Smart meters can overbill by 582%


#1

Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2017/03/11/unaccountable-algorithms.html


#2

So…do I replace all my LED bulbs and dimmers and get a smart meter or do I stick with a meter which actually works?


#3

Most of the time, the meter belongs to the power company, so you don’t get a choice in the matter. When the power company decides to upgrade, you get whatever kind of meter they bought, with whatever inaccuracies it comes with.


#4

That is a very huge difference. I mean, too large to be accidental. This seems like it would HAVE to be intentional or gross incompetence.


#5

Uh-oh. I hope my mother-in-law doesn’t read BoingBoing. I had to talk her off the ledge when they installed these in her neighborhood a few years ago. She was convinced that the things emitted microwaves and were going to fry her brains. Unfortunately, she’s and my wife’s father have been spending a lot of time watching Fox News ever since, so I suspect the end result was the same.


#6

Proposed solution:

In addition to the smart meter, retain the old school “dumb” meter in the primary supply circuit.

Once a year, perform an audit by comparing the amounts each meter has measured.


#7

Even if this isn’t by design, someone at the power companies must have figured this out, reported it to an executive, and then gotten the response, “Wait, the measurement is off in our favor? Don’t say a goddam word about this to anyone.”


#8

Just wait till you get the kind that turn off your air conditioner at the power companies whim. Which will save them from spending bonus money on infrastructure be ecological something something.


#9

someone should get on the band wagon write a song that ties up the legal sides
I have no bright ideas


#10

So the takeaway being, go with the power company that uses Hall effect-based sensors?


#11

Well, I have a dumb meter on my house.

A few years ago I got a message I needed to send in the readings on the meter by a certain time or they would send someone to do it and charge me for it. So I didn’t do it because I was on vacation.
The next year I got a message I needed to send in the readings on the meter by a certain time etc. etc. same thing.
So they sent someone to read the meter. I was in Berlin, got an email I would be billed for basically $10,000 for more usage of electricity. Followed by a message some days after that it woudl be $15,000 (rough conversion between currencies going on in my head)
So I called them up and asked them why.
They tried to make me fill immoral for not having read my meters (turns out they never sent the person out to read the meter the first year so this was over two years). I was sarcastic and made fun of them which I’ve been told I’m rather good at.

They said they would look in to the matter. Got back to me some months later turned out I owed them a couple hundred dollars, the meter guy had read my neighbors meter by mistake.

So, anyway, stupidity can come from other places than meters you know.


#12

I’m not sure about LEDs. but those compact fluorescent bulbs will fry if you put them on a dimmer. Useful life measured in days.


#13

You know how we keep trying to identify a characteristic that sets us apart from the less interesting animals, and failing? I’ve always been under the impression that proper, full-blown stupidity is the trait in question.


#14

That’ll be the air conditioner’s tech not the smart meter’s. The smart meter just enables you to be billed correctly (or at least was supposed to before this research came to light).

Thing is it’s a great idea to smarten up big loads like that but it would be done in a way that you wouldn’t even notice (letting it run a bit longer up to just before a forecast peak in demand so that your house is a bit colder and then using that coolth to allow a longer delay before it kicks in afterwards).

Do that in quarter of a million homes and you’ve avoided about 1GW of peaker plant. But if they do anything that is noticeable people will simply disable the functionality.

This research was frustrating to read though. People are already highly sceptical of smart meters so to find out that they’re really bad at measuring switched mode power supply consumption (which is a hefty chunk of demand now) is extremely disappointing. The one thing they’re supposed to be is accurate.


#15

I may look extremely stupid but I do know enough to have dimmer-capable LED bulbs and the correct type of dimmers for use with them (the dimmers communicate with the bulbs to check the correct method of control.) As for CFLs I knew enough not to use dimmers with them - even the dimmer-capable ones have shortened life. But the LEDs just need to be the type whose AC-DC converters can provide variable current output.

I was at one time on the industry committee involved in considering the effect of CFLs on wave distortion of the AC mains. At the time nobody worried too much about the EMC aspect. It looks like it has come back to bite the meter makers on the bottom.


#16

Human error is more likely than malice.


#17

In the UK you do have a choice. The important thing is to ensure that the issue is kept to the fore so that the law isn’t changed for “technical reasons” (i.e. the transfer of money from electricity vendors to the bank account of the Conservative Party.)


#18

Good. In fact, very good.


#19

This is why people who have watched raccoons try to wash sugar cubes in water before eating them say that they are just like people.


#20

Now let’s see how long it is before someone files a criminal complaint for “hacking” against the researchers since they took the thing’s apart and examined them and dared to publish the results which might aid “terrorists” in attacking our
infrastructure due to “an abundance of caution”. (MY favorite weasel phrase of the 21st century,).

Once upon a time, technical places like the power companiesd were dominated by engineers who did incredible things. Now they are dominated by greedy lawyers and cost accountants who also do incredible things but not in the same sense in any fashion.