FAQ: Billing Issues

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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 ($30-40), available online. 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. We don’t know details, but welcome input from knowledgeable people on this matter. Email info@stopsmartmeters.org.

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 to “warm” instead of “hot.” 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!

Also, see the section in Links on saving electricity.

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18 Responses to FAQ: Billing Issues

  1. Jim says:

    “Smart” Meters do not allow for fair commerce or trust.

    The “smart” meter internal program and calibration settings can be changed from remote at any time and in milliseconds. No one would ever know.

    This is not fair commerce for either party. The power company could easily raise the calibration settings and no one would ever know since they are the only ones who can come and check the meter. Any inspection of the internal program would only be done by them too.

    The incentive to do that is millions of dollars per month more for a very small change in the calibration settings of millions of meters.

    Also, a “hacker” could easily change the calibration settings to make the meter read less kilowatt hours. The loss to the power company would be offset by other customers through rate increases since power generation needs would not go down.

    Mechanical meters are fair to both parties because it can be seen through the glass that there are no tricks going on, and the spinning dial indicator can be used to quickly check the meter readings against a small load.

    In a “hacking” or reprogrammed situation, the digital LCD display could be made to show anything the programmer wanted to show, so the normal homeowner couldn’t easily tell what the immediate power usage billed for really is. It may also fool power company employees.

    “Smart” Meters are a dumb idea.

    • j.pisani says:

      “The motor drives a train of gears that count the number of revolutions of the disc.”
      http://www.thenakedscientists.com/forum/index.php?topic=42743.0

      The first post on this page may confirm what I was thinking.

      Any gear train has an amount of friction and sort of a flywheel effect. The conservation of energy principal. The gear train will sort of resist a quick change in speed. Assuming the original response on this page is correct, a very quick sample rate will record instantaneous peak demand. No flywheel inertia, no resistance. A rule of thumb for motors during the brief time it takes for them to come up to speed is 2-4 times the current times voltage (watts). This is a simplified version of how it works, there are other factors pertaining to this, and this is just an estimate. A short spaced sample period at a fast rate will record this peak consumption or peak demand. The old mechanical meters will not record some of this.

      A motor is also a generator putting electricity back toward the meter creating something caused inductance. This is not a good thing, someone more knowledgeable than myself may explain it in another post. This is called “back EMF”. It is added to the name plate rating on the motor. The back emf fights the motor and is part of total inefficiency (“drag on”) of the motor. No motor in the real world is %100 efficient:

      watts used to overcome bearing resistance + back emf (measured in watts) divided into name plate energy in watts = % efficiency

      In my part of the world peak demand is done for a portion of an hour and is a more expensive industrial rate because the electric companies must have larger transformers and wires to accommodate the peaks. (peak demand)

      Bottom line, the utility is right. You are now paying for all of the KWH going through a smart meter, not just what the old meter COULD measure. What this boils down to is a back door rate increase that doesn’t meet the definition of an increase because your cost per KWH has not changed, the method (%) of measured has.

      I am not 100% correct on all of this. Just the generalities are mentioned. Like I said before, someone else could explain this stuff more clearly.

      Best to all,
      The Grinch

      • Joel Ectric says:

        You are on to something here. My March 2, 2013 post, below, expands on this idea of how the installation of smart meters constitutes a rate increase.
        My plan is to measure the metering difference and get some solid data to prove or disprove this theory.
        I am looking for an old analog meter so I can install it for 24 hours, carefully record useage down to the minute (i.e. “12:00pm, turned on plazma tv. 2:15pm, turned of plazma tv”, etc.). Then re-install the smart meter and repeat the logged useage.
        Getting data that proves our strong suspitions about smart meter measurement “errors” is the first step to affecting real change.

  2. Redi Kilowatt says:

    The new SmartMeters are consuming energy that the customer pays for to transmit 24/7, even though they only report total usage every 4 hours in compressed packets.
    Even if one turns off all loads that the meter feeds, the meter will still consume electricity.
    The new digital meters are more sensitive than the old analog ones were, and there are many appliances and devices that consume energy even when turned off but plugged in.
    I have found this to be true even with modern appliances that have the energy star logo on them.
    With the analog meters, it used to take a certain amount of current being drawn to make the motor (dials) spin, so yes it’s true, people were getting miniscule amounts of power for free. The new digital meters sense every milliwatt of energy being used, both by the meter’s transmitter and customer appliances and devices, so naturally, the customers electric bill will increase.
    Another tip is to unplug certain appliances when not in use, no, I am not talking about refrigerators, but television sets.
    I unplug my television whenever I am not watching it. I notice that when I plug it back in, there is an arc at the receptacle when the TV is off. That means that the TV is drawing current even when it is not on. Also, I read that cable and satellite TV signal decoder boxes with DVRs use a lot of power even when turned off. I don’t have a DVR cable box, but I tried unplugging it anyway to save energy. What happens is that the program guide is upgraded constantly even when turned off, so if one unplugs it, the program guide must be reloaded and the list repopulated, that can take a few minutes, so I leave the decoder box plugged in, but always unplug the TV when not in use.
    Fortunately for me, I don’t have a new meter, and I have no intention of letting PG&E install one either, but every little bit of conserving energy helps on the yearly electricity costs.

  3. Redi Kilowatt says:

    PG&E has admitted to me that there is no being able to read previous usage up to the day before on the internet, that was a feature that was advertised as a way for customers to somehow save energy ?
    And those HAN in-home display monitors are entirely purchased by the customer, and cannot read total real-time electrical use, only the use of special chipped appliances, and all that information from the HAN systems is not transmitted to the utility, it stays in the customers system, and is another feature advertised that is somehow supposed to save customers energy, even though it has nothing at all to do with the utility billing system, radio network or power grid.
    So, now that PG&E has cleared that up, it’s time to disclose what the automated meter reading project is all about.
    The primary objective is to eliminate the meter readers, saving PG&E $800 million over a 10 year period, but 2 other important features are to eliminate sending out a technician to dis-connect service for non-payment of bills (this is not really important).
    But another wonderful feature is the mandatory time differential pricing that will happen in about 2 years.
    PG&E will have the ability to calculate kilowatt hours used hour by hour for the month billing cycle.
    They plan on a rate schedule that will vary during peak hours ( I believe it is 2:00 pm to 7:00 pm. During that period, the central office will have the option to charge a
    premium rate if they chose to. Look out !, it’s going to be a whopper, could be $1 per KwH. The objective is to force people to not use energy during those periods. Those periods are when PG&E has overloaded circuits and transformers exploding. They pray that people will not use energy during that time because it will be so expensive, and that they won’t have to build more power plants to feed the new load of 10 million meters transmitting 24 hours per day. Fat Chance PG&E.

  4. Pingback: The Dangers of Smart Meters Hit Home — The Non-Toxic Nurse

  5. Pingback: NIPSCO and getting RID of our ‘Smart Meter’ « Elkhart County Grassroots Hub

  6. Mustapha Mond says:

    Here is how to decrease your billing rate. This was discussed at an electrical trade seminar about 15 years ago, and mentioned about 3 years ago in”Electrical Contractor” magazine. We all just looked at each other when the electric company was pitching this idea. He said they were going to run a pilot trial in one of the southern states. This great idea was not very well accepted by us. Now I understand, first get the the billing up to a level that you have to agree to the billing plan, or reduce consumption by not using your air conditioners “. etc.. They called it “Smart House technology.” I think it has not happened yet because no one wants their stove talking to Ready Kilowatt.

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/11/02/column-wynn-meters-eu-idUSL5E8M1CME20121102?feedType=RSS&feedName=cyclicalConsumerGoodsSector

    Fri Nov 2, 2012 9:46am EDT

    By Gerard Wynn

    Nov 2 (Reuters) – The reluctance of utilities and makers of appliances and intelligent meters to develop demand response systems undermines a core motive in a massive smart meter rollout in Europe.

    It is a great idea: when everyone rushes to turn on the kettle at half-time in a football final the utility can remotely turn off non-urgent services like air conditioning to avoid a demand surge and so save firing up another power plant.

    Demand response is one of the most obvious examples of a system which helps avoid building new power plants and boosts energy efficiency.

    At the household level, the user agrees to pay a reduced tariff (called dynamic pricing) in exchange for allowing the utility remotely to control more energy-intensive appliances, including, in future, charging of electric vehicle batteries. Such a system depends on the rollout of smart meters which allow two-way communication between the appliance and utility.

    It was part of the motive for an EU mandate to roll out smart meters to most energy consumers by 2020. But smart, wireless-enabled home appliances barely exist, except as additional features in the most expensive products, meaning the meters will have nothing to communicate with.

    As the smart appliance internet page of U.S.-based GE says: “Smart Appliances / Demand Response info coming soon.” As it happens there are enough benefits of smart meters, but demand response will not be one of them for a decade or so.

    That raises questions over the value for money of a massive rollout programme whose costs will be passed to consumers, and means putting back in the box one of the few energy efficiency measures to grab the public imagination…………more

  7. Redi Kilowatt says:

    While you are strictly speaking about European ideas, here in the US we have been utilizing demand response meters for decades. They are not what you call SmartMeters.
    Demand response is for large C&I customers, like sewer and water treatment plants commercial and government radio transmitters , manufacturing facilities, cyrogenic and other pharmaceutical facilities, data centers and on and on.
    Demand response is when a customer uses a large amount of electricity, they spread it out over periods that are non peak pricing. Demand response does not save any energy at all, it just bills use at lower non peak times.
    As for your appliances being controlled, if you can call a compressor motor on a residential air conditioning unit an appliance, those are sometimes controlled by the utilities via a completely separate VHF radio signal from the utility that is one way only. It is sometimes called a Smart Thermostat program, but it has nothing at all to do with the E1 SmartMeters.
    And the only other thing that could be construed to be an appliance is an electric vehicle charger. There are plans to in the very distant future to use E9 electric meters to record charger usage between the hours of 12:00 am to 7:00 am and receive a discount rate (for vehicle chargers only- nothing else can be connected to an E9 meter).
    And you’re right, there are no other large or small appliances that will ever be monitored or controlled by any utility anywhere.
    Again, the intent is to grab the public’s imagination.

    • Ronny Rat says:

      Hey Redi … assuming our dear ‘UTILITIES’ are checking us out as we speak here, is it possible that if enough of us were to replace ‘utility owned’ meters w/our own ‘personally bought’ meters, giving them back their’s (BTW, who sells quality ‘analog’ meters to the general public?), would:
      1. cause the utility to be more reluctant to ‘changing out’ w/a SmartMeter?
      2. cause the utility to be more reluctant to ‘cut power’ on a ‘massive’ basis?
      3. cause the utility to have to revert back to conventional ‘meter reading’ since
      meter reading is & forever has been included in our monthly billings?

    • Needa Revolt says:

      All this info properly deducted has got my meter spinning in my head. I now have found the solution. Not cheap up front but very smart and pays off. I am installing Solar and wind, NOT for the Off grid or grid tied uses. Mine will be solar and wind into deep cycle batteries with a catch! I will disconnect my home from the utility and run a big battery charger that will only function to keep the batteries up for all my uses which solar and wind fail to do.
      The hassle with wind and solar is “what do you do if you run low on power and/or what do you do with excess power” No one has even considered severing the main from the meter to the house and only running a battery charger in Off Peak hours to supplement a lower cost solar and wind set up.
      The utility only sees one energy user, the charger, in my case a 100 amp charger which uses under 10 amps of juice but keeps my batteries hot and all my normal stuff running full blast!

  8. Vancouver says:

    There is nothing wrong with smart meters. I have a smart meter and still paying the same and less some months. I do not work for BC Hydro. Live a newer condo near downtown Vancouver.

    • Ulf says:

      BC Hydro installed a SmartMeter at our house a long time ago, but I believe it is not being remotely read yet. Every once in a while I see the little door to the meter on the side of the house slightly ajar – a sign that a person actually read the meter. The last time I saw that coincides with the reading date indicated on our latest bill dated 13 Dec 2013. Our average consumption has also not changed from previous years. I am curious to see if I will notice any increased bills when the Smartmeter is fully functioning.

  9. Joel Ectric says:

    I have an energy saving device, it’s called an ax. Here’s what you do: Step 1: Pick up ax and go outside. Step two: Find “SmartMeter” and unload on it with 2-3 full swings (accuracy not critical). Step 3: Go inside, light a candle, and pour yourself a cocktail. I want too, but here’s my question: From a legal precedent standpoint, isn’t SMUD, or any other vendor selling a metered product, obligated to measure the amount of product sold equally from the day the service was first sold through say, forever? Ok, so what if the “SmartMeters” are more accurate, and it turns out we’ve been “under measured” all along. I say “too bad”! SMUD has had thirty years to adjust rates so that the money they get covers the cost of supplying electricity to the homes in their district. This cost-to-revenue relationship has set useage/measurement/billing precedent, and the fair market value of a kilowatt-hour of electricity–regardless of how it’s measured. It’s time to either re-calibrate the new meters, or lower the rates so that a kilowatt-hour measured before SmartMeters equals a kilowatt hour measured after SmartMeters. I don’t care about RF exposure nearly as much as I do about my electric bill going from $50-$60 per month in winter, to over $190, and then being told by SMUD that I must have more cellphone chargers plugged in than I did before. On top of all that, everyone now pays a $12 per month fee (up from $10 per month last year) for someting called “Infrastructure Surcharge”. They’re sticking it to us and charging us for the stick. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to get my ax and go outside. To chop wood for the fireplace, of course.

  10. Ben says:

    im reading a lot about getting small amounts of free power and that the smart meters are just more accurate compared to the old meters. surely the power companies already knew all this and would not be running at a loss for so many years. so we the consumer were in fact paying for this. you would think that we would have had maybe a 1 or 2 year period of no increases but greed has taken over. well it was always there its just gotten worse. i have been in my same house for 3 years. first bill $357 same time the year after $562, this year same time of the year but with the smart meter $806. interesting thing is that i have cut down on high usage appliances over these years. plasma tv GONE. led replacement. old light globes GONE, energy “saver” globes installed. fridge and freezer adjusted from super cold to just acceptable. Appliances that are not used much have been unplugged. it seems such a waste of time trying to change when every last person is either out to rob you blind or just give you crap products or service. next step is buy a clip on energy meter reader, check all my individual wires at the fuse box then each individual item. then be just as pissed off because by then my next bill will be $1000 or more. might be cheaper to run my house off a diesel generator but i would still have the ongoing cost of this new flash fancy piece of crap meter to deal with. just another one of those things thats making me lose faith in the government more and more. RANT COMPLETE

  11. an russian engineer says:

    All those meters are called “smart” because they contain an microchip which is programed to add an extra amount of energy,about 20-40%,to a really consumed one.
    “Digital” design,means no mechanical disc,so it can show any numbers.
    Nobody knows how is made that program, except the designers.

    More than that, SM emanate an strong amount of electromagnetic radiation,witch presses on mind of population and keep them dumb and sic.

    Lot a tricks on gas measurement;
    First of all, they pump/mix a lot of atmosphere air in natural gas lines.But we pay like for gas!
    Same thing with an ethanol percentage in gasoline.If it’s allowed to add 10%- they pump 35% and more.

    All this is Luciferian cabal agenda.
    That anti human race works with no shame to increase subjugation of entire globe population and many other worlds.

  12. shawn says:

    Smart meter on business jumped our average/monthly kw from 530 to 940 aprox.
    in terms of money it increased from 2700 to 5100 aprox.
    no changes in equipment. Will find out upon pge investigation what they come up with for explanantion.
    Any methods to run parallel meter or way to verify if their meter is recording accurate will be highly appreciated.

  13. Kathleen says:

    I was wondering if anyone has had a problem with the smart switch shutting down your air conditioning unit. It has happened to me twice. The heating and air conditioning repair man said it’s the smart switch that is shutting it down. When he by passed it, the air was working fine. I have a new air conditioning unit as well. Now, I want that smart switch taken off and I’m getting the run around.

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