Do Smart Meters Need To Be Plugged In? Power Consumption Tips

Do Smart Meters Need To Be Plugged In

Upgrading your current utility meter to a smart meter can save time, money, and energy.

But having to plug in a meter or related equipment that draws power might add a utility cost, potentially negating the savings smart meter manufacturers and utility companies promote. 

Smart meters do not need to be plugged in because they connect to the home’s main power supply or use a manufacturer-installed battery. They use minimal energy that the utility company provides.  

This article will look at how smart meters are powered and what that means for customer energy use. We will also see smart meter energy monitor options and who foots the bill to run all the equipment.

How Are Smart Meters Powered?

To ensure accuracy—and to avoid over-or under-charging—smart meters need an uninterrupted energy source.

Manufacturers build smart meters with sealed and protected power connections to reduce user error and tampering.

Smart meters are powered in one of two ways, depending on the specific utility the meter measures: direct power through the customer’s main power supply or from a pre-installed and sealed battery. 

Customer Main Power

Smart meters used for electricity attach to the customer’s main power source at the site of the old meter.

They do not require plugging in or battery power.

The meters vary in make and model, but the utility company supplies the smart meter.

Customers can opt out of using a smart meter, but the energy companies choose and install the meters themselves.

Utility providers send professional technicians to remove the old meter and replace it with the smart meter.

The technician hard-wires the new meter into the customer’s power mains. 

The meter receives its full energy requirement from the provider.

In the event of a power failure, the smart meter shuts off (unless it has a built-in backup battery), but its internal memory retains the data.

Battery Power

Heater, water, and gas smart meters rely on internal battery power.

Smart meter manufacturers install the batteries during production, lasting between ten and twenty years. 

When the batteries fail, the customer’s utility provider arranges for a technician to service the meters and install new batteries.

Battery-powered smart meters do not shut off during power failures.

Do Customers Pay To Power Smart Meters?

If the smart meter for electricity receives power through the customer’s main supply, then it seems that this impacts how much the utility provider charges the customer.

Who is paying for the power?

Customers do not pay to power smart meters.

According to Shell Energy, smart meters use very low power levels, and the customer does not foot the bill.

The utility company assumes the cost of the minimal power draw required to run the meters. 

As with traditional meters, smart meters measure the electricity flow increase as the customer uses electricity.

Smart meters do not measure—and thus do not report to the utility provider—the energy the meters themselves use.

Does a Smart Meter Use My WiFi?

Smart meters do not need to use customer WiFi to send data to the utility company or perform any other task. Instead, they utilize a secure and private network connection with the provider. 

A separate private network means that smart meters only read usage and send utility data; they can neither see nor share personal information. 

What Is a Smart Meter In-Home Display?

An In-Home Display (IHD) is a small energy monitor plugged into an outlet inside the home, showing the energy usage of one or more utilities. IHDs come with smart meters at no additional cost, and utility providers do not require customers to own or use them. 

The IHD provides customers with easy-to-read, real-time utility usage data, enabling users to adjust their power consumption.

The display shows current and projected usage, helping consumers shift on the fly or schedule future use. 

Since the display plugs into an outlet, it runs off the customer’s power, so its energy use contributes to the total electrical draw on the home; however, like smart meters, the IHD uses minimal energy, costing only around one dollar per year to power.

Can I Choose My In-Home Display?

You can choose your in-home display. Utility providers offer IHDs at no additional cost, but customers are not required to use the provider’s display.

The only required devices are the smart meters. 

Consumers wanting energy monitors to match their lifestyle can find options on Amazon like the Emporia Vue Energy Monitor.

The Vue monitor uses clamp-on sensors to connect straight into the home circuit panel.

Users connect to the Vue via mobile or desktop app to read usage.

To expand the monitor’s abilities, customers can order the Emporia Vue bundle with 16 circuit-level sensors attached to dedicated circuits.

The Sense Energy Monitor – available on Amazon – provides real-time energy usage and uses machine learning to tell you which devices or appliances use more power and when allowing you to customize usage beyond the obvious.

The Sense comes with two dedicated circuit sensors to monitor energy use by larger appliances and communicates via an app. 

Since installation requires clamping the energy monitors into the circuit panel, this creates the possibility of electrocution.

Energy monitor manufacturers stress that certified professionals must perform the energy monitor installations.

Does an In-Home Display Use My WiFi?

In-Home Displays do not need WiFi to work; however, IHDs do need to use WiFi if they require software updates or if a customer wants to pair their display with another device or application. They also use a private connection to receive data from the smart meter.

Customer-supplied IHDs or energy monitors require WiFi connections to communicate between the monitor and the applications. As long as the energy monitor is in use, 

Can I Turn Off My Smart Meter?

Smart meter design and installation preclude the ability of users to manually turn them off. Only power failure can turn the meter off, and only restoration of power can turn it back on. 

In-Home Displays use plug-in power inside the home, so customers can unplug or shut off those devices if they wish.

Energy monitors run on the home’s circuit panel power, and installation and removal require a certified professional.

Do Smart Meters Need To Be Plugged In? Final Thoughts

Since smart meters use your home’s primary power supply, they do not need to be plugged in.

Additionally, if they come with a battery, they won’t need plugging in.

These devices use minimal amounts of energy to run and the customer doesn’t need to pay extra for the power it uses. 

Nelson Barbosa

I'm an engineer in love with smart home tech. On my website, I share useful tips and tricks to help my readers get the most of their devices and make their lives simpler by adding just a drop of technology in everyday routines!

Recent Posts