San Antonio smart grid: What to expect from our smart meter installation

Perhaps you’ve received a letter or gotten an automated phone call, letting you know that CPS Energy will soon be in your neighborhood to install smart meters.

Or maybe you’ve heard about the coming smart grid and you’re just curious what it’s all about.

Either way, we’ve got a host of information for you right here, because today, Aug. 18, 2014 marks the first day we’re installing our new smart meters. We want you to know what to expect from the install process, what your new smart meter will do, and how the smart grid will benefit you.

But first, a little background.

CPS Energy’s Smart Grid Initiative is a $290 million upgrade to our community’s electrical system that will increase electric and gas reliability, boost
efficiency, better integrate renewable sources of power into the grid, reduce emissions, increase customer privacy and give you more control over the energy you buy.

As part of that effort, we’ll be installing about 740,000 new electric meters, and adding a smart module to roughly 340,000 existing gas meters — basically upgrading every customer’s connection to the smart grid.

Calling something smart — like that fancy phone in your pocket or purse — is basically shorthand for the Internet-like communication capabilities so many devices now possess. A smart grid allows for automated, remote two-way communication between CPS Energy and the smart meters on customer homes and businesses.

The areas in pink will be the first to get smart meters. in 2015, we'll begin on the area in blue.
The areas in pink will be the first to get smart meters. In 2015, we’ll tackle the area in blue.

That means no more sending a meter reader tromping into each and every customer’s yard, manually recording the spinning dials on the mechanical meter once a month. The smart meter will wirelessly send your energy use data to CPS Energy several times a day through the a communications network, the foundation of the smart grid.

(And please don’t worry — meter readers aren’t losing their jobs. We’re retraining those who are interested, while others will simply retire on schedule.)

Starting in 2015, that energy use data will also be available to you, the customer, through a secure online web page that will let you see and track your use as recently as the previous day. And that puts the power — cough cough, pun intended — in your hands.

Imagine being able to review your bill at any time during your billing cycle. This gives you the ability to better manage the energy you buy and decide whether or not to leave a light on or adjust your thermostat.

It also means you won’t have to call us when your power goes out. The smart grid will include equipment that will instantly detect outages, and in some cases, we’ll be able to resolve them remotely.

So those are some of the benefits.  You can browse our FAQ sheet for more information.   Now, on to the installation process.

Customers will receive a letter roughly a month before installation, letting you know we’re coming soon. (“We” means our subcontractor Corix Utilities, a great company which has already installed more than 10 million meters nationwide. Read about our other excellent partners, Silver Spring Networks and Landis+Gyr.)

Check out this video of a typical installation:

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About a week before your installation, you should receive an automated phone call. The good news: you don’t have to be home. But we do ask that you make sure we can get to our meter. That means unlock your gate and secure your pets.

When Corix arrives, they’ll knock on your door to let you know they’re there to swap your old meter for a smart meter. Then they’ll pull off the old meter and inspect the meter base, also known as the meter can, which is attached to your house.

(Image) This is what our installer will leave hanging on your door after a successful smart meter installation. Awesome!
This is what our installer will leave hanging on your door after a successful smart meter installation. Awesome!

This part is important. Installers will be looking for loose connections, corrosion or other concerns. They’ll also use a special tool called a “feeler gauge” to make sure the meter sockets are nice and tight for the new meter’s prongs.

If there are any concerns about the meter base, the installation will be halted. In some cases, the installer can correct minor issues right there. In others, we might need to do additional work, and in some rare cases, we might need to the homeowner to contact a licensed electrician.

Ninety-eight percent of the time, after a successful inspection, the new meter will be plugged in, tested, and then safely secured. And that’s it. The installers will leave a door hanger letting you know the installation was successful, and move on to the next home.

The whole process only takes about 15 minutes.

If you have natural gas, the smart module will be added within a couple of weeks of your smart meter installation — always within the same billing cycle.

We’re starting installation in these four areas of San Antonio.  In 2015, we’ll start on other neighborhoods within the Loop 410 area. When all that’s complete, we’ll fan out through suburban cities until every customer is upgraded, by 2018.


Smart grid canopy installation under way

Here comes the smart grid

CPS Energy kicks off smart grid modernization with Silver Spring Networks and Landis+Gyr

Lower RF than your microwave: San Antonio smart meter findings in line with nationalresearch

CPS Energy pilot meter program part of larger effort to modernize aging electrical grid

Tracy Idell Hamilton

Tracy Idell Hamilton was part of the Corporate Communications team at CPS Energy.