Most of the homes and buildings in the US use electric meters to measure total energy consumption. Typically we see them as black rotating discs that spin once every half hour or so (when electricity is being used). There have been reported cases where those meters were not working properly and thus giving wrong bills to consumers.
For a customer to be sure that the meter reading is accurate, they need to hire an electrician who will come and perform a manual read of the meter. This can be done by simply parking outside your house for a couple of hours.
Electricians are supposed to take 6 separate readings over 6 different periods. This process takes about 30 minutes or so depending on how many appliances are plugged in at the moment (each appliance contributes to energy consumption).
The readings should not vary more than ±10%. If you notice that there is a 10% variance in your readings, then chances are that you have a faulty meter.
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How do I tell if my electric company has recently changed my meter?
One way of telling if your electric company just installed a new meter on your home or building is by looking at your bill (and compare with previous bills). If you notice a dramatic increase in electricity consumption starting from the month where a new meter was installed, then there is a chance that your new meter is faulty.
How to measure my electric usage?
Measuring how much energy do you use on daily basis can easily be done by using the Kill A Watt appliance. This simple and cost-effective device allows you to monitor how many kWh’s each of the appliances that are plugged into it uses over time.
You can simply unplug those devices, plug them into Kill A Watt and see how much they consume on daily basis. That way you will be able to estimate the total energy consumption of the entire household, which will help with monitoring if the new electric meter installed is giving accurate readings.
If the new electric meter is faulty, there is a chance that it can be calibrated and start working properly. Typically this requires hiring an electrician who will perform calibration on your electric meter.
The cost of having your electric meter calibrated typically varies from $100 to $150 depending on the difficulty of calibration. There have been cases where calibration involved climbing up on the roof, so in those cases, additional charges apply.
In my case, I had to go through 4 separate readings with each varying by more than 10% before I decided to have my electric meter calibrated. If you continue monitoring your energy consumption via Kill A Watt device, then sooner or later you should notice that there is no longer any variance between the readings.
Once that happens you know that your electric meter is now working properly and giving accurate readings.
What if your electric meter continues to show variance, should you replace it?
In most cases, calibration of the faulty electric meter does solve the issue, but it can be a time-consuming and frustrating process (at least in my case). If you continue to notice a 10%+ variance between your readings even after having your electric meter calibrated, then chances are that you will need to purchase a new one (which typically costs $300-400 depending on type and manufacturer).
I hope this article helped with explaining how do you know if the electrical meter at home or building is faulty. I also hope that information presented here will help with solving the problem for those who were unfortunate enough not to notice the variance between readings for a longer period.
Q: Can I use the Kill A Watt device to measure my energy consumption at other locations (apartment, office building, etc.)?
A: Yes that is possible. The only requirement here is that your location requires the electric company to install a new meter (which typically happens during renovation).
Since the initial installation of the meter often involves manual read, there is a high chance that the new electric meter installed might be faulty. Consequently, you should monitor your energy consumption for several months and make sure it’s accurate before having any type of appliance or devices plugged in (if they were not there yet).
Q: Does calibration of the faulty electric meter fix the issue permanently?
A: Unfortunately no, each time you perform calibration it resets all settings on the meter and it takes several days for the calibration to take effect. So even if it does fix the issue, there is still a chance that you will have to go through this process again in the future.
Q: How much money does having my electric meter calibrated cost?
A: The cost of having your electric meter calibrated typically varies from $100-150 depending on the difficulty of calibration (which depends on type and manufacturer).
Q: My new electric meter keeps fluctuating between readings what should I do?
A: If you continue monitoring your energy consumption via Kill A Watt device, then sooner or later you should notice that there is no longer any variance between the readings. Once that happens you know that your electric meter is now working properly and giving accurate readings.