Smart meters and how they can save you money

When smart meters were first phased in across Australia, there were concerns around privacy and how much information was available to private companies.

Now that most of the traditional meters have been phased out, there are far fewer concerns, but most people are still not getting the maximum benefit from their meter.

What is a smart meter?
Your smart meter is a two-way digital communication device that is located at your home to measure the amount of electricity you use.

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A smart reader records your electricity usage every 30 minutes and automatically sends this data to your electricity retailer, as opposed to traditional meters that need to read by a technician, once a month or once a quarter, depending on your payment cycle.

The advantage of this system is that your energy provider will also make consumption data available to you, via a web portal or an in-home digital display.

Once you have this information at your disposal, you can use it to monitor your energy usage, compare offers and better manage your costs.

All Victorian homes are fitted with a smart meter and it is a requirement that all new and replacement meters in NSW, ACT, Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania are smart meters, and while it is not a requirement in the Northern Territory and Western Australia they are still being rolled out in those areas.

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The benefits of smart meters
Electricity companies have been looking for a means to match consumption with generation since the advent of electricity deregulation and market-driven pricing.

Traditional meters measured only total consumption and provided no information on when energy was consumed, whereas smart meters provide a way of measuring electricity consumption in near real time. This allows electricity companies to charge different prices for consumption, according to the time of day and the season.

Smart metering offers potential benefits to customers. These include an end to estimated bills, which are a major source of complaints from many customers, and a tool to help consumers better manage their energy purchases.

Smart meters can provide up-to-date information on electricity consumption and, in doing so, help people to manage their energy use and reduce their energy bills.

Peak usage times for electricity are between 2pm and 8pm and you are charged accordingly. If you are able to move your electricity usage to take advantage of this, you will be able to see exactly how much money you can save.

I set my dishwasher to run before I go to bed, but it is also possible to do this with your washing machine or clothes dryer.

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It is possible to set up energy alerts, so the system can send you messages warning you of excessive energy consumption and giving you the chance to take action.

You are also able to avail yourself of flexible pricing, selecting plans for the cost of using electricity and have more control over your daily energy use and what time of the day you use it.

There are other benefits aside from the removal of manual meter reading and the availability of more usage data.

Smart meters quickly notify your electricity distributor if your power is out. The problem can be located faster, repair crews can be allocated in a priority manner and repairs can begin sooner.

Most electricity providers can also register for a free SMS service to notify them of major electricity outages.

Smart meters have also lowered the cost of moving house, with a significant reduction in disconnection and reconnection fees, as these services have become much easier. They have also made switching between retailers a much easier prospect because you don’t have to wait weeks for a meter reading and then go through the disconnection and reconnection process.

If you have solar panels, your smart meter also provides details of what percentages of solar and mains electricity you are using and provides you with enough information to change your usage patterns to take advantage of your solar generated energy.

Do you have a smart meter in your home? Do you use it to look at your energy consumption? Have you used it to save money?

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Written by Ben