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Frequently Asked Questions

About Smart Meters

What is a smart meter?
A smart meter is a digital meter that records your energy use in hourly increments. The new smart meters and the new communication system we are installing also allow for two-way communication – the meter sends signals to Pepco and Pepco can communicate directly with the meter.

Why am I getting a smart meter?
Pepco is working with the DC Public Service Commission to help meet energy-reduction goals, and smart meters are a critical part of that effort. Equally important, Pepco is making a proactive effort, through its deployment of smart meters, to help you make better informed decisions about your energy use. Smart meters are designed to offer utilities and their customers a number of key benefits. These include better insight into your energy use, as well as outage detection and improved customer service.

Smart Meter Benefits

What are the benefits of smart meters?
Smart meters offer Pepco residential and small business customers a number of benefits:

Take control of your energy data

  • Smart meters enable you to view your home or small business electricity use in easy to read graphs. Armed with a better understanding of your energy use, you can make informed decisions on how to manage and control your electricity consumption.
  • Smart meters will ensure that your energy bill is based on your actual, rather than estimated use.
  • Smart meters will reduce the need for Pepco meter readers to come to your home. New features will enable wireless meter reading.

Opportunities to save money

  • While detailed data is no guarantee for saving energy or money, smart meters give you the power to review and evaluate your use of energy and take control of the things you can change.

Outage detection

  • Smart meters provide outage detection by Pepco if an outage occurs.

Improved customer service

  • Information from your smart meter will enable Pepco representatives to better answer your questions about your personal energy use, should you ever need to contact us for assistance.

Environmental benefits

  • Remote meter reading reduces the number of Pepco vehicles and trucks on the road, which in turn helps reduce carbon emissions.
  • Smart meters are the key to greater energy efficiency, reducing the need to build power plants and reducing the use of older, less efficient power plants which typically have higher greenhouse gas and other air emissions.

What types of costs will I incur?
Pepco has made the initial investment in smart meters for our customers. Pepco has received $34.1 million in federal stimulus grants to help fund Pepco’s smart meter program in the District of Columbia. While these funds and the operational efficiencies realized will help to offset customer costs for this project, Pepco is currently seeking a rate adjustment from the District of Columbia Public Service Commission to recoup investment costs associated with your reliability improvements and infrastructure investments.

Preparing for Installation

When will I get my smart meter?
Most of our Washington DC customers have already received a smart meter, which we began installing in October 2010. The goal is to have all smart meters installed in the Pepco District of Columbia service area by the spring of 2012.

When will I begin to receive detailed energy use data from Pepco?
Most customers can now view their daily and hourly energy use data through My Account. Customers were notified by Pepco in a newsletter informing them that they now have a new smart meter and that it has been activated. To help prepare yourself to make the most of this technology, Pepco recommends that you sign up for the My Account service, an online feature that provides information on how to better manage your energy use. Go to pepco.com and click on the “First Time Users” on the home page to get started.

Will the new meter begin with a reading of zero, or will it pick up my last kilowatt reading?
The new meters will start at zero. Pepco will take the reading from the old meter to calculate the use prior to the exchange and add in any additional use from the new meter subsequent to the exchange to calculate the next bill.
This functionality will be available sometime in the future, but we still ask customers to call Pepco to report an outage, as we rely on detailed information from customers regarding outages to improve service.

When will my smart meter be able to notify Pepco of an outage? Do I still have to call Pepco if the power goes out?
This functionality will be available sometime in the future, but we still ask customers to call Pepco to report an outage, as we rely on detailed information from customers regarding outages to improve service.

Can I opt out?
No. Pepco is authorized by legislation passed by the District of Columbia City Council to replace the current meters with our new smart meters for all of our customers in the District. This initiative is part of Pepco’s energy plan in which the company is seeking to help customers better manage their energy use and help protect the environment. As a reminder, the customer is responsible for providing Pepco access to our meter in order to read, test, disconnect, remove and/or replace it. Customers must make certain that there is a minimum of 48 inches of clearance around the meter box. No permanent obstructions - such as trees, bushes, or walls – may be placed in front of the meter. If reasonable access is not provided, service can be disconnected until access is provided.

About Privacy

Can someone steal my energy use data off of your wireless network?
Pepco places the utmost importance on the security and protection of all aspects of its electric system and associated sub systems. In keeping with corporate policy, Pepco’s smart grid systems and components will guard against cyber and physical attacks. Pepco requires that equipment support Advanced Encryption Standards as defined by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. As Pepco’s smart grid is deployed, these security guiding principles will be implemented and applied as recommend by the manufacturer and industry best practices. For example, we will use firewalls, VLANs [virtual local area networks], encryption, and other methods as defined in technology standards to defend, deter, detect and minimize security threats.

Can the signals from smart meters get crossed and the wrong information be used to bill an account?
This is very unlikely. Each meter is assigned a unique number for each customer location. Data from a customer's location is matched with the meter number assigned to that customer location before it is sent to our billing system for processing.

I live in an apartment building. Will my building owner have the ability to access my individual use data without my consent?
Pepco is committed to ensuring that customer energy use data is private. Therefore, only the account holder has access to the data. This information cannot be shared with a third-party without the written consent of the account holder.

How long will Pepco store my energy use data?
Pepco will retain this information for seven years.

About Radio Frequency (RF) Technology

Pepco’s smart grid provider, Silver Spring Networks, uses 900 megahertz (MHz) and 2.4 gigahertz (GHz) radios in its smart grid hardware devices – the same FCC-approved frequencies that have been used for many years in devices such as baby monitors, cell phones, remote-controlled toys and medical monitors. Silver Spring RF emissions are compliant with the levels required by strict federal regulations and permitted by various international recommendations and as such should not cause any interference with wireless routers or cordless telephones. For more information, please refer to our RF Fact sheet.

How frequently does the smart meter send out a signal?
Pepco’s smart grid devices present an extremely low-level of RF exposure when compared to the regulatory limits established by the FCC for safe operations. Pepco communicates with the meter up to six times a day in order to receive information pertaining to a customer’s energy use. The total average transmission time is 60 seconds per 24-hour period. This information reflects the findings of a detailed study conducted by Silver Spring Networks, Pepco’s smart grid vendor, which collected actual field data from 88,000 deployed meters. It is important to note that all solid-state circuitry, such as that within the smart meter and other common household electronics, (televisions, microwaves ovens, etc.) emit RF when powered. There are additional communications for network management and time synchronization which are necessary to ensure that the meter is functioning properly.

How much research has been done on the health effects of the smart meters Pepco is using?
Over the past decade, there have been hundreds of studies in this area. The smart meters being installed by Pepco use very low-power radio frequency (RF) fields to transmit energy use data. The RF fields used by smart meters are in the same frequency ranges used by cellular and cordless phones, but are at much lower power and typically occur for less than a total of one minute per day. There is a large body of scientific research on RF fields and health. Federal Regulatory agencies have conducted detailed reviews of this scientific research and have not found any reliable basis to conclude that there are health risks related to RF exposures at levels below recognized standards.

Is there a health risk from smart meters?
No. Scientific research has been conducted on radio-frequency (RF) fields and health for several decades. Recent research has focused on RF at cellular phone frequencies. This body of research has been reviewed by many public health and regulatory agencies, including the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI). None of these organizations has found that the RF signals from smart meters cause or contribute to any adverse health effects. For example, a recent review by the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) concluded that while some studies suggest a possible relationship to cancer based on prolonged use of cell phones, RF exposures from cell phones cannot be considered an actual cause of cancer or even a probable cause. IARC also found that there was inadequate scientific evidence of any cancer risk due to RF fields from environmental sources, such as cell phone towers and wireless networks. WHO has further emphasized that “no adverse health effects have been established as being caused by mobile phone use.” For detailed information provided by these organizations, visit their websites at:

U.S. Food and Drug Administration
Federal Communications Commission
World Health Organization
National Cancer Institute

Smart Meters and Net Metering?

Are the smart meters being deployed by Pepco capable of net metering?
Yes, the new smart meters are “net metering” capable. Net metering enables customers who have solar panels or other forms of renewable generation to lower their energy costs. That’s because any excess kilowatts the customer generates are subtracted from the number of kilowatts they did use when the monthly bill is calculated.

Please note that it is important to notify Pepco when you are planning to install solar panels or other renewable generation. That’s because the current applicable tariff requires such customers to have a registered “net-metered” account. In addition, your meter will need to be specially programmed to accommodate net metering. Please call Pepco’s Green Power Connection Team at (202) 872-3419 if you have not submitted your application and to obtain additional information.

I have solar panels installed at my home. Sometimes I cannot access My Account or see my usage data via My Account. Why is that?
Net metering customers, for example, customers with photovoltaic systems that are interconnected with Pepco’s grid, are at the forefront of a wave of change in the energy industry. The separate electric generating systems at their premises are not yet fully compatible with the My Account online energy analysis tool. Currently, the software prevents the display of self-generated energy-use data, and some net metering customers may be unable to enroll in My Account. No timetable is yet available as to when these changes will be available.

More Questions?

Call Pepco at (202) 833-7500 if you have questions.