Electric meter broken - Am I responsible to pay?

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Electric meter broken - Am I responsible to pay?

Post by LadyGeek » Sun Aug 29, 2010 4:07 pm

In our household, my spouse pays the electric bill. I don't know why, after all this time, he hands me the bill and says that we're not paying for the off-peak meter. The main meter is working fine.

The off-peak energy usage for over a year is zero (what we have records for). OK, so both of us are at fault since neither one of us noticed that it's been stuck in the On position for as long as we can remember.

It's a mechanical wheel General Electric power meter, constant = 13-8/9 revs / KH. (For the electrical crowd, which tells you how to convert the meter reading to Kilowatts. Calculation supplied upon request...)

This is 200 Amp service, the off-peak meter is in parallel with the main meter. IOW, there's no connection to the main power meter.

I was able to check the configuration as the service panel doesn't have the wire lead seal to keep curious engineers from taking a very careful peak to look inside (if you don't have electrical experience, don't even think of doing this.). Wires are in good condition and have clean connections, the panel was installed in 1993. The meters are sealed, the panel wasn't.

The off-peak meter wheel just isn't moving. Period.

Do I wait for the power company to find this and send me a bill for off-peak usage? Can they bill me for an average expected usage?
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Post by livesoft » Sun Aug 29, 2010 4:57 pm

I would guess that the off-peak meter is not installed and you are paying peak rates for your off-peak usage. That is, during off-peak hours, is the peak-meter running and you are paying peak-rates for off-peak usage?

I don't think they can or will bill you for average expected usage.

Our water meter stopped working about a year ago. They told us they replaced it unbeknownst to us a couple months later. Only then did we notice the 2nd meter was not working. When I paid my municipal taxes in person, I told them the water meter was not working. That's when I was informed that it had already been replaced and that non-working meters were routinely caught by their billing software (who doesn't use water??). At the time, I was asked if I would have to pay in arrears and the answer was a definite no. I also informed them that they should check the new meter because it was not working.

Anyways, our water meter was replaced a couple weeks ago after getting free water for a year. Our lawn looks nice.

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Post by LadyGeek » Sun Aug 29, 2010 5:06 pm

During off-peak hours, the items connected to that meter are working fine. It used to work, meaning that the items connected to the off-peak stopped working when they should stop. I just can't remember when everything started running 24/7.

I'm not paying peak rates because there's no physical connection to the peak meter. Two feeds come out of the meter(s) access panel into separate service (circuit breaker) panels. I visually traced the path into the house.

A broken meter can easily be tested by the service tech. FWIW, this is Phila. Electric Company (PECO).
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Post by scubadiver » Sun Aug 29, 2010 7:21 pm

Once upon a time a had a similar problem with PECO - electric meter was broken. Saved a whole lot of money on my electric bill for a couple of months before they replaced the broken unit with a new one. I'm fairly confident they will not attempt to bill you in arrears.

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Post by LadyGeek » Sun Aug 29, 2010 7:38 pm

Thanks.

My guess is that the billing database isn't configured correctly to find this discrepancy. My friend got an estimated bill from PGW (Phila. Gas Works) because the accounting software found zero usage on his meter. I'll have to ask him what he ended up doing. This was a long time ago, however.
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Post by SteveB3005 » Sun Aug 29, 2010 7:54 pm

Are you liabel for charges? Probably yes and they will look at prior annual usage for the same period.

Do you have to pay what they say? It can be negotiable and looks real good in your corner if you are the one who made them aware.

Xcel Energy is our power company for both gas and electric. We have natural gas heat and last fall I did notice our bills were lower but didn't think much of it because it was a mild fall. Well December was pretty cold and my bill was still very low, I looked and they were billing me electric but my gas bill was only service charges and the meter reading had not changed since August.

I called told them and they said they would look at prior year same month and bill me accordingly and if it were too much for me to pay in a lump sum they would spread it over and add it to the next 3 bills. I said what if I paid all in a lump would they discount it and they said a customer service supervisor would call me. She called a week later gave me the figure and said since I was the one who alerted them and if I paid the arrears in a lump they would cut the bill in half. I think the gas portion for the 4 months was like $400 and I sent them a check for $200. End of story.
Last edited by SteveB3005 on Sun Aug 29, 2010 9:06 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Post by btenny » Sun Aug 29, 2010 7:54 pm

It sounds to me like somewhere back when the power company switched you to level rates and disconnected one of the meters. You or your husband may not even have noticed this as it was done while you were out that day and they just adjusted the billing accordingly. Maybe it was for your benefit, maybe not. You are probably paying a standard rate that is average of the peak and off peak rate for all you electric usage. Most power companies have multiple rate packages for customers depending on their needs. Some people like off peak/peak rates and some people can take advantage of this, others are home all day and need better rates for all hours so they need standard rates, some people want vacation rates for summers when they leave town for months, etc..

Call the power company and talk with them about your bill and your rate package. They will have more info.

Bill

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Post by LadyGeek » Sun Aug 29, 2010 8:38 pm

btenny - An interesting thought, but I don't see how those electrons can flow through the primary meter to be billed. I'm also paying a customer charge for the off-peak meter as well as the peak meter. That kills that theory. OTOH, I'll ask them about it when I call.

SteveB3005 - Thanks for the advice and suggestion to negotiate. Agreed that I may be liable. This is a public utility company which can take legal action as far as they like.

I fully agree that a proactive customer will be treated better than someone who "got caught". I'll give them a call during the week and see what they say.

I just checked the going rates. Reading a fund report is easier. :?

It's also interesting that they boost the rates if you go over 500 kWh (my overall costs are $0.16 /kWh, residential). The rates go up starting January 2011... :evil:
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Post by scubadiver » Sun Aug 29, 2010 10:21 pm

LadyGeek wrote:I fully agree that a proactive customer will be treated better than someone who "got caught". I'll give them a call during the week and see what they say.
That's a good point. In my instance I was proactive as well. Rode the free electricity gravy train (they were still billing me for gas) for 2 or 3 months and eventually called them. Felt like a bit of a schmuck for letting such a good opportunity go by, but it seemed like the 'right' thing to do. They didn't even attempt to bill me for the electricity during the time the meter was broken.

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Post by theduke » Mon Aug 30, 2010 9:13 am

A couple years ago, my electric meter gradually over about a three month period started reading less each month. The third month it was down to about $10 during a summer month when I'm using my air conditioner. I called and reported it, they said they would have to examine the meter and if it had been tampered with they would charge me. They replaced the meter and I never heard from them again.

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Post by LadyGeek » Mon Aug 30, 2010 3:55 pm

OK, the first step is taken. I called customer service and said that I just noticed :wink: that I wasn't getting billed for the off-peak meter. My off-peak stuff is working but the wheel isn't turning.

They're sending a service person over to check the meter Friday AM (I'm home at that time). We'll proceed from there.

I resisted all temptation to ask about billing for prior use. If you ask, then it will be logged in your record. That's never a good thing to do in this position. My hope is that they'll just replace the meter and leave it at that.
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Post by dratkinson » Mon Aug 30, 2010 7:26 pm

In the late 70s, I received a summer electric bill for $0. Called and asked about it. Meter was bad and they swapped it out.

Billing. They said, "How about we charge you the same thing you paid last year for same month." Seemed logical to me.

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Post by norookie » Mon Aug 30, 2010 7:38 pm

" Wealth usually leads to excess " Cicero 55 b.c

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Re: Electric meter broken - Am I responsible to pay?

Post by rfburns » Mon Aug 30, 2010 7:51 pm

LadyGeek wrote:This is 200 Amp service, the off-peak meter is in parallel with the main meter. IOW, there's no connection to the main power meter.
I'm not paying peak rates because there's no physical connection to the peak meter. Two feeds come out of the meter(s) access panel into separate service (circuit breaker) panels. I visually traced the path into the house.
OK, the first step is taken. I called customer service and ...

Good first step. Your setup is highly complex with dual meters and panels. Be sure to ask for a concise explanation of how it all is supposed to work to your benefit and write it down. I would demonstrate concern to the service person it is likely you have been unknowingly paying peak rates instead of the lower off peak rates you deserve. Have your current bill ready to discuss when they come.

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Post by LadyGeek » Wed Sep 01, 2010 4:06 pm

Great idea under normal circumstances, but I already know that using the bill is not going to my advantage.

I took some measurements. The peak meter's wheel turned at exactly the same rotation speed regardless of me turning the off-peak things on and off. The off-peak meter didn't budge. That means I'm not paying peak rates.

If I bring up the subject with PECO, they'll trace my account history back to the invention of electricity (utilities hold records for a v-e-r-y long time). I'll get billed for sure.

So far, I'm only paying the off-peak meter service charge of $4.64/month. I'm not about to ask for credit. I do have a copy of the bill ready to show the service person.
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Post by the intruder » Wed Sep 01, 2010 4:41 pm

LadyGeek wrote:Great idea under normal circumstances, but I already know that using the bill is not going to my advantage.

I took some measurements. The peak meter's wheel turned at exactly the same rotation speed regardless of me turning the off-peak things on and off. The off-peak meter didn't budge. That means I'm not paying peak rates.

If I bring up the subject with PECO, they'll trace my account history back to the invention of electricity (utilities hold records for a v-e-r-y long time). I'll get billed for sure.

So far, I'm only paying the off-peak meter service charge of $4.64/month. I'm not about to ask for credit. I do have a copy of the bill ready to show the service person.
You need to find out what is the statute of limitations for collecting back electric payments either under state law or public utility company regulations which will limit the amount PECO can demand.

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Post by minesweep » Wed Sep 01, 2010 5:42 pm

LadyGeek wrote:t's also interesting that they boost the rates if you go over 500 kWh (my overall costs are $0.16 /kWh, residential). The rates go up starting January 2011...
Because the 10-year Generation rate freeze is ending for PECO this year they begin charging for electricity at market-based rates. There will be a number of other electric companies looking to offer competitive rates for PECO customers next year. I’m in PPL’s service territory and the 10-year generation rate freeze ended Jan. 1 of this year. PPL’s rates (for Generation) increased by about 30% back in January. The contracts with the utility companies are for a year so you can switch every year if you find a better rate. You can op out earlier but some companies charge a fee to do so. PPL’s rate was around 10.4 cents per kW h. I went with the lowest price offer out there at the time (Con Ed Solutions at 9.38 cents a kW h). PPL Electric Utilities expects to have a more competitive rate next year. They locked in a couple of earlier contracts back in 2009 that were a little high. PECO’s distribution and transmission lines will still regulated by the Pa Public Utility Commission. A few months ago PPL filed for a rate increase with the PPUC for those two regulated portions. They came to an agreement last week for less than what they requested.

P.S. As an example of the competition out there PPL EnergyPlus paid 20 million earlier this year for naming rights at the new Philly soccer stadium (PPL Park). PPL is looking to snag some PECO area customers. Given the cost involved I don't know if that will be a good or bad :idea:

Philadelphia Union's New Stadium to be Named PPL Park

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Post by rfburns » Wed Sep 01, 2010 5:43 pm

LadyGeek wrote:I took some measurements. The peak meter's wheel turned at exactly the same rotation speed regardless of me turning the off-peak things on and off. The off-peak meter didn't budge. That means I'm not paying peak rates.
I think I understand now. You are expecting to see them working simultaneously. I would normally expect one or the other to be in operation, but not both. What you describe would be very exotic in my locale.

Can you provide a short list of "things" that are supplied power by the off-peak meter?

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Post by ryuns » Wed Sep 01, 2010 5:57 pm

rfburns wrote:
LadyGeek wrote:I took some measurements. The peak meter's wheel turned at exactly the same rotation speed regardless of me turning the off-peak things on and off. The off-peak meter didn't budge. That means I'm not paying peak rates.
I think I understand now. You are expecting to see them working simultaneously. I would normally expect one or the other to be in operation, but not both. What you describe would be very exotic in my locale.

Can you provide a short list of "things" that are supplied power by the off-peak meter?
Yes, this has me curious as well. Out West, the utility is mostly interested in charging you more for on-peak load because that costs them more. I don't think they care whether the electricity you need at 2 in the morning or 5 in the afternoon is for your fridge or your computer or your A/C. It's all about time-of-use.

I was going to suggest getting an electric car and juicing up the batteries during off peak hours, but it sounds like that might not matter?
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Electric meter broken - Am I responsible to pay?

Post by johnubc » Wed Sep 01, 2010 6:21 pm

You do not have to pay anything back. There meter was defective, and they did not catch it. Guestimating what your bill should be is in no way accurate.

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Post by LadyGeek » Wed Sep 01, 2010 6:51 pm

rfburns wrote:I think I understand now. You are expecting to see them working simultaneously. I would normally expect one or the other to be in operation, but not both. What you describe would be very exotic in my locale.
Exotic? Seems normal to me. The off-peak is supplying my hot water heater, air conditioner compressor (the fan is needed for heating, so it's on the peak meter), and clothes dryer. These are power-hungry items that are not needed during the day.

Everything else is available all the time. So, having both the peak and off-peak meter active during off-peak times is appropriate. BTW, off-peak time covers the entire weekend (at least that's what I remember when this was working).

Minimum usage is about 864 Watts, which is my 180 gal fish tank and 2 terrariums (lighting!).

Home electric meter calculations My meter constant is 7.2 = 1/(13 + 8/9)

PECO has a price increase break-point at 500 kW-h. I'm over that for peak.

I understand that the meter is defective. The only problem with billing is that this is a public utility. My friend was billed by the gas company (PGW). They had his history prior to the broken meter. I'll have to check if he paid it.

In any case, I'll just let the service person fix the meter. No need to discuss billing unless asked. They'll have to update the new meter inventory number in the database, that's about it.
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Post by dratkinson » Thu Sep 02, 2010 12:24 am

I've though some more about this.

The electric company billed you each month for their service. You paid the bill---"Amount Due"---in full. That should end the matter. I don't believe you owe them any more.

Their meter was defective. You caught it, they didn't. You did them a favor. They should be happy.



I used this same logic with my dentist a few years ago. I always paid the bill in full before I left the office. However, when I came in for my next annual checkup, they tried to add another charge (~$40) to my current bill. They claimed they forgot to charge me for a service the "year before", so they were going to charge me for it this year!

Normally, I might have accepted the additional charge, but the week had been full of many annoyances and I'd had "enough", and was in no mood to "eat someone else's mistake". So I said, "No, I paid your bill 'In Full' last year when it was presented. That's the end of it. You don't get a 'do over'."

After a short discussion, they accepted my position and removed the additional charge. I still use the same dentist, but now have them double-check that everything is correct before I pay them. I pay them what they ask when the bill is presented---they don't get to add additional charges later.



In the 70s, some friends in Arkansas had they electric meter swapped out---don't know why. The old meter was discovered to be reading low---don't know by how much. The power company (Arkansas Power and Light) ate the loss. I expect your power company to do the same.



If it came down to it and your electric company decided to be very "unreasonable", a letter from any competent lawyer could probably explain things to them so they would understand that when you paid the "Amount Due", you actually "paid in full, and no additional charges are allowed".



When I told my story above about my defective electric meter, my bill was $0 and I had every reasonable expectation that I should owe a bill for the month---certainly something more than zero. So I accepted a payment amount equal to my bill for the same month from the year before. It seemed logical and reasonable to me to satisfy my monthly obligation "In Full" to my electric company.

However, you have been receiving a monthly bill with what you believed to be a logical and reasonable "Amount Due" to satisfy your obligation "In Full" to your electric company. You paid it. That should end the matter.

Your electric company should eat any loss because it was from their error. They should say nothing more to you about it.

They would also be wise to begin double-checking all of there other installed "off-peak" meters. Where there was one defective unit, there are probably more. Maybe the meter installer was having a bad day/week/month.



Your electric company owes you a debt of thanks, not another bill.



Just my .02



Remember to tells us how this matter was resolved.

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Post by NAVigator » Thu Sep 02, 2010 6:48 am

I did a quick "peek" at the PECO website and saw that they are introducing a SMART meter to better monitor electrical usage by the devices and by the hour. Is there any chance that you were "in the vanguard" and had this conversion done already? As I understand the new system, it would replace the two meter system you described with one.

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Post by Ron » Thu Sep 02, 2010 1:42 pm

Here's sombody who had a different meter problem :lol:

http://articles.mcall.com/2010-08-21/ne ... ric-meters

The article goes on to speak of a meter at a business that was not working properly, but the customer was being charged for electric use, regardless, along with a third customer case for payment of bills regardless of failure of the billing process.

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Post by rfburns » Thu Sep 02, 2010 6:04 pm

LadyGeek wrote:Exotic? Seems normal to me. The off-peak is supplying my hot water heater, air conditioner compressor (the fan is needed for heating, so it's on the peak meter), and clothes dryer. These are power-hungry items that are not needed during the day.
Is it possible these are not peak/off-peak meters? The reason I ask is that peak/off-peak usually is setup to be an all or nothing event, i.e., the whole house is on peak usage until it changes to off-peak usage then back. I looked at PECO and found a chart describing a Residential (R), Residential Heating (RH), and an Off-Peak (OP) rate.

In your case it seems one meter supplies all the heavy loads and the other supplies everything else. Could these be an (R) and (RH) meter pair? If that were true, then yes, I would expect to see each meter turning with a load operating.

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Post by LadyGeek » Thu Sep 02, 2010 7:21 pm

It's a Residential and Off-Peak pair. During off-peak times, both meters should be turning. That rate chart doesn't include the distribution and transition charges.

NAVigator - I took a look at the website. They're still in contract negotiation. Interesting design, it's an entire network of Intelligient Electronic Devices. I'm not thrilled that they appear to be using Broadband over Power Lines (BPL) for the wireless part, but that's a different subject.

You can see the details in their filing: Smart Meter Filing, checkout the PECO Smart Meter plan.
PECO wrote:PECO’s $650 million Smart Grid / Smart Meter initiative is one of the largest investments in the company’s more than 100 year history and will help customers understand how they use energy and improve service. Work is underway at PECO to deploy Smart Meters for all of our 1.6 million electric customers during the next 10 years -- 5 years earlier than required under Pennsylvania law thanks to $200 million stimulus grant awarded by the US Department of Energy. We are currently in the process of finalizing our roll-out plan but expect to begin installing smart meters in our service territory by early 2012.

....All Pennsylvania utilities are required to install Smart Meters for customers as part of Pennsylvania’s 2008 Act 129. Act 129 also requires utilities to help customers reduce their overall energy use and their energy demand during the 100 highest use hours of the year.
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Post by NAVigator » Thu Sep 02, 2010 8:39 pm

LadyGeek, thanks for the info about the SMART meters. I am surprised it will use BPL. I thought that was knocked down in the courts. I am a ham radio operator and have worked through the ARRL to bring suits against the power companies to abandon BPL. hmm...

Good luck with your situation and getting an equitable billing solution for the electricity you used.

I have a variant of your two-meter peak electricity system. I get $8/mo back on my bill for signing up to have some heavy use stuff turned off during high demand times. In over three years, I have never noticed this happening. The power company also gives generous rebates on CFLs, thermostats, and energy star stuff. It takes cooperation and they also give a financial incentive.

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Post by LadyGeek » Thu Sep 02, 2010 8:59 pm

Amazing. I deleted an entire paragraph because I'm also a ham radio operator and was about to go on a rant about ham band interference. (I'm not recently active. I don't post my callsign because it identifies you personally.) I'm familiar with the ARRL's efforts. Further discussion may be OT for this forum.

But since you brought it up... Take a good close look at the meter photo on this page: Graphics, Images & Other Resources

BPL is smack in the middle of the label. Next, google the FCC ID tag. Direct hit at BPL Database. It's 4.5-21 MHz, manufactured by Current Technologies. The Smart Meter plan in the PECO filing will tell you lots about the technology and the network (except the RF part). This is one serious system, approaching cellphone network complexity. At least it's got secure communications- note the IEEE standards listed.

I guess the idea is that you use the BPL Database to list your zip code where the interference is occurring so you can do some mitigation. Meaning: Better start early. OTOH, the power meter photo might be old and they didn't update the web site. I'll have to read the plan more carefully, as they call it a wireless system.
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Post by LadyGeek » Fri Sep 03, 2010 4:38 pm

An update- PECO swapped out the broken meter with another mechanical wheel model. That wheel is spinning it's little heart out. Can't wait to see what I've not been paying. :shock:

PECO gave me a service window from 7 to 12. At 11:55, they called to say they were running late. Brownie points for PECO customer service.

The tech shows up and is in a big hurry. He came to swap the meter, not diagnose the problem. Done in under a minute. Gone from my driveway in under 5 minutes.

He sprayed WD-40 on the contacts when he put the new meter in. All he said was - "OK, it should be working now" and left.

So far, the meter is still "On" (but it's now measuring my usage). I'll give PECO some time to get the new meter number in the database and start controlling it over the RF network. Both meters are labeled "cellnet" (RF receiver).

As this is a holiday weekend, the off-peak meter shouldn't turn off until Tuesday AM business hours.
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Post by rfburns » Fri Sep 03, 2010 6:57 pm

Thanks for the update. You did the right thing and were proactive when you discovered it. That favors you. If they try to come back on you I think you are in a good position to challenge them. Please keep us informed.

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Post by dratkinson » Sat Sep 04, 2010 1:29 am

Maybe I'm misunderstand your problem.

Your off-peak-rate meter was broken.

Your peak-rate meter was working.

Your off-peak-rate should be lower than your peak-rate.

So, if your peak-rate meter was the only one working, then you were ALWAYS being charged the peak-rate (never the off-peak-rate).

With your off-peak-rate meter now working, then you should be charged a LOWER rate for its billing.

Is my logic correct? If so, then perhaps your power company owes you a refund.

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Post by LadyGeek » Sat Sep 04, 2010 6:27 am

It's not a problem. Let me explain in a different way:

PECO brings one set of wires (2 x 240 V single phase + return for those interested) into a service panel that contains a peak meter and an off-peak meter. Inside the box, the wiring is split to supply a peak meter and an off-peak meter.

PECO --> peak meter --> house
PECO --> off-peak meter --> the off-peak items

I've got separate circuit breaker panels for each meter. Since the off-peak meter wasn't working, I was getting power but not a bill. The power flowed through just fine.
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dratkinson
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Post by dratkinson » Sat Sep 04, 2010 1:24 pm

LadyGeek wrote:It's not a problem. Let me explain in a different way:

PECO brings one set of wires (2 x 240 V single phase + *return, for those interested) into a service panel that contains a peak meter and an off-peak meter. Inside the box, the wiring is split to supply a peak meter and an off-peak meter.

PECO --> peak meter --> house
PECO --> off-peak meter --> the off-peak items

I've got separate circuit breaker panels for each meter. Since the off-peak meter wasn't working, I was getting power but not a bill. The power flowed through just fine.

*Return = neutral?

Oops! Now I see the light. Your meters are running in parallel, and are not switched between as the peak/off-peak hours change.
Last edited by dratkinson on Sat Sep 04, 2010 2:13 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by LadyGeek » Sat Sep 04, 2010 1:51 pm

Yup - neutral. :oops:
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Post by Penguin » Sat Sep 04, 2010 6:58 pm

I hope some of you knowledgeable engineers or others can answer a related question. I have a smart meter that send electricity usage instantaneously to P G & E the electric company. I read complaints that new users claim that their smart meter is reading too high, even twice what it should. See http://www.complaintsboard.com/complain ... 40671.html
Is it possible for a meter to read too high? Or was the old meter reading too low? Is a smart meter more or less likely to be inaccurate?
Thank you if you can clarify this.
Jon

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Post by LadyGeek » Sat Sep 04, 2010 7:39 pm

Thanks to google, I found the full details. Independent Probe Says Heat (Not Smart Meters) Caused PG&E Bills to Soar. They blamed PG&E.

Download the full report: PG&E Advanced Metering Assessment Report Commissioned by the California Public Utilities Commission, 414 pages.

Engineers - start reading on page 22 (Adobe page number). Very interesting details on how the meters were tested.

Non-technical crowd - start reading on page 31 (Adobe page number) to see how they dealt with the complaints.
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Post by magellan » Sat Sep 04, 2010 7:40 pm

Penguin wrote:I hope some of you knowledgeable engineers or others can answer a related question. I have a smart meter that send electricity usage instantaneously to P G & E the electric company. I read complaints that new users claim that their smart meter is reading too high, even twice what it should. See http://www.complaintsboard.com/complain ... 40671.html
Is it possible for a meter to read too high? Or was the old meter reading too low? Is a smart meter more or less likely to be inaccurate?
Thank you if you can clarify this.
It's likely that the jolt for some people has less to do with the accuracy of the meter and more to do with customers' electricity usage patterns.

The whole idea behind smart meters is to get people to consume electricity when it's cheapest to produce. The real-time market price for a megawatt-hour of electricity at 3pm on a hot summer day can be 5 times the price for a MWh delivered at 2am the next day. It all comes down to supply and demand. During peak times, the least efficient (and most costly) generating sources are deployed to meet demand. In many areas, turbines powered by jet-fuel are used as a last resort to handle peak loads during a hot summer day. You can be their fuel doesn't come cheap.

Under not-so-smart electricity rate plans, consumers pay an average price per kilowatt no matter when they use the power. Consumers who use most of their energy during the day get a free ride on the backs of users that consume most of their power at night, who end up over-paying.

When a smart meter is installed, consumers get billed for energy based on when they consume it. Consumers that were using most of their power during off peak hours could see substantial savings. Consumers who use a lot of power during the day could see a big increase in their bill.

Although jolting, most would argue that the smart-meter approach is fairer and will result in consumers making better decisions about when to use electricty.

If you live in New England, you can see the current real-time market price for electricity at this ISO-NE website. As I write this, the real-time price per MWh is around $40 which means power plant owners will get around 4 cents per kWh of power that they deliver to the grid. As I said, on a hot summer day, the price can easily go up to $100 to $150 per MWh.

Jim

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Post by Penguin » Sat Sep 04, 2010 8:08 pm

Thank you, Lady Geek. Perhaps you can clarify the section on page 31 that reads
As a result of the high bill complaint analysis, Structure did not identify problems with the Smart Meter data
utilized for billing. Structure identified the following factors that contributed to high bill complaints during late
2009 and early 2010:
 Customer Usage:
o Meter deployment schedules coincided with increased energy usage caused by a heat
wave.
o Some Customers experienced load changes that were reflective of changes in personal
circumstances. Examples included room additions, pool additions, and equipment
malfunctions.
o Electromechanical meter degradation that was also identified as part of Structure’s field
meter testing
It says they did not identify problems with the Smart meter data, but there was electromechanical meter degradation. That sound like it is a problem, but I really don't know what it means. Does it mean that the reported electricity usage from the Smart meters was accurate or inaccurate?
Thanks.
Jon

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Post by magellan » Sat Sep 04, 2010 8:15 pm

Penguin wrote:It says they did not identify problems with the Smart meter data, but there was electromechanical meter degradation. That sound like it is a problem, but I really don't know what it means. Does it mean that the reported electricity usage from the Smart meters was accurate or inaccurate
I'd read that to mean that there were cases where customers' old meters were under-reporting usage because of mechanical degradation.

When the smart-meter was installed, customers saw an increase in usage because the new meter was reporting usage more accurately than the old degraded one.

Jim

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Post by LadyGeek » Sat Sep 04, 2010 8:30 pm

Degradation means that the meter is not working as well as it did when it came from the factory. It's no longer measuring your power accurately.

Since these meters are mechanical, the wheels that turn the counter are gummed up (which happens over time) and slow down. PECO thinks you're not using as much power as you really are. That's what magellan means by "under-reporting" usage. Customers were upset because the newer meters flushed out this problem.

It's like a traffic cop radar that registers 55 mph when you're going 70 mph...

The smart meters have no moving parts. However, other things that can go wrong. Instead of degradation, the comparison is to meet accuracy requirements. The lab tests show what they did.

I'll bet the utilities are recovering costs simply because they're replacing mechanical meters with electronic ones. The lab test data shows a high number of mechanical failures - (in my opinion, but I'm not an expert).
Last edited by LadyGeek on Sun Sep 05, 2010 10:01 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Post by Penguin » Sat Sep 04, 2010 10:37 pm

Thank you all for your help. If I understand correctly, there are meters that underreport electricity usage, especially old meters, but they were not able to identify meters that overreport electricity usage. That is reassuring to me.
Jon

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Post by Ron » Sun Sep 05, 2010 8:33 am

Just to add a bit to the off-peak metering scenario.

I'm just a bit north of LG, but have a different electric supplier. I've also had an electronic meter since we built our home 16 years ago and had an off-peak system for our heating (heat pump with 300-gal water storage).

Both the recharge of the water tank, along with our hot water heater (85 gals) is done at a lower charge from 5pm-7am.

We only have one meter to measure usage. Our utility does not charge for any draw above 2KWH for less than a 15 minute period during "prime time", but does so (at a higher rate) if we do.

While the system is tied in to the meter, there is also a separate control box that is linked to the meter (for time sync) which will remove power to the hot water tanks (both heating and other use tank). There is a switch on that control box that I can throw on if I wish to override the system and recharge both the heating and hot water tanks during the day.

I have a separate RTS (residential thermal system) rate; however with elimination of this rate due to deregulation over the next few years, I'll be either going to a separate TOD metering (with no cutoff) or normal metering.

The utility pushed the off-peak system years ago (when we built) since at the time, they were responsible for both the generation, along with the delivery of electric.

Now the business model changed and since they split their system between generation (e.g. their own plants, plus buying electric from "outside" plants), and delivery systems, the game has changed.

An example from moving away from the old system was that they could buy (at a discount) from a supplier in another time zone, for generation hours that were different than local business hours, where the draw would be much less.

Since they had less of a responsibility to generate power at a certain time for local use, they could just buy the excess they need. Inversely, today they can sell power to the mid-west during overnight hours when east coast manufacturing was reduced (along with power draws for summer AC and other seasonal requirements).

Now our local "delivery utility" is removing support for the off-peak systems and suggesting those who installed a system (as we have) either replace them with just a HE heat pump (which we did several years ago, but kept the off peak system since the air output in the winter is similar to an oil system, rather than the "cold heat" of a traditional HP) or go to something like geo-thermal (which we checked out, but at our age the "investment" does not seem financially logical).

Just my addition to the thread.

- Ron

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Post by LadyGeek » Mon Sep 20, 2010 9:05 pm

An update for those that were interested in the results of my newly replaced off-peak meter.

The PECO bill has arrived! What did it say? I have a working off-peak meter. No prior charges, just perfectly normal usage.

- The peak and off-peak meter numbers match the bill.

- There's a zero usage entry for the defective meter, but I suspect it will be gone by next month. It was replaced in the middle of the billing period.

- My monthly bill will probably be about $20 higher from now on.
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Post by RobG » Tue Sep 21, 2010 9:47 am

LadyGeek wrote:It's not a problem. Let me explain in a different way:

PECO brings one set of wires (2 x 240 V single phase + return for those interested) into a service panel that contains a peak meter and an off-peak meter. Inside the box, the wiring is split to supply a peak meter and an off-peak meter.

PECO --> peak meter --> house
PECO --> off-peak meter --> the off-peak items

I've got separate circuit breaker panels for each meter. Since the off-peak meter wasn't working, I was getting power but not a bill. The power flowed through just fine.
We aren't smart out here yet so I have a question on how this works. Does the "off-peak" meter not allow usage during peak hours?

rg

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Post by LadyGeek » Tue Sep 21, 2010 4:17 pm

The "off-peak" meter does not allow usage during peak hours. When it was originally working, the off-peak meter would be disabled during peak hours. PECO transmits an RF signal from somewhere (CellNet) to the off-peak meter that enables / disables power to the house. This is not a smart meter, it's a dumb mechanical meter wired to work like this.

However, my new off-peak replacement meter hasn't turned off during peak hours. I've got the correct meter hours on the bill, so the RF link to report back is working. I'm paying for usage. I'm not calling this in.
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Post by rfburns » Tue Sep 21, 2010 6:18 pm

rfburns wrote:
LadyGeek wrote:Exotic? Seems normal to me. The off-peak is supplying my hot water heater, air conditioner compressor (the fan is needed for heating, so it's on the peak meter), and clothes dryer. These are power-hungry items that are not needed during the day.
I'm still trying to understand your distribution system. If these heavy loads are disabled from use during peak hours, how would you override it for special needs? Seems like it would require heavy switchgear to transfer the disabled loads to the other meter. If all circuits in the house are common to both meters, then only one or the other should be turning no?

I'm glad your new bill looks good. :)

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Post by LadyGeek » Tue Sep 21, 2010 6:57 pm

The circuit loads are not common. It might help that this configuration was done in 1993. Here's the wiring:

PECO --> peak meter --> dedicated peak-meter breaker panel --> all items except below
PECO --> off-peak meter --> dedicated off-peak meter breaker panel --> hot water heater, AC (compressor only), dryer

I can't override the off-peak meter. Nothing can be switched between the loads. We hooked it up this way since there's no demand during the day. The hot water heater can hold until off-peak time.

I wouldn't care that much if the meter was working properly and I didn't have the off-peak items during the weekday. However, I do and consider it "bonus" coverage.
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Post by rfburns » Wed Sep 22, 2010 5:56 pm

I see now. Thanks for taking the time to explain. In the southwest most folks would not be willing to be without their air conditioners during daytime and be without the ability to override.

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