Get ready for smart meters

February 28, 2010 6:38:31 AM PST
In the next few months, CenterPoint will begin installing the new high tech "smart meters" in Pasadena homes. It's part of the energy company's three-year plan to install the smart meters in every Houston area home. It's supposed to be an easy way for you to manage your energy usage and your bill, but some homeowners will be stuck with a repair bill before they ever see a new meter.

When CenterPoint begins changing Pasadena over to the new smart meters in the coming months, Lona Leith isn't sure what she'll do if she's responsible for repairs first.

"Well, I don't know if something is bad, wrong, how am I going to pay for it because, you know, I'm living on a fixed income?" she wondered.

But CenterPoint is changing everyone over to smart meters. The company says it benefits you because you manage your energy usage in 15 minute increments. And CenterPoint can read your meter remotely. But when the smart meters come to Pasadena in the coming months, if workers see a problem, homeowners are on the hook to fix it in ten days or else power will be shut off.

"If they're going to cancel you, it should because of lack of paying the bill, but not because it's their responsibility to change your meter because they want to make it easier and more accessible for them," said customer Richard Jue.

Smart meters are already hanging on the outside of many inside the Loop homes, but the reviews of that process haven't been so great.

"We had dogs in our backyard and they couldn't get to the meter and they threatened to install one of those meters and charge me $180 dollars for it," said customer Dottie Holloway.

Access problems include dogs in your yard. Physical problems mean things like faulty wiring, or a meter can coming off the wall. But a CenterPoint spokeswoman says most people aren't bothered by smart meter installation.

"To date, we've installed about 200,000 smart meters in our system out of 2 million and of those 200,000, we're encountering very few problems," said Alicia Dixon with CenterPoint.

Lona says she's just hoping she's not one of the few.

"If you have a place that's old like mine, it's probably going to be a lot to it," she said.

Everyone in the greater Houston area will get a smart meter by 2012. And if you look on your bill, there's a $3.24 surcharge you've been paying since last year. It will drop to $3.05 month next year.

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