsatisfactory conversation with SCE; they just read from a script.

Now I pay closer to attention. I notice there are many days without data when I login to view our usage-- just a little wifi icon indicating some "delay." Our last bill was also higher than in the past. Again, no actual meter reading.

SCE told me that they no longer have to report this to me and it didn't matter because they have hourly data--- except that if I look at their website, they don't.


 RICHYRICH agree helpful negative off topic

2012-11-27 05:05 PM

Smart Meters are here to stay, and they will prove themselves over time. Unfortunately all the nay sayers won't be dying of cancer either.


 MTNDRIVER agree helpful negative off topic

2012-11-27 05:17 PM

Thanks, I found that useful. Don't mind the snarks.


 COMMENT 347414 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-11-27 05:37 PM

We had a smart meter and our bill was at least $10 more than with the old analog. When PG&E offered the opt out we had our smart meter removed and a digital meter installed. Our bill has once again dropped. Even when we had the smart reader they had to come and physically read it due to it not being able to get a signal here.


 COMMENT 347420 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-11-27 05:41 PM

@369 - So can the post office when you put a hold on your mail delivery. So can the newspaper when you put a hold on your delivery. So can the water department when your usage drops.

Taking a vacation is risky business.


 COMMENT 347421 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-11-27 05:44 PM

The data collected will benefit the utility corps way more than you will ever benefit as they have the aggregate data to work with plus your personal data.

Huge computer bank sniffers monitor every electronic signal on and off the planet, radio, TV, satellite all of it. The Brits gave us back the info through Echelon prior to the Patriot Act when we couldn't spy on our own citizens (openly), now we do it ourselves through Carnivore. Your Smart Meter is smart as you have shown here. We can see when you get up, when you come home etc. Almost as good as a camera in your living room.

Monopoly plus profit plus deregulation = you are at the mercy.


 COMMENT 347424 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-11-27 05:45 PM

@361 - It will only save you money if you do as the OP did and analyze your usage to see where you can change your habits and use less.


 COMMENT 347460P agree helpful negative off topic

2012-11-27 06:54 PM

I'm just going to keep paying my extra $10 a month not to have one of these.


 COMMENT 347468P agree helpful negative off topic

2012-11-27 07:12 PM

I've had no change in my bill, SCE provides a graph on every bill it sends.

Averythang is otay. My nayboars lick their Smar meeters to.


 COMMENT 347469 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-11-27 07:12 PM

Some space heaters are very safe, with NO coils. Like my little Polaris heater , ( I hope I spelled it right). Not even hot on the outside. http://www.polarisfashionplace.com/spotlight/1378


 COMMENT 347473 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-11-27 07:19 PM

If someone wants to know if you're home or not they can also just knock on your door... which seems to be the preferred method to hacking a database, tracking all your energy usage and calculating whether or not you might be home.


 COMMENT 347510P agree helpful negative off topic

2012-11-27 08:35 PM

Well done, OP! (I was a english major but know and am related to many scientists and engineers. I have family who would do this for fun) Yeah, worry about your computer security and microtracking a lot more than your electricity! How much do you all know about computer security? Hope you have a locking mailbox and shred all your paperwork too.
Didn't most of SB get the mailer from SCE about the ability to review your usage and get an alert from them re: monthly cost? I won't bother as my bill is negligible. ah, still in the recycle bag: "Edison SmartConnect energy management tools." Budget assistant alerts" and "Save power day incentive alerts."


 COMMENT 347559 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-11-28 06:08 AM

A perfect example of how gov't works: six months worth of data, number crunching, etc. to verify the problem it created. But it still took a human to realize that the 600 watt space heater he purchased uses lots of energy. D'oh!

Smart meter=smart humans?


 COMMENT 347567 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-11-28 07:09 AM

And this was the only way to determine that a new electric space heater would result in an increase in household electric consumption?


 COMMENT 347578 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-11-28 07:24 AM

Yes these meters can do many things: New appliances include wireless network communication with the smart meter which allows the utility to shut power to any appliance they chose whenever they want. Just because you own your house, appliances and pay for the power no longer means you have a right to control. Shutting off your power service (or turning it back on) is a few key strokes not two trips for an Edison truck; no hesitation on their part to shut you down and charge reconnect fee. OT: The new samsung flat screen tv's have an internal camera and microphone that is not controlled by a hard switch but by a software switch. There is an app for that. Orwells' two way tv's are going into homes today, and people blindly pay to for this invasion. The patent refers to using it to "customize the viewing experience".


 COMMENT 347597 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-11-28 08:00 AM

Thanks for sharing. Our smart meter was installed yesterday and it'll be interesting to see if anything changes. I'll miss watching that little wheel spin, though.


 COMMENT 347606 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-11-28 08:13 AM

I have heard that many homes with old meters would see a jump in usage as the "teeth" on the old meters were worn down and thus not reading electricity use accurately.
We went solar this year (long term lease so only $700 cash outlay) with REC Solar and my bills are a fraction of what they used to be.


 COMMENT 347613P agree helpful negative off topic

2012-11-28 08:29 AM

I like how everyone thinks this guy spent hours and hours doing this, but really anyone that knows excel could complete this entire process in <15 minutes. It's crazy how much people DON'T know about computers!!! Regardless, pretty cool OP!


 COMMENT 347638 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-11-28 09:03 AM

And don't forget, you can also blame all your problems and ills now on your smart meter, so it's a win-win!

P.S. Great to see energy analytics popping up on Edhat!


 COMMENT 347645 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-11-28 09:09 AM

thx for sharing the graphs and analysis.


 COMMENT 347646P agree helpful negative off topic

2012-11-28 09:10 AM

Actually he didn't even have to do this on his own computer He just signed up with SCE on line and can access the current and historical usage of his own home. He then just downloaded it and It's a very 'smart' meter.
by the way, no drastic change in my usage since the smart meter but maybe the rates have increased


 COMMENT 347673P agree helpful negative off topic

2012-11-28 09:46 AM

Thanks for sharing. I LOVE numbers - there is something so satisfying about cold hard data.


 COMMENT 347701 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-11-28 10:20 AM

I am constantly amazed at the willingness that some of us have to let corporations further control our lives. Each step is a further decay of our liberties. I am also aware that there are many of us who will continue to fight for our liberties and that is a very good thing. I will keep paying the 10 dollars and you guys can come to my house during the first couple black outs. Yes Mr Obama says he will shut down a thousand coal plants during his next term. Get ready for higher bills and blackouts.


 COMMENT 347794 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-11-28 12:25 PM

701- I know I'm being picky here, but like it or not "Mr" Obama is in office; he is "President Obama" or "Mr. President", but not Mr O'. I agree with the sentiments of your post though, and am paying the $190/year extra to keep the old meter.


 COMMENT 347796 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-11-28 12:27 PM

I say we shut down 10,000 coal plants. Are there even 10,000 coal plants? If there are, we should shut them down. Unsustainable and dirty.


 COMMENT 347798 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-11-28 12:29 PM

Wait, people are really paying $190 a year to not upgrade to a newer "smart meter"?

Now that's funny... paranoia and woeful ignorance are not virtues.


 COMMENT 347832P agree helpful negative off topic

2012-11-28 01:55 PM

578: 701 is local tea party loon who posts regularly on various local blogs. Her "style" is a dead give away.
She doesn't recognize the "Marxist" regime of President Obama.


 COMMENT 347865 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-11-28 02:53 PM

People pay $120-190/ year to keep the old meter?! That's 50% of our annual bill. We can just call that a crazy tax.


 COMMENT 347910 agree helpful negative off topic

2012-11-28 04:29 PM

832p- 701 here; you are dead wrong. Male, progressive-libertarian here. Hated referring to W as president bush but he was in office and that is how we address the president.


 COMMENT 347915P agree helpful negative off topic

2012-11-28 04:40 PM

578 (#2): Think you've got something crossed there. You, 578?, were remarking on 701's comment as did I.
Now, you _are_ 701???


 RESIDENT agree helpful negative off topic

2012-11-28 07:22 PM

578, I truly hope that you don't believe that stuff about being able to shut down individual appliances and cable boxes/TVs that can video you. I'll give you the benefit of the doubt that you're just trying to stir up some folks to make the discussion more entertaining.
But the fact is, none of that is true. Except that there is one appliance that you can voluntarily sign up for them to be able to shut down when electric usage is high - your air conditioner if you have one. SCE will give you a significant reduction in summertime rates if you opt for that program. In order for that to work, a technician adds a radio frequency switch box on the outside of your A/C.


 RESIDENT agree helpful negative off topic

2012-11-28 07:26 PM

Ah.... sorry 578; my comment was in response to 910. My bad - I got the wrong address.


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