Smart Grid: The experts behind wireless, automated metering

By Jason Fox, Senior Director, Services and Solutions, HD Supply Power Solutions

Next time you flip the switch to turn on the lights, think about how that energy gets into your home or office.  Power is generated by your local utility, then gets transmitted down the lines and distributed through transformers, turning the energy from high-voltage levels down to the power lighting your home and running your appliances.  The power, though, is only part of the story.  How the use of that power gets accounted for is undergoing rapid change.

Electric meter readers used to be a common sight in every neighborhood across the country.  They would show up every month to read the meter, say ‘hello’ and maybe take a glass of water on hot days.  It’s getting harder to find a meter reader these days, as utility companies turn to newer technology to take the leg work out of keeping track of energy use.

Changing technology has brought, allowing meters to automatically connect to the utility’s home office and send the readings back wirelessly – a big step toward efficiency and accuracy.  For utility companies, the newer meters mean big savings, reducing the cost of reading those meters, along with the chance for errors.

So how do utilities upgrade between 1,000 and one million electric meters a year, depending on the size of the utility?  Simple – they use highly-trained meter replacement specialists to exchange older meters for the latest technology.

The key to efficiently replacing those meters is training crews to handle specific types of meters. Meter replacement teams at HD Supply Power Solutions are made up of two different crews, each dealing with a different type of meter: residential or commercial/industrial.

The training required to do meter replacements is a big job. The residential team at HD Supply Power Solutions has an average of more than 12 years' experience working on meters, but they still need classroom training and two weeks working with a senior installer before they're left on their own. The commercial/industrial installers are the elite, having worked at least two years as a residential installer before receiving more commercial/industrial-specific training and 18 months of apprenticeship time.

Regardless of whether the meters are being installed in residential or commercial buildings, the job of a meter replacement technician goes beyond simply taking off the old meter and installing the new. Technicians represent the electric utility to their consumers, so professionalism, respect, knowledge and safety are a must. In addition to meter exchange services, HD Supply also offers complete service analysis for commercial and industrial customers. This testing ensures the entire service is operating as expected and energy usage is being accurately measured by the newly installed meter. Once the new metering system has been installed, HD Supply's three full service meter and apparatus labs continually help support the utility-it can help test, troubleshoot, repair, reprogram or replace damaged metering components.

So the next time you turn the lights on, think about how power gets to your house and everyone involved in the process.  The newer electric meters help utility companies not only work more efficiently, but also help ensure system reliability, by being more connected to how and when power is being used.  And having the latest electric meters, installed by knowledgeable, highly-trained technicians, is the key.

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