A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Puzzled by what new meter says

Written March 19th, 2018 by Hasso Hering

Pacific Power left a door hanger inviting me to “meet your new smart meter… Go ahead: Take a look.” So I did. And now I wish that along with the door hanger, the installer had left instructions on what the readouts on the meter mean.

As you can see in the video, the display changes every few seconds. The readings may be self-evident to the electric company, but they’re a puzzle to me.

I gather that the displays have something to do with how much electricity is being and has been used inside the house. But I doubt that since the meter was installed a few hours ago, the house used up something like 888,888 kilowatt hours of juice. So that big number must mean something else.

The same for the bunch of zeroes followed by a 1. One what?

Every few seconds, the meter cycles back and announces: “CLOSEd.” What? PP&L is out of juice? Can’t be, because my desk lamp is still on.

This meter is smart because, among other things, no one is supposed to have to come around to read it once a month. It will beam consumption data to the company via a radio hookup on a nearby pole. Wait — we don’t have poles because the wires are underground. There’s another puzzle.

Switching electric meters would normally be the most mundane kind of thing. Nice of the power company to add a little mystery to the event. (hh)

The mysterious smart meter after hours.

16 responses to “Puzzled by what new meter says”

  1. centrist says:

    Silly human These symbols are as clear as medical codes. Just trust and pay

  2. Mary B. says:

    Hasso, I thought I read somewhere that we have to establish an online account and go online to see how much electricity we are using with the new smart meters. Probably no one but an electrician or a tech person can understand what the meter itself is saying at any given time.

  3. Brad says:

    I’m sure the 88888.88888 stuff is just to test that all LED segments are functioning. The rest of it is about as mysterious as all the weird dials the old meter had.

    Pacific Power says I’ll be able to look at real-time power usage and more detailed history on my online account with the new meters. I just checked mine and I don’t see anything different. Maybe it’ll start at the next billing cycle, though I’m not sure what good it’ll do me to know exactly how much power I’m using throughout the day.

  4. Richard Kay says:


    give the explanation of what each of those numbers mean

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      Thanks Richard. Everyone else can now rest easy. Elvis has left the building…

  5. GregB says:

    Good one HH. You gave me chuckle with your presentation. I bet you’ll help us find out what the the read-outs on the meters mean. We don’t have our new meter yet. I can’t wait to stare at the numbers flashing before my eyes. It will be some new entertainment around the ol house. HaHa. Times and technology sure change!

  6. Curious Citizen says:

    I love your video!
    I had a similar reaction to the new smart meter. Where’s the manual? For me the meter is very smart and above my head, figuratively and literally!

    It didn’t help me to call up Pacific Power because the answer they gave me after consulting with someone else was that the biggest number was the total usage and something about demand decimals. They were perfectly pleasant but I had already asked too many questions so I thanked them and hung up.

    So I did some sleuthing on the internet. I could find nothing on the Pacific Power site for deciphering the new meters. I didn’t find a manual for the Aclara smart meter on the Aclara site or youtube or other places after looking for a long time. There were other power company manuals though. No other power company in the USA or Britain or Scotland I found had Aclara meters on their websites. Maybe someone else had better results than me.

    After a lot of digging I could decipher most of the flashing screens. What I found was that the word CLOSEd means that the electricity is on to the house, as in the circuit is closed. If the word OPEN was there it would mean the electricity was off to the house.

    Then after too long of a time looking up things about smart meters I found out that the screen with all the 8’s is what is called a test screen. I’ve seen this on my blood pressure monitor when it starts up but only thought of it after finding the answer. The test screen shows that all areas of the screen are operational.

    Then after an even longer time on the internet I intuited that the screen where you see your total usage is the screen that has “k W h” in tiny letters on it. I should have known that stood for kilowatt hours but the word CLOSEd and all the eights threw me off and the other weird kilowatt letters on the test screen were puzzling. This k W h screen had all zeros at first because I went outside right after the installer left. Now after six days it is up to the number 209 so it looks more like a usage reading to me.

    From what I read about smart meters and what they are supposed to measure, the two screens that have decimals are seemingly, a. the maximum kilowatt demand during a certain period of time and b. the current kilowatts going into the house.

    As far as the numbers 14, 416, and 16, I gleaned from too much reading that these are probably reference numbers. I found on one website that talks about solar panels and net meters that # 14 is the reference number for total kilowatt hour usage.

    I really would like a smart manual so I can verify that I’ve got it right and understand what it all means but I guess the web account we are supposed to get will display these readings in useful statistics.

    I’m interested in what answer you get from Pacific Power, Hasso.

  7. Rodger Asai says:

    The City gets 5% of the Gross Revenue of the Electric Company (which they are happy to pass onto the consumer) – another “quiet” way the City has of getting money from residents without our being as aware of it (property tax bills are a clear reminder).

    The Puzzles are apparently free of charge.

    • Bob Woods says:

      The city gets a fee because the electric company uses publicly owned property to provide its services. It’s called a franchise fee and is common all across the country, and has been for many, many decades. The same thing happens with private property owners who charge a fee for using their property, like for cell towers.

      Basic economics of apportioning costs to the entity that uses the resource.

      There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.

  8. Bill Kapaun says:

    How about a simple explanation of our bill?

    “Common Cause” is for what? It’s hard to imagine citizens having any “common cause” in this day & age.
    Dam removal projects in California? Let them pay for it.
    How about the hidden “Privilege .Tax” the city charges in addition to the “visible” tax.

  9. David says:

    CLOSED means that the contacts allowing power to the house are connected, OPEN would mean your power was shut off

  10. David says:

    FCC Type Acceptance and frequencies authorized with transmit power authorizations.


    • Curious Citizen says:

      Thanks for the links! I used a search engine with the words fccid and Aclara and came up with some specs from Aclara’s applications with the FCC. If what is found under “meter reading” is correct, the frequencies of our meters are 450 – 470 MHz, which is the radio wave section of the spectrum it seems. The web address for their applications with the FCC is:

      • David says:

        You must go by the FCC ID number on the meter these meters have no 450-470 UHF radios in them, each utility has them customized for their area and system. Think they are using cellular data as the backbone, why deploy your own where a network already working.

        • Curious Citizen says:

          Thanks David! The details on the FCC ID number of the meter clarifies it all.

  11. Curious Citizen says:

    Thanks for the link! I used a search engine with the words fccid and Aclara and came up with some specs from Aclara’s applications with the FCC. If what is found under “meter reading” is correct, the frequencies of our meters are 450 – 470 MHz, which is the radio wave section of the spectrum it seems. The web address for their applications with the FCC is:


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