Smart meter deployment best practices

There are over 70 million smart meters in the United States alone.  For each utility company, smart meter installation is a massive project with hundreds of sites and many repeatable tasks.

What is a smart meter and how does it work?

A smart meter is a connected utility usage measurement meter that detects how much power a certain location uses and how much, if applicable, that same location creates. Smart meters communicate through various mediums,  including Wide Area Network (WAN) and radio frequencies. For network radio, the radio transmits hourly meter reading to an electric network access point where the data is transmitted to the utility through a dedicated radio frequency network. The electric access point creates a mesh of network coverage. The WAN is the same kind of network your mobile phone uses to send and receive data. For a utility company to get WAN access, they must work with a wireless service provider.

Best practices for replacing a traditional meter with a smart meter

When switching from a traditional meter to a smart meter, it’s crucial to keep the following best practices in mind:

    1. Site location:
      Make sure the smart meter installer is in the right location. Use a project and asset management platform with a mobile app that has mapping capabilities to ensure that site location is exact and recorded properly. Finding site location can become difficult when your team is traveling extensively or weather conditions are extreme. Mapping functionality enables the installer to accurately display site location and proximity so you can better plan the site visit.Once the installer has ensured that the location is correct, he/she should take a look at the protective seal and make sure that no tampering occurred.
    2. Accountability:
      Ensure that the installer has photo capability so all steps can be documented properly. Taking a photo of key stages of installation can also increase awareness of previously unseen issues, reducing the probability of issues going unnoticed.
    3. Safety:
      Safety is always first and foremost. If the person doing the job isn’t safe, the job wasn’t done correctly. Make sure that the installer has all the recommended protective gear and follows the protocol exactly. This is one reason why it’s important to use a digital checklist, ensuring that every step is completed, but most importantly, completed safely.
    4. Testing:
      Once the installer has made sure they’re working in the right location, that they are properly protected, and that no meter tampering has occurred,  he/she can remove the front cover and begin work. This means, starting with testing, such as voltage testing, visual checks, and voltage verification.
    5. Execution:
      Second to safety, customer experience is a top priority, so make sure that the customer’s power isn’t interrupted due to installation. You can do this by using jumpers to bypass power around the meter. This is may seem like an unimportant best practice, but it’s crucial.

      When the new meter is installed, use a gap tool to make sure the sockets are in good condition and the meter fits snuggly. Remove the jumper cables and replace the cover.
    6. Reporting
      Once the installer has completed the job, he/she should enter the new meter information into their project and asset management mobile app, take a photo within the project management mobile app to confirm the meter replacement, and scan the barcode to pair the meter number with the address.

      Once all of the reporting in the mobile app is complete, review the checklist to make sure all steps were completed, then leave a note for the customer to let them know that the replacement is complete.

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