Why ‘Smart Meters’ increase electricity bills

If you are one of those who are concerned about ‘Smart Meters’, here is a simple reason not to have one; It will significantly increase your electricity bill if you have any electrical appliances in your house or business like a washing machine, dishwasher, heat pump, storage heaters, air conditioning, hot water heater and / or pump, or full size electric cooker. See this article here for more detail.

Simply speaking, when any domestic electrical appliance is switched on, it momentarily draws heavily on the electricity supply. The key words to remember here are ‘surge voltages’. These surges at switch on can be several times the electrical rating of an appliance, and the bigger (and older) the appliance, the larger the surge. With the old meters this wasn’t an issue, as these surges are so short that the old electromechanical meters couldn’t record them. However, the ‘Smart meters’ being purely electronic, record every last milliamp, and report these directly to the suppliers via a mesh type network on a real time basis. Never mind being billed at varying rates for different times of the day.

Essentially what happens is that if you have a family that uses dishwashers two or three times daily, or cooks with electricity using an electric oven twice a day, and has gotten used to washing their clothes regularly, then your bills will soar, especially if you cannot afford to replace all your older appliances whose surge voltages are likely to be significantly higher than more electricity efficient modern equipment.

Using this technology has also raised concerns in the Security community, including the FBI, about ‘smart grids’ vulnerability to simple software tools which can in their simplest form, shut down parts of the electricity grid. Informed opinion is that these ‘attacks’ are likely to spread. The genie is out of the bottle, and the law of unintended consequences doing a happy little jig in the shadows.

The meters themselves are also laughably vulnerable to the notorious alleged ‘magnet hack’ (Look it up yourself), where two strongish electromagnets placed diametrically either side of the meter can slow it down. Simply covering the meters with a Faraday cage (or even common or garden baking foil) type structure can completely block a ‘smart’ meters RF frequency reporting. The trick for the householder of course, is not to get caught doing it, or blame someone else (Anti Smart meter campaigners, notorious ‘electrosensitives‘ – catch my drift?) when the RF blocking device (Faraday cage etc) is discovered (“Well I didn’t put it there.”).

To add insult to injury these smart meter roll outs are being subsidised by Government (actually ‘taxpayer’) as part of a ‘green’ initiative. Which rather makes a better case for smaller government, as all big government demonstrably does is create bigger screw ups on a grander scale.

For more in depth and balanced information on the full range of Smart meter issues, read this article thoroughly.

5 thoughts on “Why ‘Smart Meters’ increase electricity bills”

  1. XX Simply speaking, when any domestic electrical appliance is switched on, it momentarily draws heavily on the electricity supply. XX

    Does it also do this when a thermostat switches “on”? For example, an electric oven cooking a piece of pork for an hour will “switch” on and off a few times during that period to keep the correct temperature. Does this create the same “surge” effect?

  2. Furor,

    At the points you describe, the ‘surges’ become ‘blips’ in supply which the Smart meter will also detect, depending upon what sensitivity they are set to. The biggest ‘surges’ occur at start up with older model appliances and operations that put a greater demand on their power supply, like the motor of a washing machine accelerating a full load into their spin cycle.

    To get accurate figures you’d have to hook up a recording oscilloscope and run the device in question through a number of operating conditions to get an accurate picture of each individual appliance.

    Does this help. There’s more in the articles I link to. Anything more, you’d have to read the service engineers manuals for each device.

    1. Agreed – “Voltage Surges” are generally the result of rapid current changes through inductive appliances, and are what “zap” sensitive electronic equipment. It’s CURRENT which dramatically increases
      during start up. But you can’t apply a blanket statement to all devices. The quoted example of a washing machine is likely to be oit of date with all but the oldest appliances. All the modern ones use electornically controlled brush type motors, which ramp up the power gradually, rather than the all or nothing induction motor.

      The linked article mentions the inertia of a mechanical meter – this will work both ways, and will tend to average the sudden on-off loads of (for instance) a switch-start fluorescent fitting during start up. It’s the area under the current/time curve which determines how much power is being used. A mechanical meter will smooth this curve out,
      whereas a digital one won’t.

      Section 2.8 in the overview link mentions (but doesn’t go into detail) how smart meters handle “reactive” loads. This is generally known as “Power Factor” and relevant for all non-resistive loads. Since the vast majority of electronic appliances and all CFL lamps have switchmode circuitry (and these are rarely properly corrected) this will be the main cause of higher bills. I have a simple plug-in power monitor, and this shows typical power factors of as low as 50%, so expect these devices to read double on a smart meter. Some TV’s, satellite/freeview boxes etc, are actually WORSE in standby than when running! Older (conventional) fluorescent lights are usually fitted with PF correction capacitors, and perversely, will not show much of an increase.

  3. What the article describes is correct, however BC Hydro (they are the electrical utility where Bill and I live) does not bill residential users based on the increased voltage at start-up, you are billed purely on usage in kWh. While the phenomenom you describe increases kWh minutely it should be almost unnoticeable on your bill. Your bill therefore should be similar to the old mechanical meters.

    Large commercial electricity users have a demand component in their billing, and if they are smart will do power factor modifications to decrease demand charges.

    If you want to get your audience exercised Bill I suggest you publish the BC hydro tariff, your European readers will then turn green with envy.

    I have no particular love for BC Hydro their boardroom has been infested with government flunkies dancing to their masters every whim and buying into the green energy scams as if hydro power increased carbon loading, I am also none too pleased with the justification for “smart” meters, but some of the anti-smart meter rhetoric is as bad as thecarbon screechers.

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