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An electricity meter, electric meter, electrical meter, or energy meter is a device that measures the amount of electric energyconsumed by a residence, a business, or an electrically powered device.
Electric utilities use electric meters installed at customers' premises to measure electric energy delivered to their customers for billing purposes. They are typically calibrated in billing units, the most common one being the kilowatt hour [kWh]. They are usually read once each billing period.
When energy savings during certain periods are desired, some meters may measure demand, the maximum use of power in some interval. "Time of day" metering allows electric rates to be changed during a day, to record usage during peak high-cost periods and off-peak, lower-cost, periods. Also, in some areas meters have relays for demand response load shedding during peak load periods.
TYPES OF METERS
The most common type of electricity meter is the electromechanical induction watt-hour meter.
The electromechanical induction meter operates by counting the revolutions of a non-magnetic, but electrically conductive, metal disc which is made to rotate at a speed proportional to the power passing through the meter. The number of revolutions is thus proportional to the energy usage. The voltage coil consumes a small and relatively constant amount of power, typically around 2 watts which is not registered on the meter. The current coil similarly consumes a small amount of power in proportion to the square of the current flowing through it, typically up to a couple of watts at full load, which is registered on the meter.
Electronic meters display the energy used on an LCD or LED display, and some can also transmit readings to remote places. In addition to measuring energy used, electronic meters can also record other parameters of the load and supply such as instantaneous and maximum rate of usage demands, voltages, power factor and reactive power used etc. They can also support time-of-day billing, for example, recording the amount of energy used during on-peak and off-peak hours.
Multiple tariff (variable rate)
Electricity retailers may wish to charge customers different tariffs at different times of the day to better reflect the costs of generation and transmission. Since it is typically not cost effective to store significant amounts of electricity during a period of low demand for use during a period of high demand, costs will vary significantly depending on the time of day. Low cost generation capacity (baseload) such as nuclear can take many hours to start, meaning a surplus in times of low demand, whereas high cost but flexible generating capacity (such as gas turbines) must be kept available to respond at a moment's notice (spinning reserve) to peak demand, perhaps being used for a few minutes per day, which is very expensive.
Some multiple tariff meters use different tariffs for different amounts of demand. These are usually industrial meters.
Domestic variable-rate meters generally permit two to three tariffs ("peak", "off-peak" and "shoulder") and in such installations a simple electromechanical time switch may be used. Historically, these have often been used in conjunction with electrical storage heaters or hot water storage systems.
Multiple tariffs are made easier by time of use (TOU) meters which incorporate or are connected to a time switch and which have multiple registers.
Switching between the tariffs may happen via ripple control, or via a radio-activated switch. In principle, a sealed time switch can also be used, but is considered more vulnerable to tampering to obtain cheaper electricity.
Large commercial and industrial premises may use electronic meters which record power usage in blocks of half an hour or less. This is because most electricity grids have demand surges throughout the day, and the power company may wish to give price incentives to large customers to reduce demand at these times. These demand surges often correspond to meal times or, famously, to advertisements interrupting popular television programmes.
Appliance energy meters
Plug in electricity meters (or "Plug load" meters) measure energy used by individual appliances. There are a variety of models available on the market today but they all work on the same basic principle. The meter is plugged into an outlet, and the appliance to be measured is plugged into the meter. Such meters can help in energy conservation by identifying major energy users, or devices that consume excessive standby power. Web resources can also be used, if an estimate of the power consumption is enough for the research purposes. A power meter can often be borrowed from the local power authorities or a local public library.
In-home energy use displays
A potentially powerful means to reduce household energy consumption is to provide convenient real-time feedback to users so they can change their energy using behavior. Recently, low-cost energy feedback displays have become available. A study using a consumer-readable meter in 500 Ontario homes by Hydro One showed an average 6.5% drop in total electricity use when compared with a similarly sized control group. Hydro One subsequently offered free power monitors to 30,000 customers based on the success of the pilot. Projects such as Google PowerMeter, take information from a smart meter and make it more readily available to users to help encourage conservation.