MUSKEGON, Mich. (WZZM) - Some love the idea, others hate it. This week, Consumers Energy is starting to install smart meters at homes in Muskegon County. On Monday, crews showed up at Bill Innis' house to install his new meter.
"I am just an advocate of technology and information. I believe that customers will do the right thing with that information for themselves and maybe for the environment." Innis says he'll use data provided by his smart meter to re-program his hot tub. "I could have it heating at non-peak time."
By December, 50,000 smart meters will be active in Muskegon County and northern Ottawa County. The units accurately track power consumption and send the information daily to Consumers Energy. Customers can then view the information online.
"You will be able to see that energy usage in hourly increments. You will have a better idea-- look how much I used on Tuesday compared to Wednesday," says Roger Morgenstern of Consumers Energy. Morgenstern says there are some misconceptions about the smart meter program. For one: Customers can say no.
"We think that you are missing out, but there is that option for our customers."
The encrypted information is sent once each day by a signal about as powerful as a cell phone. And the transmission only lasts 20 seconds. "My cell phone is on 24 hours a day and it is always looking for a signal. And that is emitting radio frequencies."
Eventually Consumers Energy will be able to power back air conditioners with smart meters, "but it is only with customer consent," says Morgenstern.
Smart meters will act on your behalf when the power goes out. "The smart meters will send a signal that says I am out of power. So we will quickly know the scope of an outages."
If you live on the lakeshore, expect to see a white Ford Focus at your home soon, as Consumers meter technician to arrive in your driveway. Consumers Energy will ask the Public Service Commission for permission to charge a fee for customers who choose to keep their old meters.
Smart meters are expected in Kent County sometime during the spring of 2013.