What Does a Smart Meter Look Like?

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I get this question all the time…

How do I know if I have a smart meter?

So I figured it’s about time to stop answering every email individually and have an in-depth article that answers any questions you may have.

We’ll talk about what smart meters look like, how to definitively identify them, how they work, etc.

So let’s go…

What Is a Smart Meter?

A smart utility meter is not just a digital meter. It is a meter that’s set up to send information directly to the utility company so that they don’t have to send a meter person to your home to read the meter.

Some companies provide digital meters that aren’t smart, BUT all smart meters are digital. 

How Do Smart Meters Communicate?

Smart meters communicate electronically (and wirelessly) with the utility company through a process known as automated meter reading, or AMR.

This is normally a one-way, meter-to-utility company type of communication. It’s supposedly very accurate and a fast type of communication that allows for important information to get to the utility company quickly. 

The data includes not only the usage amount for the customer but also aspects such as notifications of power outages and monitoring of the general quality of power being used. 

If there is an outage, the smart meter lets the utility company know immediately so that something can be done about it.

Now…those are the “advantages.”

But the factor that allows wireless communication is radio waves, and the energy emitted during transmission is known as radio frequency (RF) radiation – and it’s problematic

Are All Digital Meters Smart Meters?

Not necessarily.

While smart meters are always digital meters, not every digital meter is smart.

Smart meters have the distinction of being able to communicate directly with the utility company about power usage, outages, and in the case of smart meters that have two-way communication capabilities, information on billing, sales of new equipment, and high-usage alerts, among others. 

A Few Key Differences Between Smart Meters and Digital Meters

If the meter has wireless components, it is a smart meter. Some common types on the market today include:

  • AMI (advanced metering infrastructure)
  • AMR (automatic meter reading)
  • PLC (power line communication)
  • “Radio off” digital meters (more rare, but you’re lucky if you have this kind)

If your utility company has recently installed or “upgraded” you to a new meter without your consent, look for any of the above abbreviations, along with an FCC ID (usually beneath a bar code). 

That’s a telltale sign that it’s smart. 

But they may not have a visible bar code/ID like this one and still be smart:

If that’s the case, then you need to look up the manufacturer and either call or download their data sheet if it’s available online and look for the clue words (more on that below).

What an Analog Meter Looks Like and How It Differs From a Smart Meter

Analog meters, or electromechanical meters, usually have five small clock-like instruments on them that each have dials that spin and turn.

They may have a glass casing and you are therefore able to see the dials spinning as you look into the meter itself. 

Here’s an example:

Analog meters often have other numbers as well but they are usually very tiny and are numbers that only the utility company knows how to read. 

Smart meters, on the other hand, are always digital as previously mentioned, and very easy to read. 

One word of caution: 

Note that just because the word “smart” isn’t actually seen on the meter doesn’t mean that it isn’t a smart meter.

If it’s a digital meter, you can automatically be suspicious of it and go ahead and assume that it is – as non-smart digital meters are rare. 

Complaints About Smart Meters

More and more people are learning about the many dangers of smart meters, the main one being the high amounts of radio frequencies (RFs) they use to operate. 

Maybe you’ve heard of the risks associated with smartphone radiation? Smart meters utilize the same frequencies, and pulse periodically at even higher levels than cell phones.  

In fact, they emit low levels of radiation up to 14,000 times per day, every day of the year. This is why so many people are choosing to opt out of smart meters when offered this alternative by the utility company.

If you’re like so many and don’t have that option, here’s how to protect against smart meters.  

Besides the radiation issue, anything smart is easily hacked. Would you want information like when you’re home, when you’re showering, when you’re sleeping, etc to fall into the wrong hands? Yeah that’s a big NOPE.

Which brings me to my next point…

How to Get Rid of a Smart Meter

Getting rid of a smart meter can be difficult because they’re so much more convenient for utility companies. That’s why they’re “upgrading” to them all across the world without homeowner’s consent.

You can be certain power companies care much more about what’s convenient for them than your health, well-being, or education opinion. 

Ok, I’m ranting…back to business…

So there are a few things you can do:

Check with the utility company, ask them if they have an opt-out program, and take the option when you can. Keep in mind it usually comes with an added monthly fee to cover the cost of sending a meter reader to your home each month.

If you can’t opt out, voice your concerns with any official or representative who will listen and let them know how you feel about smart meters.

Contact the utility company and deny them permission to come onto your property to change out the meter.

Be there when the utility company arrives and tell them that they are not allowed to trespass on your property.

Most of all, don’t give up. This is the key to getting what you want in the end.

Still, I understand some people just don’t want to put up that kind of “fight,” so refer to my guide for how to shield your smart meter. 

SO…How Do I Know If I Have a Smart Meter? Here’s How.

If you don’t see a typical ‘digital clock’ type face but little round clocks/dials instead (like the ones pictured below), you probably have an analog meter. This one is an example of what they may look like in other countries:

If your meter is digital and has an FCC ID (followed by a string of numbers) printed somewhere on the meter’s face, it’s smart. 

Lastly, run an internet search for the manufacturer’s name listed on the meter’s face, along with the words “user manual” or “product information.” If you see terms like “radio frequency” or “wireless” anywhere in the manual or data sheet, it’s a smart meter. 

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