Facts about Digital Meters
Hancock-Wood Electric Cooperative is deploying new, digital meters to improve the efficiency and reliability of our electric system. The Turtle power-line carrier system automated reader currently in place is obsolete technology and soon will no longer be supported. We thank you for your patience while we make these system upgrades that will enhance your service reliability.
A few Members have asked how these new digital meters work. The following are answers to the most commonly asked questions we received.
When will my meter be installed?
The meter technician will knock on your door to announce his intention prior to disconnecting power. You will receive a door-hanger message explaining the process. Installations will take place over the next two or three years.
Will I lose electrical service during the installation?
Yes, but only for a few minutes. You will need to reset electronic clocks and other devices.
How does my new automated meter work?
With these new meters, Hancock-Wood Electric Cooperative can read the meter remotely from our central office. Information from the meter is recorded and transmitted back to the co-op. Transmitting this information electronically means that a meter reader no longer comes to your house in person.
Why are we changing to the digital meters? What are the benefits?
The support for older meter technology is becoming obsolete. This meter upgrade provides Hancock-Wood Electric Cooperative Members with numerous benefits. The new meters will help us to:
- Save Members money by replacing existing obsolete and costly automated meters.
- Improve billing accuracy, eliminating misreads or inaccurate readings.
- Pinpoint the exact location of outages more quickly, meaning a faster response time.
- Help our Members to troubleshoot high-bill problems by providing information about power consumption patterns, outage and blink count history, voltage information and reducing usage.
- Improve electric service reliability and power quality with fewer outages, blinks and surges.
- Help secure the overall safety of the cooperative employee team.
Are there any potential health impacts from a meter that can receive and send data?
Research conducted by the Electric Power Research Institute, the Utilities Telecom Council and others has revealed no health impacts from digital meters. The radio frequencies emitted by digital meters falls well below the maximum recommended in federal guidelines. Contrary to some misconceptions, the new meters emit radio frequencies (RF) only when responding to a request for data from the co-op office or immediately following an outage or voltage disturbance. Compare this activity to a laptop with a wireless connection, which is constantly sending and retrieving data. A digital meter equipped to send and receive data has an RF density hundreds of times less than the RF density of a cell phones – and the meters are installed on the outside of your house not near to your ear. Digital Meters - the Real Story
Despite news coverage of consumer concerns over digital meter radio frequencies (RF), numerous reports and industry group findings show that digital meter technology is very safe. Current Federal Communications Commission (FCC) standards provide an acceptable factor of safety against the health impacts of existing common household electronic devices and digital meters. Learn More.
How much is this going to cost?
There will be no additional cost to Members to install the new system. The new meter system will share infrastructure already installed as part of the Cooperative’s Supervisor Control And Data Acquisition (SCADA) and existing radio systems. There is no rate increase anticipated in association with this project. Following the installation, Members will receive a bill with two readings: one for the old meter and one for the new meter. The next readings will be for the new meter only.
What other additional installation parts will I need?
No additional parts are anticipated or required.
Who will be changing out the meters?
Hancock-Wood Electric Cooperative technicians.
Do Members have a choice in getting a new meter?
The automated meters now in use have become obsolete and their technology is no longer supported. Hancock-Wood technicians cannot obtain parts to replace or repair them when they fail. New digital meters will be installed on all accounts as part of a system-wide program that will change existing residential and commercial meters in order to acquire more accurate information, without the need to enter a Member’s property. Members can request their meter be moved to an alternate location. Any costs associated with the relocation of the meter will be at the Member's expense.
Presently, if Members have a question about their energy usage, the cooperative must send operation personnel to the Member’s property to re-read the meter. With the new system, technicians can access the meter information and obtain the reading almost instantaneously.
The new system will give the cooperative hourly meter readings, instead of monthly readings. Other features of the new system will provide data that will enable us to monitor the system better and correct inefficiencies.
The meters only provide data on electrical use and outages.
What’s the difference between the new meters and the old meters?
The new meters are digital radio frequency or RF electronic devices while the old meters were an electro-mechanical device with remote meter reading device attached. The new meters will continue to display the meter reading, but it will be in a digital LED format. The biggest difference is that the new meters will have an electronic circuit board module installed. The module receives and stores the kilo-watt-hour (kWh) and demand consumption recorded by the electronics in the meter, and is able to transmit securely this and other system data back to the cooperative’s computers.
Will I keep the same rate after the conversion?
Yes, Members will continue to stay on the same rate class as they have in the past. There will be no increased cost to Members.
What if my bill reports more kWh usage than normal or I think my meter is not working correctly?
Contact our Co-op office right away to discuss your billing concerns. Electronic meters are more accurate than analog or mechanical meters. The new meters installed have been tested and meet stringent American National Standards Institute (ANSI) regulations. The new meters allow for accurate readings and a consistent billing period.
Will meter readers ever need to come to read the meter manually again once the new meter is in place?
Only as part of the Cooperative’s maintenance and testing schedule. All meter reads will be digitally transmitted back to the Co-op headquarters.
What information does the new meter record?
The new meter records an electronic kWh reading, the date and time of energy usage, the overall peak demand of the electric account, if the meter has rotated backwards, and the number of times the meter has experienced a loss of power for any reason. In fact, the meter will record the date and time of light blinks and the length of the power outage.
What day of the month will the meters be read?
All of the Co-op’s new meters can be read at a variety of times to obtain a history of account information. However, for billing purposes member bills will be read on monthly schedules.
Once Co-op employees no longer need to read the meter, can buildings, landscaping or other obstacles be constructed that may make the meter inaccessible?
No. Reasonable access to equipment still must be maintained by Members. This allows for our Cooperative personnel to either read or maintain the meter at reasonable times if necessary.
How will our Co-op read the meters?
The Cooperative’s computer will communicate with the communication tower-installed equipment, which sends a request for one or more meter readings. The meter reading is sent back to the co-op via a secure network.
Will someone other than the Co-op be able to read the new meter?
It’s highly unlikely that even the most sophisticated hacker could access information from the cooperative’s automated metering system and if it were to happen, we would receive a report about it and alert you. The meter cannot transmit or even access a Member’s personal information. Meter manufacturers are incorporating security features and encryption technology into their meters, as recommended by national security experts. Our goal is to upgrade our electric distribution system to make it safer, more secure and more reliable. Your new digital meter is part of this effort. Once your new digital meter is installed, our Cooperative will be able to tell if someone “tampers” with your meter because the meter will report any tampering attempts to the cooperative. Digital Meters - the Real Story
Will my Co-op continue to do service inspections?
Routine inspections of all meters and services will continue in order to look for safety hazards, theft or other problems.
How secure will the new meters be?
The meter display is visible for Members to be able to check their energy consumption. All other information and data stored in the meter is secure and the meter is sealed.
Can my Co-op disconnect electric service using the new meters?
Most likely, no, but meters with remote disconnect capabilities can be installed.
Will the new meter notify the co-op when the power goes out?
The meters will be able to record outages allowing the cooperative to verify whether the outage is either on the Member’s side of the meter or the Co-op's but if you experience an outage, it always is best to call 800-445-4840.
Will my Co-op notify me prior to installation?
Yes. The meter technician will knock on your door to announce his intention prior to disconnecting power.
How will I know if my meter has been changed?
The Co-op employee or contractor will leave a door hanger on your front door to let you know they have changed the meter. We will work with you to minimize any inconvenience. You do not have to be present during the meter change.