You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Fri, Mar 23, 2012 : 5:58 a.m.

Smart meter installation: What Washtenaw County residents need to know

By Nathan Bomey

(Related story: DTE Energy presses ahead with smart meter installation as Michigan Public Service Commission investigation continues)

Here's what you need to know about smart meter installation throughout Washtenaw County.


DTE Energy is installing 120,000 smart meters throughout Washtenaw County.

Melanie Maxwell |

What’s going on: DTE Energy’s Detroit Edison unit is installing electricity meters that can transmit usage data digitally to the utility.

Why: DTE will know immediately when a home loses power, instead of waiting for the consumer to call. Consumers can also get alerts if they lose power at home. This eliminates the need for meter readers, but DTE says there won’t be layoffs.

When: The utility, using a contractor, is already installing the first of 120,000 smart meters throughout Washtenaw County. Installation is expected to be complete by the end of 2012.

Cost: DTE is absorbing the cost.

Can I opt out?: DTE told the Michigan Public Service Commission that it is developing an opt-out program, but it’s likely to carry fees.

Is my personal information at risk?: DTE says it will not transmit any personally identifiable information, such as a customer’s address, phone number, account information or social security number.

Is there a health risk?: Several studies have shown radiofrequency transmissions are minimal, but some consumers still report ill effects.

Investigation: The Michigan Public Service Commission, which regulates utilities, is investigating the implications of smart meters and plans to decide whether to take any action this summer.

Contact's Nathan Bomey at (734) 623-2587 or You can also follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's newsletters.


Lets Get Real

Thu, Mar 29, 2012 : 2:49 p.m.

Lay off the contract employees - certainly not DTE employees - especially the upper level number crunchers and spin meisters who figure out how to make more profit and make us swallow their line of bunk. I'm so tired of the shell games: "We have to pass the bill to find out what's in the bill", "We won't lay off any workers", "We will absorb the cost" - how stupid do you think we are? It's all just a money grab of YOUR money.


Sat, Mar 24, 2012 : 8:40 a.m.

By the way, with the higher bills, GTE is got absorbing anything here.


Sat, Mar 24, 2012 : 8:35 a.m.

I'm going to op out, Because my house is as high tech as I want it. I have heard from several friends that have the new smart meter, and they all have been paying more for their power. This is not a new thing, but yes, it will cause your bill go higher. What ever the penalty's it will cost much more in the long run. They are working fine anyway. Beside, I don't want to be the cause of automation taking away someone's livelihood away. It looks to me that GTE will make out with loosing a contractor and higher bills costs to the consumer. Besides that even, there is nothing wrong with these meters anyway.


Fri, Mar 23, 2012 : 10:51 p.m.

All this talk about saving electricity with better light bulbs and more efficient appliances,etc. DTE will just charge more per kilowatt hour just like Detroit water is charging more per unit because demand is lower.


Fri, Mar 23, 2012 : 6:28 p.m.

If we could get off-peak rates for power, I'm all for it.


Sat, Mar 24, 2012 : 8:37 a.m.

It'll never happen. The bottom line is what really matters here.


Fri, Mar 23, 2012 : 4:43 p.m.

Does this mean you won't be able to use a magnet to slow that round silver thing down anymore?


Fri, Mar 23, 2012 : 1:57 p.m.

By the way my original was replaced with the new one after a scant ten years, Hardly "OLD "


Fri, Mar 23, 2012 : 1:56 p.m.

The costs for installation and equipment will be charged through the rate increase for operating costs and will be approved by the Public Utility Commission as part as doing business, any improvements or upgrades are passed through consumers. When budgets are finalized it will show how much they spent on smart meters and labor costs. Also many meter readers will be terminated and only a limited amount of technicians will be required to maintain smart meters. I was involved in implementing same plan in California with Sempra Energy over 10 years ago, according to many residents they felt they've been shafted by Utility due to every rising costs, so get ready to pay more for less.


Fri, Mar 23, 2012 : 1:46 p.m.

After all meters are installed they will inform customers that peak hours will be charged at a higher rate verses non peak hours, this is the only way the Utility can increase revenues without approval and claim they are saving energy at your expense. You can thank the current administration for your well being since they approved this in one of the mandates through ObamaHealth Care. Go Green!

Dog Guy

Fri, Mar 23, 2012 : 1:44 p.m.

I imagine that some sixty-year-old meters are a bit corroded and run somewhat slower than when new. I expect to hear about some of the new meters reporting higher usage than the old meter. What I do not know is whether DTE is going to eliminate the gas meter readers.


Fri, Mar 23, 2012 : 1:43 p.m.

JMAC, I simply meant your monthy bill is gonna increase. These meters read differnt. And your bill will go up. just wait when you look at last years to this years when the weather has been comperable, you then you will understandwhat I meant.The big cost saving is their charging you more telling you you used more electricity. For me this is depite buying more energy saving applainces and lites.I am not talking about just bills I am talking total KW used!


Fri, Mar 23, 2012 : 12:45 p.m.

"DTE told the Michigan Public Service Commission that it is developing an opt-out program..." Wait, they are currently installing them, but have not yet developed an opt-out program? So in essence, someone is going to get the meter whether they want it or not and then later DTE is going to send a letter that will let them opt-out which someone will have to come back out and take it out. Sure, that makes sense. Total savings there! lol


Fri, Mar 23, 2012 : 12:44 p.m.

By alerting DTE when power is cut, the new devices will eliminate the need for meter readers. If you say that real fast 8,302 consecutive times, you may find yourself agreeing with it. Another 22,806 repetitions may lead you to understand it.

Craig Lounsbury

Fri, Mar 23, 2012 : 12:30 p.m.

I had mine done a few days ago. The process took about 15-20 seconds...yes seconds....and I lost power for that time. I talked to the guy who installed it, he said he does 50 a day, its a quota I think, although he didn't use the word quota. Cash is correct I believe that the cost will be recovered by eliminating the meter reader contractors.


Fri, Mar 23, 2012 : 4:52 p.m.

DonBee, Sorry, I mean that the article itself should give the full story about the loss of employment not DTE dancing around it.


Fri, Mar 23, 2012 : 12:48 p.m.

The rate case is up on the MPSC website Cash. It is easy to look up there. No utility can make a major move without having to submit the business case to the MPSC.


Fri, Mar 23, 2012 : 12:37 p.m.

Yes, I'm actually in favor of this but I would like a factual report of the gains and losses for DTE. This isn't a charity move for them. :-)


Fri, Mar 23, 2012 : 12:10 p.m.

I am worried about Bill's comment. DTE says they will 'absorb' the cost; doesn't this actually mean that they will pass it along to utility consumers? How else will they pay for this? I am also concerned that we utility consumers have no idea how much these new boxes actually cost or how much labor cost is required to install them; so how can we know whether the amount our rates go up (because they WILL go up) is justified or excessive? Time for State regulators to get involved (if they still exist after State budget cuts!).


Fri, Mar 23, 2012 : 12:47 p.m.

Federal Stimulus funds paid for roughly 600,000 of these meters.

N. Todd

Fri, Mar 23, 2012 : 12:36 p.m.

Although it doesn't address the actual installation costs, the swap was a very quick process at my house. The contractor (as stated by Cash) was only on my property for about a total of 4 minutes. Too soon to comment on any changes to the bill.


Fri, Mar 23, 2012 : 12:07 p.m.

DTE says it will not layoff employees, however the contractor employing meter readers will be laying off hundreds. Let's be honest. That's where the big cost savings is to DTE....paying the contractors. If you're going to say DTE is footing the cost of new meters, let's be honest and state they are also going to cut the cost of contracting out those meter readers. Common sense trumps DTE press releases.


Fri, Mar 23, 2012 : 12:46 p.m.

Cash - 1 million customers and 20 billing days = 50,000 meters a day to read. Reader reads 20 meters an hour (slow ones do) and 8 hours a day = 160 meters a day, call it 150 for math. That is about 333 meter readers total. A bit less than "Thousands". Given the turn over of roughly 1/3 a year - all they have to do is not hire each year as people leave.


Fri, Mar 23, 2012 : 11:49 a.m.

I had this installed over 2 years ago, my bill went up drastically after installation and have stayed highter.

Curious One

Mon, Feb 4, 2013 : 10:50 p.m.

llspier, my restaurant was recently installed this new meter around October and indeed, my electric bill has skyrocketed. I'm not just talking about amount which I can handle. The electric bill nearly doubled. I tried calling countless times to the call centers and I even visited their primitive customer center in Detroit. But all I get are answers like, "there is nothing wrong with your meter." Is there no way for me to get through this predicament? Am I just supposed to suck it up because they are so reasonable and now this is the actual correct price? In recession when, my business is at all time low, this is a crippling unexpected blow. If you have any advice to help it would be greatly appreciated.


Sat, Mar 24, 2012 : 12:25 a.m.

I dont have a 'smart meter' here, but my utility provider replaced my analog meter with a digital meter over a year ago . . and my electric bills went up on an average of 35%. This isnt a function of the 'smart' part of the meter but the digital meter itself. My daughter also supervises a call center that handles utility customer calls from other states . .and continually fields calls from people who have had these put in and their bill sky-rocketed. I finally found an explanation of why this is that matches the reasons she was given so she could explain it to irate customers: all starting motors (pump, furnace blower, fan, vacuum, refrigerator, freezer, etc) all draw a heavy load for the minute or two it takes to get started (I also understand the power sent to these appliances is far more than is actually used, causing early failure). The old analog/magnetic meters react too slowly to capture all of it. The new digital meters record it all. Therefore, you end up being billed more. Sounds reasonable-or at least, not something you could question, until you realize that the losses are already built into the electric rates you pay - unless you actually believe that these utility companies have been taking a loss for it all along. Believe me, you've been paying, perhaps by higher than necessary kwh charges, as the charges were set based on the less-accurate analog meters.. So, the additional 30%+ they're going to bill you for will amount to a huge windfall profit. . No wonder they're all so determined to put these things on every house! Supposedly the new 'power-saver' whole-house surge protectors will reduce some of the loss . . they figure about 10% savings. So now I'm going to have to pay $300 just to try to get back SOME of what I',m overpaying. But I know they're doing all of this for my benefit-right?


Fri, Mar 23, 2012 : 11:36 a.m.

I'm all for this. Since we have dogs and a fenced yard with a gate, it will be better. No worries that the dogs will be out when they come and no worries that the gate will be accidentally left open. Right now we have two meters - one for water heating and one for the rest of the electrical use. I am wondering if we will have two smart meters. Also, every time our power goes out and I call them, I get a personal call the next day to ask if everything was fixed to my satisfaction. Not sure why, but maybe because I complained so much in the past.


Fri, Mar 23, 2012 : 11:23 a.m.

I thought the aim of smart metering was to principally to provide transparency of utility usage back to the consumer so they could adjust their usage patterns and (hopefully) reduce consumption and/or move consumption to time periods where lower rates might be in effect. Will the consumer get the data? If so, when will it become usable?


Fri, Mar 23, 2012 : 3:25 p.m.

I'm not sure how accurate that online data is since their pie chart shows my "cooling" usage and I don't have air conditioning. So where is that coming from?

Ed Kimball

Fri, Mar 23, 2012 : 11:52 a.m.

We already get usage data comparing our usage to the previous month, the same month the previous year, and other homes in our neighborhood over the past year.


Fri, Mar 23, 2012 : 11:31 a.m.

You can already go online and get this information through DTE's site.


Fri, Mar 23, 2012 : 10:33 a.m.

I'd like to know where these boxes go. Landfill? I got a threatening letter telling me I had to get mine changed. DTE needs to get a life and just realize the old boxes are just fine. Hate to say it, but this is another big brother watching what you do. I get a letter from them once a month saying you are not conserving energy like your neighbors. Big deal. I pay the bill and be done with it. Nuff said.

Jake C

Fri, Mar 23, 2012 : 12:26 p.m.

"I get a letter from them once a month saying you are not conserving energy like your neighbors." Unless you live in a 3000 sq ft house with neighbors that have 1200 sq ft houses, you should probably pay a little attention to those letters. If you're spending way more per month than your neighbors, something is obviously going on differently in your house. Maybe you like leaving all your lights on all the time or you keep the thermostat at 65-degrees during July. That's fine, if that's your personal preference. Or maybe you need to update your home's insulation or weatherstripping, which could start to pay for itself within a year or two. Or maybe you run a marijuana grow operation in your basement, in which case I can see why you'd be concerned about "Big Brother" watching your electricity usage.


Fri, Mar 23, 2012 : 11:36 a.m.

Perhaps DTE should also offer an optional tin foil hat upon request?