Pepco is scheduled to begin activating some 85,000 smart meters on Oct. 26 in Sector 27, which includes Greenbelt, College Park, University Park, Riverdale, Takoma Park, and Berwyn Heights, with some spillover in Hyattsville and Silver Spring, according to Pepco spokesman Marcus Beal.
Though the activation date is a little over a week away, the meters already are active—they attempt to communicate the day they are installed, according to Beal. What Pepco means by activation is activating the benefits, and that will occur once the meters have been tested and certified, Beal said.
Those benefits include usage information that customers can access daily, even hourly, Beal said. And they can overlay that data with graphs and charts. So if a bill seems higher than it was in a previous year, customers can bring up a bar chart that shows the temperature by day to help them understand the differences.
Smart meters will also send out "last gasp" messages that let Pepco know power has gone out, according to Beal.
Pepco has installed 347,965 meters in Prince George's and Montgomery counties and plans to install all 550,000 of them by year's end, with plans for all meters to be active by the end of the first quarter of 2013, Beal said Tuesday.
Smart meters have alarmed some opponents who worry that the electromagnetic radiation or radio frequency they emit will bring about adverse health effects. Some 830 Pepco customers had opted out of the meters as of a week ago, according to Beal, but that's out of 550,000, he added.
Those who opt out use the power company's traditional analog meters to read their household or business energy use. Smart meters, on the other hand, send information directly to Pepco, removing the need for a company representative to read meters on site visits.
Customers concerns over radiation stem in part from the amount of transmissions the meters send out. But Beal said the meters only communicate about 60 seconds a day, adding that some of those communications are only milliseconds.
In terms of milliseconds, 60-seconds can be broken down into 60,000 one thousands of a second or milliseconds. But Beal said there was no way to say how many transmissions occur in a day. It would be the equivalent of asking how many times a day a cell phone accesses its network, even when it's not in use, he said.
Though the exact number is unclear, smart meters typically relay thousands of brief communications during scheduled and unscheduled transmittals, according to a letter Pepco sent the D.C. Office of People's Counsel (OPC) in April.
As for fears over the emissions, Pepco's website states there is no health risk from the meters. The radio frequency fields used by smart meters are in the same frequency ranges used by cell phones, according to Pepco.
It usually takes a couple of days to finish activating all the meters in a sector, according to Beal. But once Pepco is satisfied that they are communicating properly, customers can begin accessing detailed reports of their power usage.