TEP unveils new wireless data stream meters

Posted: Updated:

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Rising temperatures mean rising electricity costs, as residents crank the AC.

Tucson Electric Power company has a new way for customers to track energy spending.

"Our hope is that these new meters give us an opportunity to read meters more accurately and more efficiently," said Joe Salkowski from Tucson Electric Power.

Tucson Electric Power is replacing old meters with automatic meter reading units.

"And they simply provide usage data through a wireless data stream," said Salkowski.

Tuesday, TEP installed an AMR unit at the home of Rob Wisner.

"It's an older house, we don't have great insulation and so we're looking at ways we can monitor our usage," said TEP customer Wisner.

Rob is taking the new meter technology to another level.  He's participating in a pilot program in which he can adjust his power usage by logging on to the Internet.

"Adjusting the thermostat at different times if we're not going to be in one part of the house or another, lowering the temperature that way, and while we're at work," said Wisner.

As part of the program, TEP can turn off the air conditioning during peak hours.

"A homeowner could override that command and turn their air conditioner back on if they decide, 'Gee, it's really hot,'" said Salkowski.

The utility calls it a "win-win" but wants to clear up some concerns.  These units should not be confused with smart readers, that allegedly caused health problems in some California communities.

"The meters that we are installing communicate one way at a very low energy level that operates at one one hundredth of one percent of the exposure limits associated with wireless communications," said Salkowski.

Participation in the pilot program is voluntary and requires another device similar to a thermostat.

TEP has already replaced about a third of its meters with the new ones that can be read wirelessly.