Home > For Business > Metering > Smart Meters FAQs
 

Smart Meters FAQs

SMART METERS

What is a smart meter?

A smart meter looks like the meter you have now, except the display is digital and there are no dials. It records how much electricity was used and when it was used (typically hourly) and communicates this information automatically via wireless and other technologies.

+ return to top

How different is it from my old meter?

The old meter has dials and measures the total amount of electricity used in a billing period, typically one or two months, so customers do not have the ability to track their electricity consumption. This is because old meters were read manually; new meters are read remotely.

+ return to top

What do smart meters look like?

Smart meters look like standard meters (except with an LCD display and no dials) and fit into a standard meter base. No modifications of your equipment will be necessary to accept a smart meter.

 

+ return to top

 

Will someone need to come into my house to install it? Do I need to take time off work?

If you have an outside meter you do not need to be home. If your meter is inside your home, we will need to book an appointment with you.

+ return to top

How long is it going to take them to install?

It takes approximately 10 minutes to install the smart meter. Click below to view a smart meter installation.

+ return to top

Will my electricity be switched off? Will it affect timers in my house? Will the food in my freezer be OK?

For the safety of our crews, a very short interruption (1-2 minutes) will occur during the meter change but this should not affect the temperature in your freezer. As with any power interruption, you will need to reset clocks and timers on all equipment.

+ return to top

Why has the Province mandated the use of smart meters?

Between now and 2025, Ontario must build almost a whole new electricity system. This includes replacing about 80 per cent of our current generating facilities as they retire over time, and expanding the system to meet future growth. Building new supply is vital. So is conservation. That's why the Government of Ontario is introducing new tools like smart meters that will encourage all of us to think more about how and when we use electricity.

Smart meters measure hourly electricity use, so electricity prices can be different at different hours of the day. That better matches the way prices work in the electricity market, and will encourage us to think more about how and when we use electricity. As we move consumption away from the more expensive (peak) times of the day, we can help Ontario reduce its peak demand, which can help limit the building and operation of peak generating facilities.

+ return to top

Why does our Peak Demand matter so much?

Supplying electricity at peak times (those times when we're all using a lot of electricity) has a range of impacts:

    • It adds to our electricity costs because higher demand often means higher market prices.
    • It's hard on the environment because more of the less attractive forms of generation must be run to meet them.
    • It adds to the amount that Ontario needs to invest in the system because meeting the peaks means building even more new generating facilities, and more transmission and distribution infrastructure and that also adds to electricity costs.

+ return to top

What will my smart meter do?

The smart meter system provides a number of significant benefits.

    1. Measures how much energy you use and when you use it - providing you with the opportunity to take action to reduce your energy bill by:
        • Lowering your electricity use during peak (higher price) periods; and
        • Shifting your electricity use to lower price periods.
    2. Stores electricity use information - providing you the opportunity to review your electricity use information the next day through the internet.
    3. No more estimated electricity bills - smart meters will automatically and regularly send your meter readings via wireless and other technologies.
    4. Faster response to outages - smart meters will eventually tell us when your power is out.
    5. Reduces need to build power generation facilities - as all Ontarians shift energy use away from peak periods.

+ return to top

Will I be able to monitor my electricity consumption?

If you are a small business with a smart meter, you can view your electricity consumption via the TOU portal.

+ return to top

Where will all the meter data be stored?

The Government of Ontario's current plan is to develop an independent meter data repository. All Local Distribution Companies (like Toronto Hydro-Electric System) would transmit customers' hourly smart meter data to the central meter data repository on a daily basis.

+ return to top

Will my electricity bill automatically go down once I have a smart meter?

Smart meters will not automatically result in energy cost savings. However, when teamed with time-of-use rates, your smart meter will provide you the opportunity to better manage your electricity bill by reducing electricity use during higher price periods and by moving your electricity use to lower price periods.

+ return to top

Will my electricity bill go up?

That will depend, in part, on you. Once you're billed on a Time-of-Use basis, depending how and when you use electricity, you may pay a bit more or less or see very little difference. With Smart Meters, those who work to conserve and shift their usage to off-peak, weekends or holidays may benefit the most. Currently those customers see no pricing advantage no matter what time of the day they use power.

+ return to top

What are some examples of how I can save energy with a smart meter?

Shift your electricity usage to periods when the prices are lower

  • Do laundry on weekends and wash in cold water
  • Turn the dishwasher on after 7 p.m. and select the Economy setting and air dry cycle

Lower your electricity usage during periods when the prices are higher

  • Set the air-conditioning a few degrees warmer during the afternoon
  • Turn appliances such as the computer, radio and TV off when they're not in use
  • Most common but sometimes forgotten, turn lights off when not in use

+ return to top

Will everyone get a smart meter?

As an initiative of the province of Ontario, all homes and businesses will be equipped with smart meters by 2010. Smart meters will be standard province-wide.

+ return to top

Will I receive a smart meter if I'm currently with, or moving to, a retailer? Will I pay Time-of-Use prices?

Yes, you'll receive a smart meter. Your electricity rates, however, will be determined by the terms and conditions of the contract you choose to sign.

+ return to top

How are smart meters being introduced?

Smart meters will be installed at homes where the existing meter needs to be upgraded. The goal is that everyone in Ontario will have one by December 31, 2010.

+ return to top

Are smart meters just for residential customers or will businesses get them too?

Residential and business customers will both have smart meters. Many businesses already have smart meters.

+ return to top

I live in an apartment/condo, will I have one?

Yes, if you have an individually metered apartment or condominium (i.e. you receive a bill for electricity from Toronto Hydro).

+ return to top

Are smart meters the same as load management (peaksaver®) devices?

No. Load management uses a peaksaver switch that is attached to your air conditioning, electric water heater, and pool pump. The control switch interrupts power for brief periods of time to reduce the amount of electricity being used during provincial peak demand periods.

+ return to top

Will I be able to see the Time-of-Use (TOU) rates or my hourly consumption data on my meter?

No, TOU rates and consumption data do not appear on the meter. Your smart meter will show total consumption, just as the old meter. You will, however, have access to your meter data up to the previous day's data via the internet.

+ return to top


TOU RATES

What are Time-of-Use (TOU) rates?

Time-of-use rates refer to electricity prices, which vary based on when electricity is used. That includes by time of day, by day of week (weekdays versus weekend), and by season (winter or summer).

TOU rates better reflects the way the electricity market works. Electricity prices rise and fall over the course of the day, and tend to drop overnight and on weekends, based on the amount of supply available and our levels of demand.

+ return to top

What are the benefits of TOU rates?

With the ability to measure when electricity is used, different prices can apply at different times of the day. With TOU rates, you'll have a new way to manage your electricity use and your bills and shifting some electricity to times of the day when rates are lower will save you money.

+ return to top

TOU sounds complicated.

It's true that, at first, you'll need to be more aware of how and when you use energy, but over time, it will simply become a habit. Smart metering will give you better information and a tool to help you make informed decisions about your electrical usage. Once you review this information on the internet through the TOU portal, you'll be able to develop the best strategies for you.

+ return to top

I'm a Senior, Person with a Disability, and/or Stay-at-Home Parent who is home during weekdays. Will I be disadvantaged by TOU prices?

Time-of-Use prices have not been designed to penalize those customers who, for various reasons may have difficulty shifting consumption or are using a very small amount of power. Testing and piloting under time-of-use pricing to date has shown that for most customers, if they do not change their behaviour, then they will pay about the same price for electricity that they did under the current tiered pricing model.

This is due in part to the fact that there are over 3 times as many off-peak hours (93) as there are on-peak (30) in a given week. In other words, for every hour that your fridge is running on-peak, there are three off-peak hours when you're paying significantly less than the current tiered rates.

In this way, the time-of-use prices tend to off-set one another so that customers are not penalized by this rate but are still given incentives to shift some of their peak consumption if they are able.

+ return to top

I run a business that's open mostly in peak and mid-peak times. Won't these rates cost me more?

TOU rates better reflect what it actually costs to provide electricity at various times of the day, so to the extent that you can shift some electricity usage to off-peak time, you'll save. Many businesses can also reduce their electricity bill through conservation and improved energy efficiency.

+ return to top

How do I make all this work for me?

If you are a small business with a smart meter, you can view your electricity consumption via the TOU portal.

+ return to top

When will I be moved over to TOU pricing?

Toronto Hydro will notify you in advance prior to moving you over to the new TOU pricing structure.

+ return to top


Note: Electricity prices change every six months (May and November).


 


QUICK LINKS

For detailed information on current TOU pricing, visit the Ontario Energy Board.

To learn more about Smart Meters and TOU rates visit Smart Meters Ontario or the Independent Electricity System Operator.