Frequently Asked Questions
About Smart Meters
What is a smart meter?
A smart meter is a digital meter that records your usage in hourly increments. The new meter and the new communication system we are installing also allows 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 Maryland 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 customers make better informed decisions about their energy use. Smart meters are designed to offer utilities and their customers a number of key benefits. These include better insight into customer usage, as well as outage detection and improved customer service.
Smart Meter BenefitsWhat 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 Pepco customers to view their 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.
- 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.
- Remote 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 received $68.5 million in federal stimulus grants to help fund its smart meter program in Maryland. The Company is not including for recovery in the current rate case proceeding any of the AMI costs being deferred in a regulatory asset in accordance with the Commission’s Order No. 83571 in Case No. 9207.
Preparing for InstallationWhen will I get my smart meter?
Pepco began installing smart meters for homes and businesses in Maryland in June 2011. The goal is to have all smart meters installed in the Pepco Maryland service area by December 2012.
Will I receive any notice before the meter is exchanged?
A letter, along with a fact sheet, will be mailed to every customer approximately one to four weeks before the planned meter exchange. On the day of the installation, one of our contractors from Scope Services will knock on your door to let you know that they are performing the meter switch. If no one is home, the contractor will leave a door hanger either announcing that the meter has successfully been changed or requesting that the customer contact Scope Services to schedule an appointment to change their meter.
Will I lose power during the meter exchange?
The meter exchange may result in a brief interruption of electric service, usually less than a minute. You may need to reset your clocks and other electronic equipment after the exchange.
Important Note: If you are on life support and have registered in our Emergency Medical Equipment Notification Program, our installers will knock on your door before they begin the installation to make sure it is OK to interrupt your service for a brief period. If you are not home or cannot take a brief power interruption, we will leave a door hanger instructing you to call to set up an appointment.
To register someone for the Emergency Medical Equipment Notification Program, you and your physician must complete the required information on the MD certification form and mail or fax it to Pepco. Unfortunately, we are unable to accept these forms via email. The fax number for submitting your completed form is (800) 461-9737, or you may mail it to:
Pepco Customer Credit Department
701 Ninth Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20068-0001
When will I begin to receive detailed usage data from Pepco?
Customers will begin to receive information on their daily and hourly energy use later in 2012. Customers will be notified by Pepco when this information becomes available. In the meantime, 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” section on the home page to get started.
Will the new meter begin with a reading of zero or will if 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.
When will the 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?
On Jan. 7, 2013, the Public Service Commission issued an order stating that they will conduct additional proceedings to determine whether the preferred course is to allow customers the option of retaining their current meter or to require all customers to receive a smart meter but with the option to have that meter installed to operate in an "RF-free" or near RF-free manner. The Commission will require customers that exercise the approved option to pay the appropriate costs.
Chairman Nazarian and Commissioner Speakes-Backman have jointly filed a dissent in this case. The Commission may ultimately determine that their proposed outcome, which would not allow customers to opt out of having an advanced meter installed, is the best path to take.
The order also stated that the Commission did not find convincing evidence that smart meters pose any health risks to the public at large and that the use of smart meters does not pose a fire hazard to ratepayers.
Customers are required to make opt-out requests in writing. Please submit your request by clicking here or by mailing the request to the address below. Customers that have previously informed Pepco that they do not wish to receive a smart meter need not take any additional action at this time.
701 9th St. NW
Mail Stop EP7642
Washington, DC 20068
About PrivacyCan someone steal my usage 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, PHI 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, the security guiding principles will be implemented and applied as recommend by the manufacturer and industry best practices. For example, PHI 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 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 PHI's 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 usage data?
Pepco will retain this information for seven years.
About Radio Frequency Technology
Can someone steal my usage data off of your wireless network?
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?
Most smart grid devices use radio frequency (RF) fields for only a very few minutes each day to send signals. Rather than continuous output, Pepco's smart meters are idle most of the time, only turning on periodically to send a brief transmission. An individual meter is idle more than 99 percent of the time.
How much research has been done on the health effects on 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 power usage 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 MeteringAre 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.