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“Smart” Meters Are Coming to a Neighborhood Near You

Mar 7, 2012

Posted by

Richard Tempchin

Richard S. (Rick) Tempchin is executive director, Retail Energy Services, at the Electric Efficiency Institute (EEI). He joined EEI in 1987 and is proficient in nearly every arena of retail energy se Read more

A hundred years ago, electricity was a luxury.  Today, we can’t live without it.  Electricity runs our homes, offices, and industries, and powers our TVs, computers, air conditioners and appliances, and other electric technologies.  That’s why it’s important for real estate professionals to stay informed about upcoming electricity changes.

The “smart” meter is coming.  For residential brokers and sales agents who know how it works and the benefits it offers their clients, the future has never looked brighter.

Shareholder-owned electric companies provide 70 percent of the electricity we use in our daily lives.  As an industry, we’re committed to providing energy consumers with reliable, affordable electricity.  We work hard to ensure the lights come on every time you flip the switch.  As an energy consumer, you, yourself, can play a vital role by using electricity wisely.

A recent survey by the Institute for Electric Efficiency (IEE) found that more than one-in-five homes in the country has a “smart” electric meter.  And based on electric utility industry projections, more than half of all homes in the nation will have a new digital meter by 2015.

It is clear that homebuyers and sellers alike are finding increasing value in the new “smart” meters.  For agents, understanding how the innovative electric meters work and the benefits they offer both the homebuyer and seller can help them to build client confidence.  It can also help to position the sales agent as an authority on the home of the future.

Smart” Meter Overview

Using a radio signal, a “smart” meter creates a two-way communication link between a home and the electric utility.  Now, instead of a utility having to send someone out once a month to read the meter, the “smart” meter can record a home’s electricity use every 15 minutes and electronically send the information back to the utility.  (Note that the “smart” meter records energy use for the entire home, not individual appliances within the home.)

Benefits for Homebuyers

The “smart” meter’s two-way communication capability enables more and more buyers to monitor their new home’s electricity use much more closely.  Instead of waiting until their electric bill arrives at the end of the month, the homeowner can go online to their utility’s website and see how much electricity their home is using.  And they can compare their usage with the previous day or week.

In this way, owners will have more awareness about their new home’s electricity usage.  And studies have shown that just by becoming more aware, the homeowner often takes simple steps, such as turning off unnecessary lights or adjusting the thermostat, to save electricity.  These steps typically save around five percent on the utility bill.

The “smart” meter also helps buyers in another way.  It knows instantly when a home loses power.  The meter also can alert the utility even when no one is home!  Today, homeowners have to call their utility to tell them they lost power.  This feature is of particular importance to vacation home buyers, who are often away for long periods.

Sellers will like the capability to let their utility know when they have moved out so that the utility can turn off the power.

The Future Gets “Smarter”

In the not-too-distant future, “smart” meters will offer more benefits for buyers.  Appliance manufacturers are planning to build appliances that can “talk” with the “smart” meter.  This will enable the homeowner to program their large, energy-consuming appliances such as the water heater, to run during a utility’s lower cost, off-peak hours.  This will save homeowners money on their utility bill.

And the “smart” meter will soon let buyers who have one of the new plug-in electric cars, such as the Chevy Volt or the Nissan LEAF, re-charge their car during the lower cost electricity periods.  This will make owning an electric car even more affordable. 

For residential brokers and sales agents who know how “smart” meters work and the benefits it offers their buying and selling clients, the future has never looked brighter.