If you Google “smart meter,” you will find that people are asking a lot of questions about them. There are hypotheses about their potential dangers, how they are used as listening devices, and how they give you cancer.

LA Solar Group is an expert on smart meters, and we’re here to put your mind at ease. Smart meters are no more dangerous than cell phones. We can also assure you they are not spying devices, or part of a government mind control plot. They are, however, a crucial piece of the solar power puzzle. For more about some of the main questions asked about smart meters, read on.

What is a smart meter?

Smart meters are modern versions of the electricity meters that have been used on homes for decades.The digital display on modern readers is easier to read than the old analog dial system, but the thing that makes this meter truly “smart” is its connection to your utility (if you’re in LA, likely SCE or LADWP). That connection enables the technician to read your meter from their office, without having to schedule trips out to your home once a month.

What was wrong with the old meters?

Besides requiring personnel to read them, old meters were often out of sync with billing. If a meter-reader couldn’t access yours on the assigned day, the utility would estimate your usage and bill you accordingly. This was done with as much accuracy as possible, but there was always the chance you were being overbilled.

By comparison, smart meters are accurate to within a day. You can go online and check your usage. That information can help you make energy usage decisions in real time to save money. You also can have peace of mind, knowing that your energy bills will reflect your actual energy usage every month.

So the utility is actively monitoring my house?

The only thing smart meters track is electricity usage on a daily basis. Usage also includes your rooftop solar system, so that you may be credited for any excess power you produce and send back to the grid.

Will the data smart meters generate remain private?

Information about your household’s electricity usage is stored securely by the utility. They are legally bound to maintain your privacy and secure your data, and the information may not be sold or passed to anyone.

I’ve read that people’s electricity bills spiked after getting smart meters. What’s with that?

The first waves of smart meters were sometimes billed directly to customers in lump sums, which made for some nasty electric bills. Now, however, the costs are typically either covered by utilities or otherwise spread around; in California, the Public Utility Commission (CPUC) has funded smart meters through a rate increase of approximately 1.6% across the board. SCE notes also that you can use smart meter data to save enough energy to offset any cost increase.

Smart meters use radio frequency (RF) waves, so are they potentially harmful to my health?

As the American Cancer Society (ACS) says, smart meters use the same RF technology as your cell phone, cordless phone, and/or WiFi router. Unlike household appliances that use RF, however, smart meters usually mounted outside your house, so your exposure even lower. Finally, smart meters only transmit data to the utility in short bursts, so they only put out RF signals about 1% of the time.

Should you have additional smart meter-related health questions, we encourage you to read more at the ACS site.

I’ve heard smart meters could catch fire!

As long as it is properly installed, your smart meter should be just fine. However, like anything else associated with high voltage, smart meters should be accessed and installed only by licensed electricians. LA Solar Group is CSLB C-10 licensed for electrical work, so we are fully equipped to handle smart meter installations. For that matter, we can also upgrade main electrical panels, install energy storage batteries, or set you up to charge your electric vehicle at home.

Are there any other smart meter benefits?

Lots!

One of the reasons utilities are excited about the rollout of smart meters is that it allows them to monitor electricity usage and the electrical grid more accurately and in close to real-time. That means they have a far better handles on balancing loads, keeping peaker generator usage to a minimum, and running everything more efficiently and at the lowest cost. It’s the type of efficiency that helps avoid building more power plants.

Okay, but what’s in it for me?

You’ll have online and mobile access to data on your electricity usage that can help you find potential savings and make energy- and money-saving decisions about usage. If you’re a rooftop solar customer, the smart meter is what ensures you’ll get credit for any excess electricity you generate that you send back to the electrical grid. Also, it means not having to worry about your meter reader’s next visit.

If you have questions about how smart meters work with rooftop solar, how you can access your meter’s data online, or other smart meter questions, please let us know. LA Solar Group has been a leader in the solar power field for over a decade, and continues to be a key resource for all energy-efficient homeowners throughout California.