Kathryn Farrell in Green Ideas on February 26, 2019
What you need to know. Your building’s electric meter is going to get smart.
Say what? Okay, the one you have now is not really stupid. It’s just that it is read only once a month, usually by a human who treks to the meter room in your building’s basement. Smart meters, as the new ones are called, will send your reading wirelessly.
Why it matters. With a smart meter, your electrical usage can be tracked throughout the day. This matters because it provides you the opportunity to change your service classification, which means you can change how you are billed. Electricity costs different amounts at different times of the day, but before you can do anything about this, you have to know when you are using what.
One level deeper. Think of your smart meter as a FitBit for your building. While your FitBit is tracking how many steps you take throughout the day, your heart rate, and other health stats, your smart meter is tracking how much energy your building is using and showing you the patterns of that usage. If you combine consumption and pattern, you will have the beginnings of a road map on how to reduce your electrical costs.
Yes, but will your electric costs go down with a smart meter? It depends. Without a smart meter, your building is charged one rate for all of the electricity it uses in a given month. Once a smart meter is installed, you can keep that one flat rate, but you have the opportunity to change to what’s called a “voluntary time-of-day rate.” Instead of one flat rate, you will be charged based on when you’re using electricity.
“Oftentimes the peak demand of a co-op or multi-family building is in the evening hours,” says Thomas Morrisson, Director of Energy Management at EN-POWER Group, an energy consulting firm, “versus commercial buildings [with] peak demand around noon to 3:00 o'clock.” For many multi-family buildings, switching to a time-of-day rate, based on your smart meter readings, could lower your electricity bill.
Be smart. What’s using the most electricity? There are a lot of building systems to examine, and while the smart meter is a start, it won’t provide the answers you need. Working with an energy consultant is a good next step. A consultant can advise if metering specific building systems and installing variable frequency drives will reduce your load, and if this is a cost-efficient move. Plus, Con Edison wants you to reduce demand. They offer energy efficiency and demand response programs to incentivize you, and smart meters (or an interval meter) are necessary to participate.
The bottom line. Smart meters are a great way to start to figure out how to save on electricity costs. Con Edison is tackling installation borough by borough and county by county. Staten Island is done, Westchester is almost finished, and they are beginning to roll out Brooklyn and Manhattan. Queens and the Bronx will follow.
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