Types of Electricity Meters: How to Read Them
Do you know which electricity meter you have? Maybe you need to replace your meter, and are curious about which one will be installed. The type of meter you have could impact your pricing options.
Keep in mind that your meter is owned by your energy distributor, not by you. Ensure it is located in a safe area that is easy to access by an energy distributor.
- There are four main types of electricity meters: Flat-rate, interval, solar and smart meters.
- Solar meters also have three sub-types: Net meters, bi-directional meters and dual metering.
- The meter you have may impact your electricity costs. Newer (smart) meters have additional features that allow you to better understand your electricity costs and consumption (and access this information quickly) which could help you in knowing when to adjust your electricity usage in order to save money.
- If you have a smart meter, you can also purchase an in home display. These digital displays provide information not only on usage and costs, but also on when and where the energy is being used within your household. You can pull this data onto your phone or tablet too.
Electricity meters come in four main types. These are:
- Flat-rate meters
- Interval meters
- Smart meters
- Solar meters
Types of Meters
Some people may still have a traditional type of reader, known as an accumulation meter or flat-rate meter. There are newer versions known as smart meters. Below, you can read more about each meter type, how they work and what they look like.
Electricity Flat-rate Meter
Also known as an ‘accumulation meter’, these types of meters record your electricity consumption since the meter was first installed (or last reset). If you have a flat-rate meter, you will need to read your energy usage by checking how much energy your household consumed since last checking it. A technician will need to visit your property to physically check the meter and record the data.
You will be billed based on differences between consecutive readings. In other words, by comparing the most recent reading by the one before it.
Electricity Interval Meter
Interval meters are more advanced than traditional types such as flat-rate meters. Rather than measuring data electromagnetically (that is, with a traditional spinning disc) they record data electronically. They are called ‘interval meters’ as they can record energy use in half hour intervals. They often have a digital display.
Electricity Smart Meter
A ‘smart meter’ is even more advanced than the interval meter. As the name suggests, it can do more than the traditional types of meters. It allows you to better understand your energy consumption in order to potentially save money. As of December 2017, smart meters will now be installed should you require a new meter.
You may have heard of an ‘advanced meter’ or ‘type 4′ meter. These are simply alternative names for a smart meter.
So, what interesting things can a smart meter do? Smart meters measure your energy digitally, and can calculate not only the amount of electricity used, but when this energy was consumed.
This information can be useful in identifying whether there are potential savings to be made. For example, you could be saving money by using certain appliances during controlled load times. During peak times (generally during the day/after work) it is more expensive to use electricity. Some people choose to take advantage of peak and controlled load times by limiting energy use during peak hours, and using energy as needed during controlled load hours.
There’s no need for a meter reader to come by your property and read your meter anymore, either. This is because the smart meter sends data back to your energy supplier remotely. Smart meters also have the ability to notify your electricity supplier when there is a blackout, measure the quality of your power and allow the electricity supply to be switched on/off without needing a field technician.
What does a smart meter mean for you? Take a look at our summary below on the advantages of smart meters:
- More up-to-date information on your energy consumption and costs
- The ability to better manage your electricity usage. For example, you may want to move from ‘peak’ periods to controlled load periods in order to save money
- Remote access to meters, allowing quick and easy transfer of data to your energy supplier
- Elimination of estimated readings on your bill
- Fewer blackouts and deceased length of supply outages
- Better products and services (e.g. more innovative energy management apps, more informative online information)
If you decide to start producing and using solar energy, you should be notified before installation of your solar system if a new meter is required.
The 3 meters available for solar are net meters, bi-directional meters and dual meters.How do each of these work?
In-Home Displays (IHDs)
In home displays (IHDs) provide a visual representation of how much energy is being used within your household. Most of us don’t go outside home to check our energy usage very often, if ever.
Even if you do, it can be difficult to understand exactly how much your energy is costing and whether your consumption is increasing or decreasing over time.
The purpose of IDHs is to pull this data into your home, onto your computer or mobile phone in a way that is easy to understand. Simple versions of IHDs indicate whether you are in a high, medium or low price period based on coloured lights or symbols.
Knowing this information can be useful in deciding whether to use certain appliances during a certain time.
A typical display will record the present rate of electricity use (watts), recent use (kWh) and how much you have spent on electricity. More complex IHDs can do even more. They can communicate:
- How much power is being used at any given time
- Where in the house the energy is being used
- Which appliances to avoid during peak times (where electricity is more expensive)
- The tariff at a present time (usually shown in cents per kWh)
- The amount of energy used over a period of time, for example, the past month, day or hour
- You can also compare a selected time period with another given time period
What Information Will You Need to Get Started With Your IHD?
All you will need to know is:
- The correct time and
- Your TOU tariff schedule
Once this information has been programmed in your device, the rest of the work can be done by your IHD device.
Smart Meters and Health
There have been some concerns around the possibility of smart meters being harmful to one’s health. According to ARPANSA, there is no evidence to support this concern. They advise “The scientific evidence does not support that the low level of RF EMR emitted from smart meters causes any health effects.” You can find out more on this topic here.