Understanding Your Bill

1. What is a Smart Meter?
A smart meter (also known as an advanced meter) is a digital meter that is installed and maintained by your local transmission and distribution utility (TDU). These meters can be read remotely and have two-way communication capability, which gives your TDU an ongoing picture of the electric system that will help them identify trouble spots and minimize the duration of power outages. Smart meters provide detailed information on your energy consumption that can be used to better manage your usage and potentially save you money. AEP, CenterPoint Energy, and Oncor Electric Delivery are deploying smart meters on a pre-defined schedule.

2. How do I know if I have a Smart Meter?
If your electric meter has been replaced since January 2009 with a digital meter, it is likely a smart meter.

3. Can I have my meter tested?
Yes, you may request to have your meter tested for free every four years. If the TDU replaces your meter, the four year clock starts over and you may request a free meter test for the new meter.

4. How much does a meter test cost if I have made a request to have my current meter tested in the past four years?
TDUs charge the following amounts for typical residential meters (self-contained single phase) (meter tests:

Oncor: $33.60 (This charge was $23.00 for tests prior to September 17, 2009)
CenterPoint: $45.00
AEP-Central: $111.00
AEP-North: $112.00

Meter test charges vary for three-phase meters and instrument-rated meters which are typically installed on non-residential premises.

5. If I previously paid for a test of my Smart Meter, when will I receive my money back for my meter test?
TDUs began reimbursing Retail Electric Providers on March 16, 2010, so you should be receiving a credit on your next bill or the following bill depending on the timing of your billing cycle.

6. Will I receive interest for the refund of the meter test charge?
No.

7. What if my old meter was read incorrectly when replacing it with the new Smart Meter?
Oncor is conducting a review of all customer records showing the last usage recorded from the traditional meter before it was exchanged for a new smart meter. If any errors are found, Oncor will correct this error [promptly] and notify the customer and the Retail Electric Provider serving that customer. CenterPoint and AEP have similar procedures in place.

8. Are all digital meters Smart Meters?
No. Oncor installed several hundred thousand digital meters in their service territory from 2006 to 2007. If your electric meter has been replaced since January 2009 with a digital meter, it is likely a smart meter.

9. How soon can my meter be tested?
TDUs typically test residential meters within 10 business days of receiving the request. However, due to the large number of requests, it may currently take TDUs longer to respond.

10. Can I have my old meter back?
Oncor, CenterPoint, and AEP are required to replace all mechanical meters with smart meters in accordance with their advanced metering deployment plans approved by the Public Utility commission of Texas. These meters can be read remotely and have two-way communication capability, which gives your TDU an ongoing picture of the electric system that will help them identify trouble spots and minimize the duration of power outages. Smart meters provide detailed information on your energy consumption that can be used to better manage your usage and potentially save you money. AEP, CenterPoint Energy, and Oncor Electric Delivery are deploying smart meters on a pre-defined schedule.

11. What tests are being performed to check the new meters?
All meters are tested prior to installation. Additionally, Oncor is doing the following:

  • Independent testing of a random statistical sample of smart meters in the Central Texas area
  • Side-by-side meter tests comparing smart meters to traditional meters for a certain number of customers
  • A review of all meter change records showing the last usage recorded from the traditional meter before if was exchanged for a new smart meter
  • A free meter test, at the customer's request, for every customer and every meter every four years

12. Who is performing the free meter tests?
The TDU.

13. Will the TDU let me know the results of my meter test?
Oncor will leave a door hanger notifying the customer if the meter passed or failed the test.

14. What do I do if I feel my meter is reading incorrectly?
Based on the information we know, your meter is likely accurate. Several factors have contributed to higher bills this winter (bullets provided by Oncor):

  • Extreme winter temperatures: North Texas has not seen a winter as long and as cold as the recent winter since 1983-84. These extremely cold temperatures, including very cold nights even when the days became milder, have caused some customers throughout the North Texas and Central Texas areas to use more electricity to heat their homes.
  • Inefficient Heaters: Some customers heat their homes using inefficient electric space heaters. Using strip heaters can often cause electric consumption to be greater than the amount used in Texas summers. Even more efficient sources of heating - such as heat pumps - have used supplemental heating elements (typically when the temperature is below 35 degrees) to keep up with heating demands.
  • Longer Billing Cycles: At year's end, billing cycles typically are longer (up to 35 days) due to the holidays. Given the lower temperatures, these extra billing days significantly impacted usage.

If you do not believe any of these factors contributed to your increased usage and still believe the meter is reading inaccurately, we can request that the TDU perform a meter test.


15. How many faulty smart meters have been found?
We do not have specific data but the TDUs report that they have found very few faulty smart meters to date.

16. My bill is much too low, if the meter is reading incorrectly will I be billed for a corrected amount later?
If the TDU sends the retail electric provider revised usage as a result of under-billing within 150 days of the original usage, the retail electric provider may re-bill your account for the corrected amount.