If you’re like us, you barely noticed the installation of a Smart Meter at your house in 2012. Our utility, Southern California Edison, installed them systematically across Long Beach with the stated goals of:
We thought we might take Edison up on the offer to access our usage data and see how useful it is. We logged into our account and downloaded the hourly kWh used for the last 12 months – over 8,000 data points in all. It helped us see the times of year and times of day that we use most electricity in our house, and showed exactly how large our spikes can be. Add our spike to our neighbors’ around Southern California, and you see how hard it must be to manage the grid in Summer without outages.
Some of our takeaways were:
The data made us face some hard facts about our lifestyle. First, what are we doing at 9:00 at night in Summer? Watching TV, running the dishwasher, and cooling off the house with the air conditioner. Why don’t we open the windows? I don’t know. How much electricity does our TV use anyway?
So we got out a gadget still in its wrapper that I gave my wife for Christmas – a Kill a Watt. It plugs into the wall socket and accepts the plug from another electric appliance and measures the electricity usage. Here’s some of what we’ve found so far:
We have yet to measure the usage of our A/C unit on the roof, or any of our major appliances, but they’re next! And if you’re considering putting solar panels on the roof and generating all your own electricity, your Smart Meter data will tell you what size array you need. In our case, a 3kW array would cover our daytime needs most of the year, but on the hottest days in Summer, we sometimes would need twice that to power the house.
It will be interesting to see how the Smart Meters will be used in future. Perhaps they will communicate with our appliances to run when rates are low on off-peak times. I’m hoping that the utilities use the data to help homeowners discover if they are about average or using more than their neighbors, as this information is nowhere to be found today. I’m not interested in guilt-tripping anyone, but if it wakes a few households up that there are savings to be made, well that would be a good thing. Aggregate that over Southern California, and that could add up to power-plant-size savings.
So far, I'm high on Smart Meters.