Date: 2008-09-23 12:07:00
power outage
A few weeks ago our electricity supplier sent us a letter saying that they were rolling out new electric meters. These new meters are remotely readable in real time, so they no longer have to have a meter reader come round to read it.

Installing the new meter would require that they shut off the mains power for up to an hour while they installed the new meter. They didn't give a specific timeframe for this, just "oh, sometime in the next few months". So I've made sure that I don't have anything running on my home server that would be adversely affected by an unscheduled power outage. But that's really all I could do.

As it turns out, I got a cold or something this week and am home from work. A few minutes ago some guys knocked on the door to let me know that they were installing the new meter today! So I had a chance to gracefully shut down the machines here.

I also had a chance to clone the git repositories for stuff I was working on at that moment, so I can continue to work on code on my laptop without missing a beat.

Looks like they're done now, the power is back on.
Austin Energy is planning to replace all meters with that new style too. They haven't yet gotten to my neighborhood yet, but the entire city is supposed to get converted over in the next couple of years.
I'm wondering whether I'll be able to get live updates on power usage from their web site or something. I'd like to be able to graph power usage rate by hour or something.
I think Austin Energy indicated that they'd be able to eventually offer website graphs of at least your daily usage history.

Austin Energy did indicate that the new meters would allow them to charge variable rates (higher rates during peak usage times of the day). So that means that the meter is sending back data multiple times per day, or it's able to collect the data into buckets and transmit it back in bulk. Either way, they would have to have finer than daily resolution.

Do you know anything about the transmission method? Maybe they use RF signals that leak enough to be passively monitored.
The new meter is from arcinnovations which is a subsidiary of Meridian (my electric company). Their How it Works video indicates that is uses wireless communication, either "cellular, satellite, or proprietary". The meter itself is mounted inside a closed metal box, so I'm not sure how they're going to effectively get wireless in and out of that. I wonder whether they use technology similar to BPL for suburban residential communications.
[info]edm : Remote meters
As I understand it most of those systems use signalling over the power lines for the immediate area (presumably up to the next "pig iron" power transformer) to pool the results, and then whatever backhaul is appropriate for the area. Since their required data rate is measured in bits per hour, it's a much simpler problem than BPL.

I'm interested they're finally rolling them out. About 5 years ago I had a "remote meter" installed in my house (Wellington) when they first offered them, so I didn't have to give the power company keys to my house. But it turned out to be a pair of displays on my house, one inside on the power board, and another outside the front door for the meter reader to look out. Which solved they "need a key" problem (give or take the meter readers not understanding they didn't need one) but wasn't as future tech as I'd hoped :-(

When we were in the original Cowhouse I remember them replacing our analog, spinning-wheel meter with an electronic one one morning. Oddly enough, I also seem to remember that they reverted back to another analog one several months later...
were we with Austin Energy there, or was it another utility company?
Austin energy.
That was with Austin Energy.
Actually informing a customer before shutting off their electricity? Madness! If more companies started worrying about such new-fangled "customer service" nonsense, there would be increased customer satisfaction and fewer complaints, and who wants that?
Sure, but a three-month install window? Even the cable company beats that with a 5-hour window!
[info]edm : Notice of power off
The electricity companies in New Zealand are a little gun shy of shutting off the power without warning, after last year when someone died when the power was shut off due to non payment (after about three months of final demands and no payments) leaving them without power to their oxygen machine. Which ended up being a big public story, and sufficiently controversial that the power companies started asking who had important powered medical equipment in their house, etc. (Me, I think I'd have put a priority on paying the electricity bill if my life depended on it, and probably had another source of power too...)

Uh... UPS?
That would work too, but the power is extremely stable here (no thunderstorms to speak of) and I haven't felt the need for one.
Greg Hewgill <>