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Getting smarter about smart meters

Getting smarter about smart meters

As electric companies start rolling out smart meters, myths and rumors among users and prospective users have cropped up. Here is the manager of Smart Energy products at Reliant Energy, a Texas-based electric company, to set us straight.

Myth #1: Smart meters are inaccurate. Some consumers claim that their electric bills went up by as much as 100% after having smart meters installed. But the Texas Public Utilities Commission, as well as the transmission and distribution service providers, have repeatedly proven that smart meters exceed accuracy expectations and performance requirements.

Myth #2: The utilities will use smart meters to turn off appliances in your house without your permission. Utilities are unable to and forbidden from turning on or off appliances in your house unless you sign up for a specific program and authorize them to control devices in your house.

Myth #3: Law enforcement agencies will now be able to use data from smart meters to see if you are home so they can arrest you if you have an outstanding warrant. In fact, police and other officials can use data on your phone and Internet use, as well as electrical use from an old-style meter, to see if you are home. The older meters will also reveal if you've bumped up your electrical use for some illegal activity.

Myth #4: If you install a smart meter, your next month's bill will be much higher. Homeowners who see significantly higher bills in the month following installation are either actually increasing their use by a large amount, live in areas where temperatures changed dramatically over the two-month period, or had a meter reader who erred when recording the last reading at installation.

Myth #5: Smart meters were invented by electric companies to get more money from customers. Smart meters let consumers manage and control how they use electricity. Then they can get the tools they need, such as programmable thermostats, to control how much electricity they use and to stick to an electrical budget.

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