FAQ: General Electrical and Meter Information

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Q: How do I read the dials on an analog electric meter?

Here is a helpful video.  Or see this page.

Q: What is a kwH (kilowatt-hour) on my electric bill?

This is the basic unit your utility uses to measure your electrical usage. It is one kilowatt (1000 watts) of electricity used for one hour. So that would be ten 100-watt light bulbs burning for an hour, or something like two vacuum cleaners or fridges running for an hour, and so on. Typical single family home can use anything between 10 and 20 kwH per day.

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11 Responses to FAQ: General Electrical and Meter Information

  1. Denny says:

    I know this depends on how much electricity is used per month, but how many kwh are recorded by these analog meters before they “reset” again? In other words, if they are not read every month, can they be accurately read, say, four, five, six months later?

    Thank you.

    Denny

  2. Yes. Most analog meters have 5 dials, meaning they will measure 99,999 KWh before turning over to zero. The average home uses less than 1000 KWh per month.

    Customers who are low-income, very thrifty with their usage, or rely more on other fuels for heat/hot water can get by on 300. So why would a utility need to read their meter every month, if they are using < 4,000 KWh a year and have paid their bills all along?

    Both Central Maine Power and Green Mountain Power have made provisions for an analog opt-out with manual readings every other month. Oddly enough, the opt-out fee is still charged every month. So when they say it costs them $12 or $10 (resp.) to read your meter, they actually mean $24 or $20. If you have multiple meters (for hot water or a rental unit), then you get multiple charges.

  3. Denny says:

    Thank you for that info!

    My current monthly bill with PG&E runs about $30 (Yes, I am frugal!) I know this would fall on deaf ears with the crooks @ PG&E, but I would like to offer them a deal; Let me keep my analog meter and I will advance pay one year of their services ($360.00) based on the present rate. We can square things after a year with a mter reading. Fair? Hell yes! Will they go for it? Hell no!

    Denny

  4. Raji says:

    We have been told by our utility company, Central Hudson, that they are “phasing out the making of the analog meters and that they can no longer get them” — in spite of the fact we had no problem ordering one online.

    Does anyone know what manufacturer(s) make the analog meters and whether or not they are telling the truth about them being “phased out” and difficult to purchase – or according to them – they can no longer purchase them.

    Thanks!

  5. Ginnie Webb says:

    My smart meter looks very different than the one displayed in the utube video referenced above???

  6. Marc Robert says:

    Hello,
    I am looking for a text that explains the operation of the traditional electromechanical meter (meter roulette). My question is whether the electromechanical counter counts the reactive power? That is it takes into account the power factor to determine consumption? If you have text on it or references, I would greatly appreciate that you are filing to me.
    Is any of you have explanation on the overbilling with the smart meter?
    Thank You
    Marc

  7. Brendan says:

    Hi Marc,
    I am also looking for documentation relating to wifi smart meter technology
    inflating utility usage readings resulting in inflated bills.
    I have only found, and I recommend reading it, an article on emfsafetynetwork.org by Sandi Maurer titled “The Structure Report”
    from March 2015. It addresses several emails from 2010 between
    crony PG&E and CPUC officials, which were included in the Jan 2015
    or thereabouts court ordered PG&E release of 65,000 emails relating
    to PG&E/CPUC crony chat although the matter of the malfeasance surrounding the San Bruno murderous explosion was the matter before the court, I think. But the emails about inflated usage readings are a real
    eye opener and there seems to be a very odd absence of official regulatory
    monitoring and demand for information in this matter as the inflated billing complaints are legion from year to year. There is no viable recourse for redress
    of over billing that I can see. In the CPUC -Customer Affairs Branch, CAB, where the back of your utility bill directs you to go if not happy with an outcome from disputing the accuracy of a utility bill with the utility company. The CAB asks for a written submission of your complaint in what is classified as an Informal Dispute. The CAB then sends your dispute submission to the Utility company executive offices. The dispute experience you already had with the utility company was handled by the customer service that then transferred it to Billing. It is unclear to me what the utility exec offices do as
    I could get no info about the process from CAB employees the two times I called to inquire and CAB informal dispute files [ including relating to over billing] are not available for public access viewing though by law Formal
    Disputes adjudicated by a CPUC judge must be available for public access.
    I suspect the CPUC commissioners under the long PEEVEY reign wanted as
    little information as possible accessible to the public as their actions do not well tolerate scrutiny.
    But what is important is that, in reading through Formal Complaint proceedings files relating to customer complaints of inflated bills, on the CPUC website, there were a number of SCE Answers to the complaints that
    included gentle reminders to the judge and commissioner of which there is always one involved in such cases, that [I am paraphrasing] THE ONUS OF PROOF IS ON THE COMPLAINANT TO PROVE THAT THE WIFI SMART METER CAUSED AN INFLATED BILL. If the customer says the utility bill is inflated and the bill is based on the wifi meter reading then the wifi meter produced-through some mechanism obviously unknown to the customer,
    an inflated bill. How could the customer possibly prove such a thing especially as in the files I read, the utility company always has the wifi meter checked and it is always functioning in the parameters considered as normal?
    But there is also a second major hurdle burden besides the Onus of Proof placed on the shoulders of the complaining customer which also I saw
    mentioned in utility company Answers to the formal Complaint: a PRECEDENT was established as a result of a ruling in a specific i1981 case which held that unless it was [and I paraphrase] genuinely IMPOSSIBLE for
    the customer to have used the amount of utility represented in the bill,
    it must be presumed that the customer DID USE the bill specified and MUST PAY THE BILL. So the notion that the bill represents a marked deviation
    from even years of consistent utility use does not affect the application by the judge of the Precedent from the 1981 case that has guided CPUC court decisions for years. The customer never fares well in the proceedings related
    to complaints related to over billing that I have read so far. In fact it appears that customers that enter the Formal Complaint process adjudicated by CPUC judges are unaware of these two factors that virtually guarantee that such complaints cannot prevail. But is it fair to apply norms established with analog meters which were a very different thing than the novel wifi smart meter technology that is generating so many problems and complaints?
    For one, the ONUS OF PROOF burden on the customer is an impossible
    and unfair burden as revealed in the 2010 PGE/CPUC emails indicating multiple steal modalities of apparently episodic altered functioning of the wifi meter devices triggered by environment stimuli such as temps of 100 to 115 F. in one case. These altered function capacities were essentially suppressed, under the Peevey led CPUC commissioners, from public awareness
    The years of over billing complaints to the CPUC should have prompted ongoing documented vigilance by the CPUC to monitor for any recurrence of the stealth capable episodic utility usage-inflated-reading known to be a real potential in the novel wifi smart meter technology; yet, I can not find evidence of any, much less due diligence, follow-up in the subsequent years from the 2010 email revelations. However, the over billing complaints continued and remain frequent and there is nothing the customer can do except GET AN ANALOG METER through the opt-out option. It cannot rectify being filched by stealth wifi meter modalities that already happened but can preclude future recurrence as long as the meter is an analog type.
    One more word about the 1981 Precedent whereby CPUC judges Presume that unless it is impossible to be so, the customer did in fact use the amount of utility indicated in the utility bill.
    That precedent was based on many years of very reliable analog meters which if malfunctioning did so in a mechanical way and when the utility agent checked the analog meter the evaluation of faulty or appropriate functioning was trustworthy and the 1981 Precedent ruling was plausibly justified. But what is NOT justified is transferring that Precedent to cases involving wifi smart meter digital device technology whish remains novel and fraught with unsolved problems; to PRESUME that the customer used the utility amount indicated by the bill unless it is genuinely IMPOSSIBLE to have done so is irrational by the judges of the CPUC court and this matter ought to be addressed by some agency with authority over the CPUC courts, but definitely not the commissioners.
    And frankly, in the interests of fairness; and of the CPUC courts/judges to function with community and self-respect, those cases adjudicated with the onus of burden on the customer, and/or applying the 1981 analog-meter based precedent ruling, to cases that involve wifi smart meter technology should be reopened and readjudicated with perhaps a special independent non-crony law firm appointed to represent the interests of the customers of the original complaints no matter what the disposition of the case may have been originally. Usually, at best, the
    customer was shuffled off to the Alternative Dispute Resolution program none of whose case files I have yet been able to locate on the CPUC website. The utility must be made to prove under pain of perjury and imposition of serious fines that must be paid by share holders alone if any relevant information is, in the fullness of time, found to have been withheld,
    that the utility management and personnel have no knowledge of , no history of , reports about, docs relating to, evidence
    of etc. indicating that the utility company wifi smart meters type devices ever inflated usage reading or in the case of PG&E subsequent occurrences of inflated usage readings from the wifi smart meter technology from the 2010 period revealed in the emails to the present.
    Just an opinion of a captive ratepayer of the utility private monopoly which has the Most Expensive Residential Electricity
    Prices in this country; and who is a longtime California resident and taxpayer and very alarmed at the true nature of the
    $300,000,000.00 yearly budget, taxpayer funded, CPUC which appears to have transitioned during the 12 year tenure of former-SCE-CEO-Peevey as President of the CPUC, into a pricey agency to regulate/manage the captive ratepayer population for the benefit of the privately owned utility behemoths that enjoy legal monopoly status in California and act like aggressive predatory parasites on the CAPTIVE RATEPAYER POPULATIONS under the purview of a CPUC which facilitates ever-progressive customer exploitation in concert with crony-utility-top-executive-management whose greed is exacerbated by their own astonishingly costly mismanagement and malfeasance the price tag for which via the CPUC is typically handed to the captive ratepayers, which highlight the an important truth: that these private utility parasitic monopolies could not possibly survive in a competitive market; nor perhaps without an un-suborned CPUC agency.

  8. Peter ZIEGLER says:

    Does anybody know what Lev EL7 meaning on my power meter?

  9. Charles Mason says:

    How does your wifi work in the areas that the bill went up due to new meters? My wifi sucks and only 1 company will put here at my house and it is satalite . My thoughts are that because of weak signal it may be throwing meter off cause my bill is stupid wrong and Sam Houston needs to fix . I’m about to buy a generator and disconnect from them . It would defiantly be cheaper.

  10. Charles Mason says:

    I’m also going to get a news crew out here and the electric company and also a professional electrician all at the same time because only thing I run is a refridge , maybe 2 lights and air condition,water well . 2 people living here and during most of the month we work away. And my bill is outrageous . I could run most of that with a battery. So I know something ain’t right

  11. Pingback: SMART METERS: Are They Really That Smart For You? - Pacific Utility Audit, Inc.

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