Like the vast majority of Ontario electricity users, Kingston Hydro residential and small business customers pay Time-of-use prices. Time-of-use requires one vital piece of equipment: Smart Meters tell Kingston Hydro exactly how much electricity you are using and when you use it. Old hydro meters could only measure how much power you used. Almost every household and small business in Ontario now has a smart meter.
Frequently Asked Questions
- What are Time-of-Use Rates?
- Please see Understanding Your Electricity Bill at the Utilities Kingston web site.
- Is there a cost to the customer for the Smart Meter?
- The cost to provide and maintain electricity distribution infrastructure is recovered from customers through electricity rates that are approved by the Ontario Energy Board. Kingston Hydro retains part of the delivery portion of the bill to maintain and upgrade local infrastructure (including Smart Meters). There is not a single one-time charge to customers for this cost of the Smart Meter.
- Will I see lower electricity bills?
- Customers are charged less for using electricity at off-peak times. Register or log in to the MyUtilities Customer Portal to manage costs by learning how to shift electricity use to off-peak periods
- Will someone still come to read my meter?
- Smart Meters communicate information about your electricity use to a secure provincial database. It’s no longer necessary for a Utilities Kingston employee to physically read the electricity meters.
- How can I read the Smart Meter?
- The Smart Meter displays your kilowatt hour (kWh) reading on the LCD display, it will cycle through several data points, one of which is kWh.
- To view a detailed breakdown of how your household or small business uses electricity, check out the Time-of-use charts at the MyUtilities portal
- Is my usage information secure and will it remain confidential?
- Yes. Ontario’s electricity distribution companies are required, by law, to ensure the Smart Meters and communication networks put into place are equipped with security features to prevent unauthorized access to personal information.
- Will I receive a Smart Meter if I am currently with, or moving to an Energy Retailer? Will I pay time-of-use rates?
Yes, all residential and some commercial customers have received a smart meter, but your rates will be determined by the terms and conditions of the contract you choose to sign.
Learn more about retail energy contracts from the Ontario Energy Board.
- Is it mandatory that I have a Smart Meter installed?
- Yes, Smart Meters are a critical component of our commitment to create a lasting “conservation culture” and are mandated by the provincial government.
- How do Smart Meters work?
- Smart meters are electronic devices used by utility companies to remotely collect information for billing and operational purposes. Smart meters, including those installed by Kingston Hydro, make use of low power radio-frequency (RF) transmitters to wirelessly communicate meter readings.
- How long and often do Smart Meters actively transmit and at what power?
During the Smart Metering system’s normal operation, the low power transmitter located within the electric meter actively transmits for very brief periods, each individual transmission is only milliseconds long in duration.
Kingston Hydro has deployed a Smart Meter system from Sensus. A typical Sensus Smart Meter operates at 1.6 Watts of power, and transmits less than one second per day. The majority of Smart Meters transmit for less than one minute per day.
- Are Smart Meters safe?
Significant efforts have been taken to ensure that Smart Meters will not only help households manage their electricity consumption, but that they are also safe and reliable. The Ontario government has established a regulation to outline the minimum standards for the Smart Meter System also referred to as the Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI). In this regulation, requirements have been included to ensure safety laws applicable to metering, safety and telecommunications are adhered to. As such, Smart Meters are well within the safety guidelines for exposure to radio frequencies (RF) established by Health Canada in Safety Code 6 (2009).
Smart meters operate at a low power, intermittently, and in the RF portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. The endpoint transmitter in a Kingston Hydro Smart Meter operates at 901 MHz frequency and transmits at 1.6 Watts of power. A person’s actual RF exposure from the Smart Meter is a function of the signal strength, which diminishes rapidly with distance, and with the amount of daily exposure. Smart Meter exposures even at close range with continuous operation (an unrealistic condition due to power supply and signal processing limitations) yield tiny exposures and are compliant with Health Canada exposure guidelines.
Further, the maximum exposure levels of Health Canada’s Safety Code 6 are in line with international safety practice, e.g., from the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE), International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP), United Kingdom’s Health Protection Agency (HPA), and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the United States.
To learn more, check out this study on RF emissions. from an electric utility in the USA that uses the same Smart Meters as Kingston Hydro.
- How do Smart Meter RF exposures compare to other household electronic devices?
For most people it is likely that Smart Meter RF exposure will be predominated by other electronic devices in the household that operate with similar frequency and power levels such as cell phones, computers, cordless phones, televisions, and wireless routers. This is as a result of 1) usage patterns; the Smart Meter’s infrequent signal transmission and, 2) typical distance from the meter.
The emissions from a Smart Meter are less intense than the emissions from a microwave oven.
- How can I find out more about Health Canada’s RF emission guidelines?
To find out more about Health Canada guidelines, visit the Health Canada web site.
To find out more about federal guidelines, visit Spectrum Management and Telecommunications at the Industry Canada web site.
- How can I find further reference material related to Smart Meters and health impacts?
B.C. Centre for Disease Control
Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE)
International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP)
University of Ottawa Wireless Communications and Health
US Federal Communications Commission
World Health Organization
Electric Power Research Institute
- What holidays are considered off-peak all day long?
- Download the holiday schedule for Time-of-use prices at the Ontario Energy Board.
- Do I need to continue to phone in my electric reading if I have a Smart Meter?
- No, you do not need to continue to call your reading in.
- How can I see what my hourly electricity use is?
- View your use of electricity at the MyUtilities Customer Portal. Customers can use this information to shift their electricity use to off-peak times when it costs less.