Advanced Meters FAQ

What are Advanced or ‘Smart’ Meters?

To use (and be billed for) utilities such as electricity, natural gas, or water, the amount you use must be measured. This is generally done with a meter. In the past, the data from the meters had to be read by a person. More recently, meters that automatically send usage information back to the product supplier have been used. These devices are called Advanced or ‘Smart’ meters.

How do Advanced Meters work?

Advanced Meters record the amount of the product (electricity, water, etc.) consumed over time. They differ from traditional utility meters in that they are electronic and can talk to a central computer system.

Advanced Meters talk to their central systems using radio frequency (RF) transmissions, based on a cell phone, pager, satellite, radio, power line (PLC), Wi-Fi, or Internet (TCP/IP) communication method. Internet and cell phone applications have become the preferred options because of their flexibility and ease of deployment.

For more detailed explanations and information regarding RF, visit the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) RF Safety FAQ page.

Are Advanced Meters safe and accurate?

Yes. Advanced Meters are safe and accurate. They are subject to strict manufacturing standards set by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). NWCPUD has a procedure to select and test meters before and after putting them in service to confirm that they operate correctly. In addition, Advanced Meters must meet the safety requirements and standards of the National Electric Safety Code (NESC). Public service commissions require independent certification proving that Advanced Meters are resistant to heat, voltage surges, and self-healing. Advanced Meters are installed and uninstalled only by trained professionals exercising standard safety precautions.

For more safety facts and common radio frequency (RF) exposure comparisons, check out this RF Fact Sheet (JPG) for more information.

Is there an ‘opt out’ alternative to the Advanced Meter installation?

No. NWCPUD does not allow any residential, industrial, commercial, or agricultural customer to refuse or ‘opt out’ of the advanced meter installation program. Installation of a smart meter is a condition of service to more accurately reflect rates and usage. This new data grid network will also assist our customers in gaining first-hand, informed control of their energy consumption throughout the year, increasing the opportunities to change energy-wasting behaviors or upgrade equipment based on the information gained from an advanced meter infrastructure. Any void or ‘hole’ in the new data grid network is not an acceptable condition for the success and proper functioning of the new system.

We value all input, comments, and suggestions from our customers. Please give us a call at (541) 296-2226, fill out our contact request form visit our Contact Us page, or attend a future board meeting. The NWCPUD board meets the first Tuesday of each month at 6 P.M.. in the utility office at 2345 River Road, The Dalles. The public is always welcome, and customers are urged to comment and get involved in decision-making that affects both the utility and the customer. Special meetings also are occasionally held; each meeting is announced in advance.

Does the radio frequency (RF) from Advanced Meters pose a health risk?

RF exposure comparison

This infographic compares common sources of RF exposure. Click on the picture above to enlarge the graphic in a new tab, or check out this RF Fact Sheet for more information.

RF emitted by these meters is well below the limits set by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and below the levels produced by other common household devices like cell phones, baby monitors, satellite TVs, and microwave ovens. You would have to be exposed to an Advanced Meter for 375 years to equal the RF emissions you get from using a cell phone for 15 minutes a day for one year.

The RF emitted by Advanced Meters is very low-field and intermittent. In fact, these meters only transmit for a few seconds out of every hour, totaling less than a minute a day. With more than 25,000 articles published on the topic over the last 30 years, scientific knowledge in this area is now more extensive than for most chemicals. An in-depth review of these scientific studies by the World Health Organization (WHO) revealed that the small amount of RF energy produced by Advanced Meters is not harmful to human health.

Will the communication system interfere with my home, business, or medical devices?

Advanced Meters should not adversely affect the stability or performance of home wireless networks. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulates all electronics to prevent one type of electronic equipment from interfering with other electronic and wireless devices that operate in the same frequency band.

Here is what the American Cancer Society website says about medical devices: “One concern expressed is that the radio frequency (RF) waves produced by smart meters might interfere with electronic medical devices such as a heart pacemaker. A study that examined the effect of smart meters on pacemakers and implantable defibrillators found that the smart meters did not interfere with these devices.” More information can be found by visiting the American Cancer Society Website FAQ page for Smart Meters page.

Will my new Advanced Meter make my bills higher?

Advanced Meters measure utility usage in exactly the same way as our previous analog meters. The new meters will continue to measure only the actual amount of service you use, and the meter itself will not cause your bills to increase or decrease. What’s more, our Advanced Meters have been tested under various conditions and show consistently accurate readings.

Will my account and usage information remain confidential?

NWCPUD’s system is, and will continue to be, in compliance with standards for cybersecurity and privacy, including standards set by the North American Electric Reliability Council (NERC) and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). Our systems also comply with federal and state regulations. Meters and the associated communications system are encrypted and equipped with security features to prevent unauthorized access.

In addition, NWCPUD adheres to strict policies and follows state laws that regulate the use of personal information gathered for business purposes, such as billing and customer service.