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Smart Meter Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
- How do I know if I have a smart meter?
All houses have digital meters. Some homes have non-communicating digital meters that do not send information over radio frequency and meter reads are collected manually by the utility. If you look at the faceplate on the meter, a communicating digital meter will have an FCCID number.
Households with non-communicating digital meters have an $11 monthly meter reader fee on their bill.
If your home has a non-communicating digital meter, and you wish to transition to a smart meter that sends usage information over radio frequency, contact dXRpbGl0aWVzQGZjZ292LmNvbQ== to see about having a new one installed. A customer service representative can walk you through the simple process of scheduling the installation.
- How do smart meters work for multifamily residences?
Electric smart meters work the same for both multifamily residences and single family homes. At a multifamily residence, there is usually a “meter bank” that houses all of the individual electric meters. Each one of those smart meters is tied to a specific unit within the multifamily complex and the tenant of said unit is responsible for the utility bill.
Typically, there is a single water meter for multifamily residences, and it is paid for by the owner and not tied to specific units. Consult your lease or leasing office if you are unsure about how utility services work at your residence.
- What do I do if I get a high bill/what do I do if my meter is reading high?
Utilities follows industry best practices including calibration testing on 3 percent of incoming new electric meters (statistically valid sample) against a NIST certified standard to verify accuracy. All of the electric meters that have been exchanged in the field are tested to the same standard. Those that have been tested have been within the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) document C12.20 calibration guidelines. If some current data is missing, previous meter interval data is used to estimate usage.
Utility Partners of America (UPA) is the contractor that will exchange the electric meters.
If you believe that your utility bill is higher than it should be, the first course of action is to compare your usage to last year. You can see this either on the bottom of your paper utility bill or online by using Monitor My Use. If it still seems high after reviewing your history, then check the specific billing period for any differences, like a longer bill period or weather variances. If a day or two look abnormal, you can click on that day to zoom in on an hourly picture of your usage. Use Monitor My Use to view daily and hourly usage, as well as schedule alerts if your usage or bill amount is nearing pre-set limits.
If you have checked your usage history and used Monitor My Use and still cannot find the reason for the high bill, contact Customer Service at 970-212-2900, V/TDD 711. Generally, when meters are faulty, they tend to read low or nothing at all rather than high.
- Who will have access to my information?
Access to information is restricted to authorized utility personnel who need that data to satisfy a business function.
- How can I access the data provided by the smart meters?
Monitor My Use is an online tool is available to most customers that allows them to access data that will help review electric and/or water use, control costs and conserve resources. To learn more about this free online tool and how to access it, visit fcgov.com/monitor-my-use.
- What are the benefits to smart meters?
There have been system and operational advantages from the meter upgrade. Smart meters:
- provide more timely customer service solutions. Starting and stopping service no longer requires a Utilities representative to visit the property; it is now done remotely. Additionally, if electric service has been turned off due to nonpayment, it can be restored by making a payment on Utilities’ automated phone system (970-212-2900) and does not require a Utilities representative to manually restore service.
- prepare Fort Collins Utilities and the community for the future
- use information to maintain high system reliability
- make utility operations even more cost-effective by reducing the number of trips needed for Utilities representatives to manually read meters and turn on and off services at the property.
- How detailed is the data that is collected by the smart meters?
Normal operating practice is to measure energy or water use in intervals ranging from 15 minutes to one hour. Snapshots of meter data also can be used to quickly answer customer questions or troubleshoot system issues.
- Will the utility monitor my consumption to know when I am home?
No. The detail of the data from smart metering cannot detect the presence of people in their homes. Smart meters simply measure energy and water use, not how you use it. In order to monitor consumption of appliances, you would need to install a home energy management system, including smart appliances and/or outlets. Smart meters cannot tell whether the energy used is from your oven, air conditioner or hairdryer.
- Will you turn off or control my thermostat or appliances through these meters?
No. Participation in all programs that can turn off or control thermostats or appliances is strictly voluntary and controlled through WiFi, not the smart meter system. For more information on Utilities demand response programs, see Peak Partners.
- How secure will my utility data be?
Smart meters pose little to no risk to your privacy and security. Usage data transmitted across the network is encrypted using industry standard processes and technologies. Private customer data is not transmitted to or from the meter.
Utilities adheres to strict policies by following local, state and federal laws that regulate the use of data for business functions like billing and customer service. The City implemented a Cyber Security Plan and is audited by the federal government to ensure all necessary precautions have been implemented.
- What level of Radio Frequency (RF) transmission do the meters emit?
All smart meters meet the federal standard for safety set by the Federal Communications Commission. They operate at levels much lower than the maximum permissible exposure limits for RF and communicate back to the utility via spread spectrum RF between 902-928 MHz. Meters also have a ZigBee radio installed to communicate to customer-owned equipment that operates in the 2.4 GHz frequency band similar to Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. RF waves are used in many common devices, including cell phones, microwaves, wireless routers and even baby monitors. Studies show smart meters transmit lower levels of RF than many of these devices, and typically, in short bursts throughout the day.
Additionally, the City made arrangements with Dr. Bruce Cooper of the Health District of Northern Larimer County to conduct an independent assessment of available research on the health-related risks from smart meters. Dr. Cooper provided a summary of his findings in the Review of Health Effects Related to Smart Meters (PDF 43KB) and responded to questions at the July 12, 2011, City Council Work Session.
- What is the history of smart meters in Fort Collins?
Click here for historical information about smart meters in Fort Collins.