With any new purchase undoubtedly comes new vocabulary, and buying a house or upgrading your home to include a solar-panel system certainly fits this rule. For any new homeowners out there, or for our customers whom are trying to learn more about these products, this week we’ve written a brief explanation of some of the electrical components you see in every home, and how to read these devices. Today’s blog will build upon your foundational knowledge of the electric meter (see blog post from earlier this week, here: https://suntexllc.com/energy-components-the-electric-meter/), and why understanding the difference between an analog electric meter and a newer, smart-meter might be important to you in the near future.
As we’ve mentioned before, a “smart” component implies that it can not only serve it’s main pupose, whatever that may be, but that it also communicates data and information back to another device. For the direct quote, check out our previous blog on smart home components, here: https://suntexllc.com/product-deep-dive-smart-products/): “the term “Smart technology” implies an important distinction – that the appliance or electrical device can be controlled by an app, remotely.”
However understanding what a Smart Electric Meter is capable of is perhaps one of the most critical pieces of information for someone wishing to ‘Go Solar’ in Texas. Of course, for the expert opinion on the matter, we turn to SmartMeterTexas.com: https://www.smartmetertexas.com/home. Because we’ve already discussed what an Electric Meter does in the previous SUNTEX Blog Post mentioned above, I won’t go into too much detail here on what this equipment does (the short story is that Electric Meters measure your electric consumption, or how much energy you use in the home each month).
While this website mostly applies to those living in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, and thus some of the information will be irrelevant to you if you live elsewhere, there is a very helpful guide on how to read a smart meter, as well as a couple of important things to look out for, namely the ESID (or the Electric Service Identifier) and meter number (check it out here: https://www.smartmetertexas.com/Smart_Meter_Texas_Residential_User_Guide.pdf). Even just perusing the Glossary of Terms on pages 33 and 34 of this user guide will help you better understand what a Smart Meter is and why you might consider asking your Retail Electric Provider about upgrading your Electric Meter today.
If you’re still having trouble understanding the difference between a traditional Electric Meter and a Smart Electric Meter, don’t worry! Our friends at SmartEnergy.com are here to help with that exact quandry – check out the similarities and differences between these two types of meters, here: https://www.smartenergy.com/what-is-a-smart-meter/ (long story short, according to the article: “They [smart meters] provide up-to-date information and can do many things remotely that required numerous employees to handle in the past”).
Now that we’re experts on Smart Meters, we can move on to the most important question in today’s blog post: why should we even care about Smart Meters?!
If you kept reading beyond the chart within the SmartEnergy.com article, you already know at least part of this answer, for example:
“Shorter interims between energy readings allow you to see how much power you’re using at what time of day and where you’re using it,” AND, “All of the data is collected and analyzed by the provider in order to better understand usage patterns and how to better service their customers” (https://www.smartenergy.com/what-is-a-smart-meter/).
One of the largest advantages to having a Smart Meter however, is Net Metering. What is Net Metering and how does it work? For that question, we turn to our trusty source SEIA.org, who had this to say about it:
“Net metering is a billing mechanism that credits solar energy system owners for the electricity they add to the grid. For example, if a residential customer has a PV system on their roof, it may generate more electricity than the home uses during daylight hours. If the home is net-metered, the electricity meter will run backwards to provide a credit against what electricity is consumed at night or other periods when the home’s electricity use exceeds the system’s output. Customers are only billed for their “net” energy use” (https://www.seia.org/initiatives/net-metering).
Basically, net metering is what allows people to ‘Go Solar’ since they’re able to produce energy during the day when the sun is shining on their panels, even though most of their energy consumption will likely happen at night (think lights, cooking dinner, AC/heat, and the numerous fans you have blowing while you sleep) when the sun is not shining and solar panels are not producing energy for your home. If your retail energy provider does not have a net-metering policy (or a Value-of-Solar policy that is similar to net metering), then solar may not be able to save you money in the long run. See the diagram below for a visual representation of how net metering really works:
Even if your home doesn’t have solar, net metering policies can help you determine when “peak hours” of energy usage exist and how to mitigate your energy use during those times and reduce your monthly bill. You might also want to review your baseline energy usage to see if there are appliances in your home that are consuming large amount of energy, and explore options for getting more efficient products.
While it’s not typically something you need to look at on a daily basis, it might not hurt to do some analysis and familiarize yourself with your typical energy cycle (especially on an annual basis, since this varies seasonally), since you might just be able to tell whether or not an appliance is broken and is consuming more energy than usual, potentially saving you hundreds of dollars in addressing the problem early!
Do you have energy insights you’d like to share? Add them in the comments below!