Sunday, April 15, 2012

My New "Smart Meter" Seems Dumber Than the Old One

A few days after PSE&G installed a new electric meter on my house there was this article in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Now, a lot has already been said about privacy concerns and big-brotherism when it comes to the new, smart meters. I won't rehash or even comment, but here's an earlier article about such concerns by the same writer, Andrew Maykuth, who does a great job covering issues important to me.

My concern is more down to earth. I don't think this new meter understands that I'm generating surplus energy and throwing it out onto the grid, and obviously isn't recording that. There doesn't seem to be a digital equivalent to "meter spinning backwards" on this LCD readout. In fact, I suspect that this meter isn't even allowing my surplus power to pass back through at all.

The installer guy made a few remarks about this, but he came and went so quickly that my feeble brain was unable to process it until after he was long gone. He never acknowledged my solar panels at all until I brought it up, which concerned me. Then, he expressed surprise that I had the "old meter" because he didnt' think it was "a solar meter." [I know from experience that the old one kept track of excess power exported back onto the grid, and this was reflected in our bills, so I don't think he was on top of his game here].

He then said that he didn't think the new one is, either. Now, knowing he was wrong about the old one, and imagining that the power company wouldn't leave this capability out of a so-called smart meter (or send him to install a "non-solar meter" at a house where they know there is a solar electric system), I figured he wasn't on top of his game here, either.

However, after watching the meter and the sky for three days, it is apparent to me that this meter isn't as smart as the last one. We've had a ton of sun and haven't used a lot of juice (no AC or pool filter), so we've definitely generated far more than we've used. Yet the number that appears on the LCD reading goes up during dark hours and doesn't go down during extended periods of sunlight. In other words, as far as I can tell, it never turns backwards.

PSE&G has been great to work with so far. They've been very cooperative with my installer and have handled the "net metering" transactions perfectly. I have to admit, though, that I'm not looking forward to working my way through solving this problem. They have a lot of red tape over there...

update: I watched the meter on our sunny Sunday. It's definitely not counting any KWh during periods that we are obviously generating power. That's good. But it's also not "turning backwards" (exporting our surplus onto the grid and crediting us for that). That's bad.


David said...

Yes, that definitely is an issue, as your meter typically must be bi-directional for the utility track your solar production. It might be a good idea to take a picture of your solar meter and date it (or just email the photo to your utility). This will help you keep track of your solar production so your account can be credited appropriately.

daveconifer said...

Thanks, David. That's a great idea!

Preston said...

I have a 3kw solar array and a digital utility meeter. I turned off all home power breakers this weekend for 2 hours. The utility meeter reading continued to climb as solar power was feeding back onto the grid. So instead of reversing, the meeter went up.

Note: the 3 dots on the meter did reverse and go in the opposite direction but the meeter counter went up.

Therefore, it looks as if the utility company will be "charging me" for the extra power I give them each day.