- Is it true that you bill goes up after getting a “smart” meter?
- My bills have shot up since the installation of the “smart” meter. My utility tells me it’s my fault.
- Why is my bill higher now with a “smart” meter?
- What can I do to bring down my utility bill?
____________________________________ BACK TO FAQ INDEX
Q: Is it true that your bill goes up after getting a “smart” meter?
Many people have experienced hikes in their utility bill after a “smart” meter was installed. A recent survey published on EMFSafetyNetwork.org documented how many people have received higher bills—over one third of those surveyed. Here’s another account of the overbilling issues. Here’s another article.
Q: My bills have shot up since the installation of the “smart” meter. My utility tells me it’s because I am using more electricity. But we’ve lived in the same house for many years, and our usage is very stable. I think they’re wrong. What can I do?
Document your usage from the past to show how unusual the bills are after installation of the “smart” meter. Ask for an energy audit from your utility to help demonstrate how the new meter is not reflecting your actual usage. Consider enlisting the help of an electrician to help you trace the source of the higher bills to the meter. They have devices to measure usages, so that you have another source of data to counter the utility’s assertion that there is nothing wrong with their meter.
Q: Why is my bill higher now with a “smart” meter?
Overbilling that occurs after “smart” meter installation is an unsolved mystery. Utilities will tell you that you are using more, or that it’s been an unusually hot (or cold) month—whatever it is, according to them, the problem is NOT with their brand new, untested, strange RF-emitting device (which itself uses electricity- that you pay for!). The problem must be YOU, they say.
We have only heard of a very few cases of a utility refunding money due to overbilling. Two scientists in California worked hard for a long time, and got $1400 for their trouble—no damages were awarded to them by the CPUC. The utilities have little reason to care about you getting overbilled with lax oversight like that and no threat of fines or punishment for them.
So, we don’t know why it happens, but clearly higher bills are one of the things some customers suffer after installation. A recent poll revealed that about one third of people who had “smart” meters installed had experienced bill increases and one quarter of those had had bills doubled, tripled, or more.
Document your historical usage, and then call, email and write letters to your utility. It’s clear that some meters are defective, and they seem in no rush to ferret out which ones. Make them demonstrate that your meter is not to blame. Call local media that deal with consumer issues, such as consumer hotlines of local TV stations.
Q: What can I do to bring down my utility bill?
If you’ve addressed the above possibility that it is your “smart” meter itself that is to blame, you can think about ways to cut your usage. Saving energy is not a difficult thing to learn, and certainly doesn’t require a ‘smart’ meter, special software, or hourly data! It does need some awareness and willingness to change. Learn to read your meter.
The no-tech way to do it: read the tag or sticker on appliances to find out what the electrical usage draw is. Look for how many watts a device uses. For example, your blowdryer (a big draw) might say “1600W” on the side, your crock-pot (a low draw) might say “150W” on the bottom. Cut down your use of high-draw appliances. Electric clothes dryers and air conditioners are two big energy-hogs. Line-drying clothes is one easy way to shave off a chunk of your electric bill.
Some appliances require a little multiplication. Your vacuum cleaner or dishwasher might only give other numbers, because their draw is variable during usage. Find the V or volts, and the A or amps. Multiply these to get an approximation of the watts. My vacuum, for instance, says 120V and 12.0A. That makes 1440watts, also a big draw. Knowing which items in your house draw a lot of electricity and which don’t, you can change or reduce your own usage. When you go to replace an appliance, look for the “Energy Star” rating to see how efficient it is. Choosing a smaller fridge or a HE (high efficiency) washer are two changes that can help when it’s time to replace your old ones.
Although there has been a big push by utilities and governments to use compact fluorescent bulbs, these have serious health and environmental risks of their own- they contain mercury and other toxic substances and emit high levels of electromagnetic radiation. We recommend LED bulbs if you can afford them, or use incandescent bulbs, turn them off when you leave the room, and go to sleep with the sun!
A higher tech way to do it: Get a “Kill-A-Watt” device ($25), available in our online store. You can directly see how much an appliance is using. Further up the tech spectrum is software that monitors various aspects of home energy usage.
Saving on your gas bill is usually simpler. The appliances using gas are often fewer in number—perhaps just the water heater, central heating, and the stove. Turn the water heater temperature down (but keep above 60 degrees Celsius / 140 degrees Fahrenheit to protect against risk of Legionnaire’s disease). Insulate if you haven’t already. Get a free energy audit from your utility if they offer it (just don’t let them slap on a “smart” meter while they’re in your home). And install a programmable central heating thermostat ($35)—but don’t get the sort with a wireless transmitter inside! This type of thermostat automatically turns down your heat during certain hours, so you don’t have to remember to.
All these low-tech and no-tech ways to save energy show up the “smart” meter for what it really is—a way for your utility to fire meter readers and to squeeze more money out of you—NOT a way to cut down on energy usage. The ‘smart’ meter program is costing ratepayers billions of dollars—if just a tiny fraction of that had gone toward customer education and efficiency improvements, there would be REAL energy savings, and REAL cuts in climate pollution!