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Know your Meter

An electricity meterelectric meter, or energy meter is a device that measures the amount of electric energy consumed by a residence, business, or an electrically powered device.

Electric utilities use electric meters installed at customer’s premises to measure electric energy delivered to their customers for billing purposes. They are typically calibrated in billing units, the most common one being the kilowatt hour [kWh]. They are usually read once each billing period.

When energy savings during certain periods are desired, some meters may measure demand, the maximum use of power in some interval. "Time of day" metering allows electric rates to be changed during a day, to record usage during peak high-cost periods and off-peak, lower-cost, periods. Also, in some areas meters have relays for demand response load shedding during peak load periods.

Electronic meters

Electronic meters display the energy used on an LCD or LED display, and some can also transmit readings to remote places. In addition to measuring energy used, electronic meters can also record other parameters of the load and supply such as instantaneous and maximum rate of usage demands, voltages, power factor and reactive power used etc. They can also support time-of-day billing, for example, recording the amount of energy used during on-peak and off-peak hours.

Solid-state design

Solid state electricity meter used in a home

As in the block diagram, the meter has a power supply, a metering engine, a processing and communication engine (i.e. a microcontroller), and other add-on modules such as RTC, LCD display, communication ports/modules and so on.

The metering engine is given the voltage and current inputs and has a voltage reference, samplers and quantises followed by an ADC section to yield the digitised equivalents of all the inputs. These inputs are then processed using a digital signal processor to calculate the various metering parameters such as powers, energies etc.

The largest source of long-term errors in the meter is drift in the preamp, followed by the precision of the voltage reference. Both of these vary with temperature as well, and vary wildly because most meters are outdoors. Characterising and compensating for these is a major part of meter design.

The processing and communication section has the responsibility of calculating the various derived quantities from the digital values generated by the metering engine. This also has the responsibility of communication using various protocols and interface with other add-on modules connected as slaves to it.

RTC and other add-on modules are attached as slaves to the processing and communication section for various input/output functions. On a modern meter most if not all of this will be implemented inside the microprocessor, such as the real time clock (RTC), LCD controller, temperature sensor, memory and analog to digital converters.

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