Smart Meters Save $
Reported January 2007
SAN FRANCISCO (Ivanhoe Broadcast News) -- During the winter, we crank up the heat. During the summer, we turn up the air. And all the time we're eating up electricity. Now a new smart meter may help to save energy and save money.
Like most parents, finding ways to save is a priority for Trina Camping. But she thought saving on her electric bill was a lost cause. That is, until she saw the light and started using a SmartMeter.
"This is what makes a SmartMeter smart," Mechanical Engineer Tim Vahlstrom, tells Ivanhoe. "It's mounted onto a typical electric meter."
Engineers at Pacific Gas and Electric in San Francisco are working on SmartMeters. They're mini computers that provide real-time information on how much electricity is being used by each customer and when.
"This utilizes a technology called 'Powerline Carrier.' So it puts the signal back on the lines that actually feed the Meter, back through the power lines, to the transformer, back all the way to the head office," Vahlstrom says.
Everything is done remotely. You can turn your air conditioning, heating and lights on at home -- even when you're on vacation.
Vahlstrom says, "I want my thermostat to raise temperature by five degrees or four degrees if the price of electricity gets above this level. Then automatically the thermostat we can send a command to do that."
Power outages can be detected immediately, and within seconds, power is back on. "It actually does these things remotely without a person on-site," Vahlstrom says.
Peak power hours are from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. By running her dishwasher and other appliances later at night, the power company gives Camping and her family a discount.
"We've saved about $150 to $200," Camping says. It's the first step to saving electricity and saving money.
Minnesota, Arizona, Pennsylvania and Florida are already using the SmartMeters. Not all of the functions are available right now in every state, but will be soon.
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Pacific Gas & Electric
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