How do Smart Energy Meters work?

How do Smart Energy Meters work?
Darrius Drew
It takes approx. 4 minutes to read this article

For the past few years, the trend has been for all devices to be “smart,” meaning intelligent. Through smartphones, smartwatches and smartTVs to smart cars, homes and even cities. Some time ago, smart energy meters, which are based on “smart metering” technology, also came into use. How do they differ from a regular meter and how do they work? Let’s find out!

Where did such meters come from?

For many years there were induction meters in Polish homes. Probably everyone remembers the characteristic aluminium dial, which rotated slowly and calculated the electricity consumption. Each rotation of the dial meant a given number of kilowatt-hours of electricity consumed. Later, an employee from the electric company would come, read the meter, and the electricity bill would come to us. This solution was not bad, but someone had the idea that it could be improved.

So the first electronic meters were developed. Instead of a clumsy spinning dial reminiscent of the first on-board computers from old sci-fi movies, the electronic meter has a digital display. It is made up of integrated circuits that generate pulses that indicate the speed of the current flowing and the voltage applied. The number of pulses is proportional to the amount of current consumed. It makes much more accurate measurements than an inductive meter

How it works

Smart electricity meters work in the same way as regular electronic meters, but come with additional features such as:

  • remote reading and configuration – with a smart meter, we can say goodbye to visits from the meter collector reading the measurements. The electricity supplier can remotely read the status of the meter in real time. There is a possibility of two-way communication between the energy consumer and the seller;
  • monitoring of energy consumption – the device creates statistics of power measurement in your house/apartment, so you can see at what times the consumption is the highest and how individual household appliances affect energy consumption
  • remote fault diagnosis – if there is a fault in your power system you will not have to call the hotline right away. The smart meter will send an appropriate message to the supplier so that he can remotely detect and diagnose the problem. Moreover, thanks to the analytical algorithms used, the meter can detect potential connection of an unwanted guest to your installation;
  • more accurate measurements – until now a popular practice was to pay for the so called predicted electricity consumption, which does not always translate one-to-one into actual consumption. A smart meter is able to estimate with great precision the amount of energy you use, so you will only pay for the electricity you actually used. Additionally, we can opt for prepaid bills, which will allow us to shape our own energy expenses

Types of smart meters

When deciding on a smart meter, you have to be aware that it has to be customized for our building. You cannot use the same meter for a two-person apartment and an industrial plant. Depending on how and how much energy we consume, we will need the right type of meter. This can be characterized by three categories:

  • number of phases – most households will use single phase meters with 230 volts and three wires. If your home often uses high-powered appliances or you want to use a meter in an industrial plant with heavy machinery, you will need a three-phase meter with 400 volts and four or five conductors;
  • measuring method – similar to the number of phases, meters with a direct circuit will be used more often. This means that the loads are connected directly to the energy meter. When using high-powered machines, transformer meters are installed. These work in such a way that they measure values that are lower than the actual values, but proportional to the amount of electricity consumed;
  • direction of energy flow – if you have devices in your home that produce energy, such as photovoltaic panels, you will need to choose a bidirectional meter, which calculates both the intake and generation of electricity. In other cases, unidirectional meters are used.

Smart meters for electricity consumption can actually help us better manage our electricity consumption. It turns out that it is not an “unnecessary gadget”, but a functional device. Since we have already seen three versions of electricity meters, I wonder what will be the next stage of development. Maybe the reading will be done remotely from the cloud? Who knows?

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