Smart Meters

Below you will find answers to most of your questions regarding Smart Meters.

What is a Smart Meter?
How are Smart Meters different?
What are the benefits of Smart Metering for me?
How will Smart Meters meet Ontario's needs and smooth peak demand?
How will Time-Of-Use pricing work?
What are the rates?
What are the big electricity users in my home?
How do I determine how much electricity my appliances use?
Energy saving tips I can use right now.
Smart Meters around the world.

What is a Smart Meter?

Smart meters provide customers with the information they need to make decisions about how and when they use electricity. Unlike current meters that simply accumulate total kWh consumed, Smart Meters are able to report how much is used between specific times of the day.
Smart meters:.

  • Look like standard digital meters and fit into a standard meter base (modifications are not necessary for most installations).
  • Measure and store electricity consumption data over short time periods, usually an hour.
  • Communicate electricity consumption data over automatically to a central computer, usually by radio frequency or power line communications; and
  • Do not automate customer equipment or electricity usage patterns.

Smart meters will not automatically result in energy savings. Smart meters allow customers to view their hourly electricity consumption profile and help them identify periods where they may wish to consider shifting usage to manage their electricity costs.

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How are Smart Meters different?

Our old style meters can only measure the total amount of electricity for an entire billing period because they have to be read manually.

Between actual readings you might get an estimated bill. A Smart Meter can automatically
record when electricity is used and that's what makes it so different.

 

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What are the benefits of Smart Metering for me?

You will be able to manage your electricity bill. With attention to how and when you use electricity, you will be able to contain and reduce your costs. Your electricity bill will show how much you consumed within each TOU (Time-of-Use) period and, in the future, detailed information may be available to you via the Internet or by telephone. Additionally, you will get more precise electricity bills.

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How will Smart Meters meet Ontario's needs and smooth peak demand?

Between now and 2025, Ontario must build almost a whole new electricity system. This includes replacing about 80 per cent of our current generating facilities as they retire over time, and expanding the system to meet our future growth. Building a new supply is vital. So is conservation. Conservation will help us to make the best use of our existing electrical resources and slow the growth in our demand.

When we're all using a lot of electricity at the same time, we create a "demand" period. And supplying electricity at those peak times has its impacts. They add to our electricity costs because higher demand often means higher market prices. They are hard on the environment because more of the less attractive forms of generation must be run to meet them. And they add to the amount Ontario needs to invest in the system because meeting the peaks requires even more new generation.

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How will Time-Of-Use pricing work?

With Time-Of-Use (TOU) pricing, electricity prices will vary based on when it is used. That includes by time of day, by day of week (weekdays versus weekends), by season (winter or summer). Right now, our rates* are based on averaging out the more expensive (daytime) and cheaper (nighttime) prices of electricity, simply because our older meters can't report when it was used. TOU pricing will encourage Ontarians to shift some electricity use to off-time peak hours.

*The Ontario Energy Board (OEB) sets prices for electricity under the Regulated Price Plan (RPP).

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What will be the rates?

The Ontario Energy Board (OEB) has established Time-Of-Use rates for customers with smart meters. Time-Of-Use periods will vary depending on the time of day, the day of the week, and the month of the year (summer or winter). When Time-Of-Use pricing is introduced, the combination of a smart meter and a 'smart' price plan means that customer will have an incentive and the ability to control their energy costs by moving usage to off-peak periods (for example running the dishwasher at night) or lowering energy use during peak periods (such as setting the air-conditioning a few degrees warmer during the afternoon).


There are 3 time-of-use periods:
On-peak

demand is highest

11.8¢ per kWh

Mid-peak

demand is moderate

9.9¢ per kWh

Off-peak

demand is lowest

6.3¢ per kWh
Weekends and holidays are off-peak during both the Winter and Summer periods

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What are the big electricity users in my home?

All appliances are not created equal. Some of the most costly appliances (electricity hogs) are those that either heat or cool, such as the following:

  • Air conditioning
  • Clothes dryers and washers
  • Electric heating
  • Electric stoves
  • Electric water heaters

Be aware too, that old appliances and equipment are not as efficient as today's models. A refrigerator that is 10 or more years old might be using twice as much electricity, and an older electric hot water heater that is not insulated well will also consume more.

The tables that follow show the approximate cost for each one hour of electricity use within today's two-price structure (for consumption below and above the seasonal threshold) and at the prices currently set for the three Time-Of-Use periods (Hydro Ottawa's rates). For electric water heaters, the costs shown reflect the number of kilowatt-hours required to heat a full cold tank.

Please note: these tables reflect the electricity cost only. That is just one of the factors that determined the final cost per kilowatt-hour (kWh). Each kWh is also multiplied by other charges (refer to Rates)

Air Conditioning

Air conditioning can account for half or more of summer electricity bills. Setting that room air conditioner to 25°C (77°F) will provide the most comfort at the least cost. (Every degree below that costs three to five per cent more energy.) But consider, too, that a ceiling fan or portable fan would cost a fraction of what a central or room air conditioner would cost for every hour of active use.
 
  Approx.
Wattage
Today per kWh
TOU per kWh
Tier 1
6.5¢
Tier 2
7.5¢
Off-
peak
5.1¢

Mid-

peak
8.1¢
 
On-
peak
9.9¢
Air Conditioner (central) 2.5 TON 3,500 22.75¢ 26.25¢ 17.85¢ 28.35¢ 34.65¢
Air Conditioner (room) 9,000 BTU 1,050 6.82¢ 7.87¢ 5.35¢ 8.50¢ 10.39¢
Air Conditioner (room) 6,000 BTU 750 4.87¢ 5.62¢ 3.82¢ 6.07¢ 7.42¢
Fan (portable) 115 0.74¢ 0.86¢ 0.58¢ 0.93¢ 1.13¢
Ceiling Fan 60 0.39¢ 0.45¢ 0.30¢ 0.48¢ 0.59¢

*Maximum kWh - The costs listed are based on the maximum rating for the unit.

Clothes Dryers (and washers)

An average clothes dryer will consume up to 5 kilowatt-hours (kWh) for every hour of use, and that can add up fast. So, when time-of-use rates are in effect, aiming to shift clothes washing and drying to off-peak hours will result in real savings.

  Approx.
Wattage
Today per kWh
TOU per kWh
Tier 1
6.5¢
Tier 2
7.5¢
Off-
peak
5.1¢

Mid-

peak
8.1¢
 
On-
peak
9.9¢
Clothes Dryer 5,000 32.50¢ 37.50¢ 25.50¢ 40.50¢ 49.50¢
** Clothes Washer 500 3.25¢ 3.75¢ 2.55¢ 4.05¢ 4.95¢

*Maximum kWh - the costs listed are based on the maximum rating for the unit
**Plus the cost of heating water  

Electric Heating

Electric heating is one of the more costly methods of home heating. Installing programmable thermostats, however, can help control this expense. (For baseboard heaters, this job should be undertaken by a licensed electrician, as it can be complex.) Baseboard heaters should also be kept free of dust build up. Just ensure that the power is turned off at the breaker panel before starting this task.

  Approx.
Wattage
Today per kWh
TOU per kWh
Tier 1
6.5¢
Tier 2
7.5¢
Off-
peak
5.1¢

Mid-

peak
8.1¢
 
On-
peak
9.9¢
Baseboard - per 8 foot unit 2,000 13.00¢ 15.00¢ 10.20¢ 16.20¢ 19.80¢
Baseboard - per 4 foot unit 1,000 6.5¢ 7.5¢ 5.1¢ 8.1¢ 9.9¢

*Maximum kWh - the costs listed are based on the maximum rating for the unit

Electric Stoves

Since an electric stove is also a heavy electricity consumer, it makes sense to maximize every hour of use. For example, try to plan meals that allow more than one dish to be cooked in it. Or, consider using another option like a microwave or toaster oven, whenever you can.

  Approx.
Wattage
Today per kWh
TOU per kWh
Tier 1
6.5¢
Tier 2
7.5¢
Off-
peak
5.1¢

Mid-

peak
8.1¢
 
On-
peak
9.9¢
Electric Oven 5,000 32.50¢ 37.50¢ 25.50¢ 40.50¢ 49.50¢
Electric Stove - oven + 4 burners 12,500 81.25¢ 93.75¢ 63.75¢ $1.01 $1.24
Toaster Oven 1,250 8.12¢ 9.37¢ 6.37¢ 10.12¢ 12.37¢
Microwave Oven 1,000 6.5¢ 7.5¢ 5.1¢ 8.1¢ 9.9¢

*Maximum kWh - the costs listed are based on the maximum rating for the unit

Electric Water Heaters

An electric hot water heater is second only to electric heat in terms of electricity use. Depending on your consumption, an alternative, such as solar system or one that will produce hot water “on-demand”, may be worth considering. It’s also possible to save significantly through the use of a programmable thermostat – this will be particularly true when TOU pricing takes effect. Installation, however, should be undertaken by a licensed electrician. The table below shows the costs to completely heat one 50 gallon tank of cold water.

  Approx.
Wattage
Today per kWh
TOU per kWh
Tier 1
6.5¢
Tier 2
7.5¢
Off-
peak
5.1¢

Mid-

peak
8.1¢
 
On-
peak
9.9¢
Water Heater - 50 Gallon tank
Approx. 14kWh per full tank
3,800 91.00¢ $1.05 71.40¢ $1.13 $1.38

*Maximum kWh - the costs listed are based on the maximum rating for the unit

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How do I determine how much electricity my appliances use?

It’s always a good practice to know just how much electricity your equipment and appliances might be using. That way you can make informed choices about how and when you use them.
  • watts (W) = amps x volts
  • 1 kilowatt (kW) = 1,000 watts
  • 1 kilowatt-hour (kWh) = 1,000 watts x 1 hour

Here’s the formula:

Total hours of use
x
appliance wattage
÷
1,000 (converts watts to kilowatts)
=
Total kWh of electricity consumed

For example, if you want to know how many kWh of electricity it might take to run a clothes dryer for two hours:

2 hours (total usage)
x
5,000 watts (wattage for clothes dryer)
÷
1,000 (watts to kilowatts conversion)
=
10 kWh

 How Long Does It Take to Use a Kilowatt-hour of Electricity?

Another way to think about your electricity use is to consider how the kilowatt-hours add up. Naturally, the answer depends on the appliance or piece of equipment. Take a look at the table below to see just how fast – or how slowly – different items will use a kilowatt-hour of electricity. And consider just how many of these items a household might be using at the same time.

  • 100 watts = 10 hours
  • 500 watts = 2 hours
  • 1,000 watts = 1 hour
  • 5,000 watts = 12 minutes
  Approx.
Wattage
How Long?
Approx. Hours Or Minutes!
Bedroom / Bathroom      
Electric Blanket 180 5.5  
Hair Dryer (portable) 1,000 1  
Heating and Cooling      
Air Conditioner (central) 2.5 TON 3,500   17
Air Conditioner (room) 9,000 BTU 1,050   57
Air Conditioner (room) 6,000 BTU 750 1.3  
Ceiling Fan 60 16.6  
Fan (portable) 115 8.7  
Electric Baseboard - per 4 foot unit 1,000 1  
Home Entertainment / Office      
Computer - Monitor & Printer 200 5  
Stereo 30 33.3  
Standard Television-36” 87 11.5  
TV-LCD, rear projection-52” 174 5.75  
TV-Plasma-50” High Definition 357 2.8  
Indoor - Miscellaneous      
Vacuum Cleaner (portable) 800 1.25  
Kitchen      
Coffee Maker 900 1.1  
**Dishwasher 1,300   46
Electric Oven 5,000   12
Kettle 1,500   40
Toaster Oven 1,250   48
Microwave Oven 1,000 1  
Lighting      
100 watt incandescent 100 10  
60 watt incandescent 60 16.6  
Compact fluorescent-60 watt equivalent 18 55.5  

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Energy saving tips I can use right now:

Heating and Cooling

  • Keep your heating and cooling equipment in good repair. Change or clean filters regularly. Anything that blocks airflow is making your equipment work harder and costing you more.
  • Check for drafts and leaks that will let winter heat out and invite muggy summer air in. Caulking and weather-stripping are simple and inexpensive.
  • Install a programmable thermostat and set it to reduce the heat when you’re not home and when you’re sleeping.
  • Consider a fan first for cooling. Ceiling and portable fans cost pennies to operate, and can either replace or reduce your need for air conditioning.
  • Keep your curtains closed to keep the summer heat out and the winter heat in. But you can open them on sunny winter days to take advantage of solar heat.

Appliances and Home Equipment

  • Economize on your dishwasher. Always run full loads, set your dishwasher to the economy cycle and use the air-dry setting.
  • Make sure your refrigerator and freezer doors are sealing tightly by testing how firmly they close and hold onto a piece of paper, such as a five-dollar bill. If it slips out easily, the rubber seals should be replaced.
  • Don’t overfill your refrigerator, as it prevents the cold air from circulating. (But do keep a freezer full as it will perform better.)
  • Don’t keep an old, extra refrigerator running just for occasional use. It could cost you $150 or more per year in electricity.
  • Clean your dryer’s lint trap after every few loads to reduce drying time. And clean its exhaust ducts at least once a year for the same reason.
  • If you have a pool pump, use a timer that will allow you to run it just a few hours a day. Using a solar blanket will keep the water warm overnight and also reduce heater use.
  • Plan energy-efficient meals. Smaller appliances, such as toaster ovens or microwaves, use less energy than stoves. When using an oven, try to plan a meal that will allow you to use it for more than one dish.

Electronics

  • Shut your computer down when it’s not in use. Powering up and down does not use extra energy and actually reduces wear. And turn the monitor off instead of using screen savers. Screen savers actually increase energy use by preventing your monitor from sleeping.

Hot Water

  • Fix leaking hot faucets to save on hot water heating. A one drip per second leak will waste about 9,000 litres per year! That’s enough water for about 95 five-minute showers (and that’s using a less than efficient showerhead).
  • Wash in cold water. With today’s detergents, clothes come just as clean.
  • Wrap your electric hot water tank and pipes in a special tank blanket to help it keep its heat. (Don’t wrap a gas heater, as an inappropriate or incorrectly installed blanket is dangerous.)

Lighting

  • Replace your most frequently used incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) which use 75 per cent less power and last up to 10 times as long. There are all kinds of CFLs for indoor and outdoor use. Make sure you choose the right ones for you.
  • Consider automatic timers, motion sensors and dimmers, where you can’t use CFLs, to help maximize your control over lighting costs. Only timers with a mechanical switch can be used with CFLs.

You can find more energy saving tips on the Conservation Tips page.

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Smart Meters around the world

Italy

The world's largest and arguably "smartest" smart meter deployment was undertaken by Enel SpA, the dominant utility in Italy with over 27 million customers. Over a 5 year period beginning in 2000 and ending in 2005 Enel deployed smart meters to its entire customer base.

These meters are fully electronic and truly smart, with integrated bi-directional communications, advanced power measurement and management capabilities, an integrated, software-controllable disconnect switch, and an all solid-state design. They communicate over low voltage power line using standards-based power line technology from Echelon Corporation to Echelon data concentrators at which point they communicate via IP to Enel’s enterprise servers.

The system provides a wide range of advanced features, including the ability to remotely turn power on or off to a customer, read usage information from a meter, detect a service outage, detect the unauthorized use of electricity, change the maximum amount of electricity that a customer can demand at any time; and remotely change the meters billing plan from credit to prepay as well as from flat-rate to multi-tariff.

In various publications Enel has estimated the cost of the project at approximately 2.1 billion Euros and the savings they are receiving in operation of 500 million Euros per year, an astonishing 4 year payback and a testament to the power of next-generation advanced metering systems.

Canada

The Ontario Energy Board in Ontario, Canada has actively strived to define the technology and develop the regulatory framework around their implementation. Smart meters will be installed in 800,000 homes by 2007, with an eventual goal of 100% penetration by 2010.

United States

Other jurisdictions such as California are actively pursuing the same technology. On July 20, 2006, California's energy regulators approved a program to roll out of conventional meters retrofit with communications co-processor electronics to 9 million gas and electric household customers in the Northern California territory of PG&E. These meters report electricity consumption on an hourly basis. This enables PG&E to set pricing that varies by season and time of the day, rewarding customers who shift energy use to off-peak periods. The peak pricing program will start out on a voluntary basis, and the full rollout is expected to take five years.. The smart grid also allows PG&E to give customers timing and pricing options for upload to the grid.

Turkey

More than 1 million prepayment smart gas/water/electric meters are implemented by Elektromed in Turkey.

Australia

In 2004, the Essential Service Commission of Victoria, Australia (ESC) released its changes to the Electricity Customer Metering Code and the Victorian Electricity Supply Industry Metrology Procedure to implement its decision to mandate interval meters for Victorian electricity customers.

The ESC's Final Paper entitled "Mandatory Rollout of Interval Meters for Electricity Customers" foreshadowed the changes to be implemented and contained the rollout timetable requiring interval meters to be installed by 2013 for all small businesses and residences with new and replacement installation commencing in 2006. The ESC forecasts that within 7 years of the start of the rollout up to 1 million large customers and other customers will have existing meters upgraded to interval meters.

The Victorian government is not alone with other state governments and the Commonwealth issuing a Joint Communiqué at the Council of Australian Governments meeting in Canberra on 17 February 2006 committing all governments to the progressive rollout of smart metering technology from 2007.

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