Now that I have a smart meter I can get daily updates of my energy use for electricity and natural gas every day. The PG&E site offers a convenient set of tables and graphs to allow me to quickly assess how I am doing. I can download meter reading detail in a spreadsheet for further analysis or to provide to a vendor I may be using if needed.
So do I use this smart meter data?
The short answer is not really. The hourly data looks like a sine wave of up and down wavy lines that shows me what I already know. Looking at all that data is overwhelming and not really useful to see my usage patterns. And once I know my patterns digging into the detail only tells me what I already know. I tend to use more electricity in the afternoon when the temperatures are highest especially if I turn on the air conditioning. I tend to use more natural gas in the evening if we fire up the hot tub to go skinny dipping after dark.
Does knowing that detail hourly change my behavior in any material way? No, we still want to be cool inside when its blazing hot outside. And after the sun goes down and things relax we like to jump in the hot tub under the stars and—-well, never mind what else! That is none of your business.
So at the end of every month I go to the PG&E website and check on how I have performed that month. Sometimes I get lucky and sometimes I don’t. Frankly, the smart meter updates overnight so any day I can go to the PG&E website and check on how I’m doing. But reality is that I don’t find it useful to check this more than once a month anyway.
July PG&E Utility bill Summary
|Level Bill Amount||$682||$682||0|
In July I got lucky for several reasons beyond my control. The billing cycle was two days shorter and the temperatures have been cooler than normal. So we did not need to turn on the air conditioner as often. As a result I saved $29.65 on my July electric bill compared to June.
July PG&E Electric Bill Detail
|Billing Days||30 days||32 days||-$50.00|
|Average Cost per kWh||$0.3264/kWh||$0.3456/kWh||-$41.00|
|Average Use per Day||72.10 kWh/day||66.53 kWh/day||+62.00|
|Total Electric Bill Analysis||$706.04||$735.69||-$29.65|
In July also for reasons beyond my control we used substantially less natural gas than in June. This was mostly due to my wife being out of town visiting relatives in Oregon while I stayed home. Since using the hot tub alone is not nearly as much fun I didn’t use it and my gas bill fell by an amazing $99.83 in July compared to June. Now the real analytics question is whether getting lucky by saving $99.83 by NOT using the hot tub when my wife is home is really a smart thing to do. The likelihood is I will continue to incur the $99.83 probability cost of getting lucky and heat that hot tub after dark like every other smart husband.
July PG&E Natural Gas Bill Detail
|Billing Days||30 days||32 days||-$2.00|
|Average Cost per Therm||$1.1585 per Therm||$1.2607 per Therm||-$3.00|
|Average Use per Day||0.90 Therms per day||3.25 Therms per day||-$95.00|
|Total Gas Bill Analysis||$31.28||$131.11||-$99.83|
The bottom line is my PG&E bill for July was $682 thanks to my level billing plan—the same as June and every other month. My actual cost for utility services was $737.32 down $129.48 from June so I still added to my overall balance due in my level billing account but by $129.48 less than June. I have three hot months ahead so my level billing balance due will increase before I start working it down in November by not using my air conditioning at all over the winter and spring months.
All of this practical bill analysis of my energy use and behavior was calculated using the same average monthly usage data I’ve always received from PG&E. I don’t get any material benefit from my smart meter in doing this analysis. Nor does my smart meter give me any real insight I don’t already know about my usage behavior.
Level billing is my friend. It insures me against rate spikes whether caused by the weather, my smart meter or my opportunity costs for fun in the hot tub after dark.
To date, all the benefits of my smart meter have accrued to PG&E from lower meter reading labor costs mostly and access to all that smart meter data to better plan their daily power generation and fuel requirements.
Well, there is one benefit I am accruing—I replaced the old inefficient heater for the pool and hot tub with a new energy efficient model that heats up faster and uses less natural gas when opportunity knocks. But instead of using the savings for more energy efficiency I put in a taller board fence in the back yard so the neighbors can’t see the hot tub!
Life if Good!