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One of the easiest ways to understand how a smart meter works is to compare it to the traditional electromechanical meter. Electromechanical meters had mechanical parts that spun as electricity was consumed in the premise; they portrayed usage readout on small dials that a utility meter reader read while on the property of your home or business. This reading then translated into your bill. Compare this to an advanced digital or "smart" meter. Smart meters track your consumption digitally - with no moving parts - and then use a secure radio frequency band to communicate directly with FPL through intelligent devices installed on the electrical grid.
Meter readings are done remotely. This energy usage information isalso available to customers online so they can more closely monitor and manage their energy use. Monthly, daily and hourly usage is available to customers, providing a more complete picture of electric consumption, whereas in the past customers could view only their monthly usage.
This technology is Internet Protocol (IP) based RF mesh. The RF capability means the meters communicate through radio frequency. Each meter is equipped with a full two-way 900 MHz radio transmitter that sends and receives information to an access point which is also radio-equipped. The access point is the collection point for the meter information that is sent back into an FPL system. Each access point, which is typically mounted on a power pole, is the size of a shoe box and can handle communications to thousands of meters. New RF mesh technology expands the ability of a meter to communicate to an access point by allowing the signal to be relayed off of other meters to find a path and maintain the connection required for communications.
FPL has industry-leading best practices to ensure the accuracy of its meters. Every new smart meter that has been installed has been tested multiple times for accuracy. Here's how the testing works:
- Before the meters are shipped to FPL, the manufacturer, GE, performs accuracy testing on 100 percent of the meters to ensure that they meet FPL's requirements for an accuracy variation of +/- 0.5 percent. This tolerance exceeds the requirements of the Florida Administrative Code and conforms to the requirements of the American National Standards Institute, an agency that guides norms and guidelines that impact businesses in every sector, including energy. The test results for each meter are maintained at FPL.
- In addition, GE, the meter manufacturer, also performs "end of line" sample testing, during which a sampling of meters from each production run is tested for full functionality. FPL's Meter Technology Center receives a Quality Certificate for each shipment attesting to a successful completion of the end-of-line sample test.
- Once meters reach FPL, we pull pallets of meters at random from periodic shipments for additional accuracy testing at FPL's Meter Technology Center.
In addition, a sample of meters are randomly selected every week from shipments we receive from GE, the manufacturer, and sent to Austin International, an independent third party testing firm, for further testing.
In addition, FPL has a standard meter test plan filed with the Public Service Commission (PSC) detailing how meter accuracy will be verified on all types of meters on an annual basis. These include:
- An in-service sampling program for all meter types, which begins after the meters have been in-service for one year.
- Testing/investigation at our Meter Technology Center of any meter that is removed from service for unsatisfactory performance.
The new smart meters are electronic, and they have replaced the old meters that operated with electro-mechanical parts. Just as with any other mechanical component, the wear and tear caused some mechanical meters to slow down as they aged and perhaps under-registered the amount of electricity that a customer used. The electronic meters use no moving parts to calculate power consumption.
The smart meter does not increase the amount of electricity you use. It is the amount of electricity you use that determines the amount of your monthly bill. It is important to note that electricity use does vary significantly throughout the year, with weather as the largest contributing factor. If you would like to reduce your energy costs, FPL has a variety of tips and programs that can help you.
The smart meter gives you more information about your energy usage, and thus allows you to use this information to make choices that could save you money. But ultimately it's the choices you make that determine how much electricity you use, and consequently, how much you're billed.
Do I have to pay for the cost for electricity needed by the meter to transmit usage information to FPL?
No. There are essentially two "sides" of the meter – the source side, which is the utility side, and the demand side, which is the home and business side that is used to calculate your bill. The power used to drive the meter and communicate with FPL is obtained from the source side of the meter and thus is not registered on the display, nor charged to the customer.
Yes. FPL considers the safe delivery of electrical service our paramount priority. This includes the protection of our networks and customer data. FPL's standards are much stricter than the current industry standards, and we are taking a very methodical approach to our rollout of smart meters. As part of our standard methodology, we conduct small-scale pilot projects, and we bring in third party experts to review and test our systems. We use multiple third parties in order to get the benefit of the best experts in the industry. We are also working very closely with our strategic partners, including Cisco Systems and GE, to apply best practices developed from securing other critical infrastructures. In addition, FPL has worked with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, National Institute of Standards and Technology, the Edison Electric Institute, and the Utilities Communications Association International Users Group to ensure that proper security measures are part of any deployment of smart meters.
Smart meters record your electricity use digitally and use small, low-power radios to send the information securely to FPL. This makes it possible for us to deliver a variety of benefits to our customers, including greater reliability and more information that enables you to have more control over your energy bills. Radio frequency (RF) is a term used to describe both man-made and naturally-occurring energy associated with electromagnetic waveforms in the range of about 30 kHz to 300 GHz. Ambient RF comes from many sources used every day. Some common sources of RF are:
- Cellular phone transmissions
- TV over-the-air broadcast
- Wireless computer networks
- AM/FM radio stations
- HAM radios
- Satellite transmissions
- Over-the-air communication services (police, walkie-talkies, pagers, CB radios)
For more, see our radio frequency information.
Customers without Internet access at home can sign in securely to FPL's website from their local public library or other locations that offer free Internet access. Also, customers can call 1-800-226-3545 to speak to a customer service representative who will be able to review their usage over the phone or answer specific questions.