What is Smart Metering

A smart meter is a device that enables remote reading and control of your energy consumption, such as electric, gas and water. Communicating with smart meters can be done using almost any kind of communications protocol, but is predominantly using the GSM/GPRS mobile phone network. This can be SMS (short messaging service) or the GSM data call service. The main feature of a smart meter is the integration of a GSM modem with SIM card.

Automatic meter reading, or AMR, is achieved by replacing your existing meter with a smart meter, or incorporating a device onto your existing meter to make it ‘smart enabled’. The latter devices can be data loggers that record pulses emitted from the meter. Collecting pulses from gas, water or electric meters can be done by connecting the input cable from a data logger into the pulse-output terminals on compatible meters, or using an optical pickup on electric meters that do not have pulse terminals. These can convert the flashing red light on all OFGEM approved meters into electronic pulses to be recorded by the data logger.

Automatic meter reading for energy analysis

The smart meter is programmed when installed, or soon after, to send meter readings automatically. A typical communication with a smart meter will contain the total meter reading and a half-hourly profile of energy consumption or generation for the previous day.

The half-hour profile gives a graphical display of the energy user’s consumption or generation. This information is invaluable for analysing energy usage and enables businesses to change their practices to reduce energy costs and carbon emissions. This would not be possible without accurate and frequent data from the utility meter to monitor how a building uses energy, and the impact of changes aimed at reducing that consumption.

Advantages of smart meters for the energy user

The main advantage of smart meters is having immediate access to accurate information on energy consumption. When an energy user knows how much electric, gas and water they are using, they can begin to make changes to reduce energy costs and lower carbon emissions.

Discovering anomalies in energy usage such as leaks, high background usage, and energy peaks can enable the energy user to react effectively to implement solutions to reduce consumption.

Using intelligent features built into smart meters and data reading systems makes it easier for the energy user or bill payer to make changes to their day-to-day practices, and highlight where there is a need to invest in energy saving appliances. For example, by monitoring the ambient temperature as well as gas consumption will indicate how well a building retains heat. Alarm messages sent from the meter or logger when a certain threshold has been exceeded can alert someone if there is a burst water or gas pipe.

Integrating a home display or similar functionality with PC software will enable the energy user to have easy access to real time information from their smart metering device. This can give live readings of energy consumption, cost calculations, and import/export energy flow (for micro-generators).