Are Electronic Energy Meters Making People Pay too Much for Electricity?

Fagjun | Published 2017-03-05 02:02

Researchers have found that some electronic energy meters are giving false readings. These readings can charge people amounts almost six times their actual electricity consumption.

The University of Twente and the Amsterdam University of Applied Science conducted a study on the accuracy of electronic meters. Most adults aren't strangers to electricity bills, but exorbitant fees are something to worry about. In the Netherlands, rumors are rife that some electronic meters give incredibly high readings to consumers.

Frank Leferink, a professor at the University of Twente, decided to find out if there was any truth to these rumors. He and his colleagues discovered something quite disturbing about these electronic meters.

582% Increase

The researchers tested nine electronic energy meters, manufactured between 2004 to 2014, to see if their readings were accurate. The team connected these meters to a number of different electronic appliances through an electronic switchboard. They then compared the appliances' actual consumption of electricity with the electronic meters' readings.

The team discovered that five of the nine meters they tested generated readings much higher than the actual consumption. On some occasions, the meters even gave readings 582% higher than what they should be giving. If the faulty meters had been installed on a household, the residents would have had to pay almost up to six times what they actually owe.

Two of the meters in the experiment, meanwhile, gave readings 30% lower than actual consumption.

While the setup was an experiment, the researchers made sure to replicate household electricity consumption as closely as possible. They used appliances like heaters, dimmers, and both energy-saving and LED light bulbs. In the course of the experiment, they found that the meters were the most inaccurate when they were connected to dimmers and the two types of light bulbs. However, the researchers claimed that the appliance combinations they used were common in typical Dutch households. Exceptional circumstances, therefore, weren't the reason behind the faulty readings in the experiment.

The Problem with Electronic Energy Meters

Ultimately, the researchers concluded that the meters had trouble dealing with energy-saving appliances, and that the meters' design was faulty.

This is unfortunate, since more and more households are moving towards more energy efficient electronics. The electricity these electronics consume loses its perfect waveform and becomes erratic, thus giving the meters trouble. Designers of electronic meters might not have taken the shift to energy-saving electronics into account.

The team had words of advice to anyone dealing with electric meters and what may be false electricity consumption readings. It's best to deal with problems like this by having a certified inspector test the meter. Unfortunately, consumers still have to pay their bills if the inspector finds the meter to be in working order. However, what consumers need to remember is that these tests do not account for the effects of energy-saving electronics. Consumers can then send a complaint to the power grid operator through their meter supplier. It's a time-consuming process, but it's one that may be worth it. Eventually, electronic energy meters may be able to catch up with energy-saving household appliances.

Hey! Where are you going?? Subscribe!

Get weekly science updates in your inbox!