Shh… don't tell anyone I'm poor. They all think I'm living frugal and green just like everyone these days. This is a blog about a senior citizen living a frugal life, on a fixed income, in a low income food desert, and passing along knowledge from lessons learned. Some she learned from her Grandma Mama many years ago and some learned only a few days ago.
Just when I feel as if I’ve gotten my financial life in balance and running smoothly, something costs more. These days the sticker shocks and sucker punch fees are coming faster than ever. Back at the beginning of the year our local gas and electric company had a rate hike. Our sewer company had a raise last fall. Our water company has a raise that starts soon. All those raises together have added several dollars to my monthly expenses. But, I only get 44 cents more on my SS this year over last year due to the higher medicare costs. Needless to say my financial life is out of balance again and needs some adjustments. I must either cut back, earn more, or both.
Sometimes I wonder what it would feel like to have enough money in the bank to simply pay a bill without worry if I was spending too much. Not a day goes by that my mind is not trying to figure new ways to cut “usage” of something to compensate for price hikes. Don’t get me wrong I’m not complaining. I love finding new money saving ideas. I love researching. I love experimenting. While others are spending money on fun stuff I’m hoarding change in a jar to buy something, or make something, that will cut the cost of my expenses.
The raises given to our two Kentucky utility companies are to cover the cost of new smart meters. These meters are already being installed in some areas. Uh Oh! Should I get my tin foil hat ready? These would be the new digital meters so many people are complaining about. Do an internet search for “smart meters” and read all the conspiracy theories. The thing is, we have no choice. The meters get installed no matter how much anyone protests.
I can see the logic of upgrading equipment. Everyone should know by now how very old our grid infrastructure is and the need for improvements. There is danger of terrorists attacks or EMP on such an outdated system. So why are so many complaining about the new meters? Conspiracy theorists at work? I don’t know about that but what really bothers me about the new smart meters is the loss of jobs it will cost. Hundreds of jobs will be lost right here in this area within a few months time. Multiply this all over the USA and thats going to be significant. All because of smart meters. Let me explain my thoughts.
The smart meters send information to the main computer at the utility company. This is done wireless similar to using WiFi or a cell phone. There won’t be a need for meter reader people walking from house to house anymore. Meter readers will loose their job. When the main computer at the utility company receives information from a smart meter it will figure up the bill and send it to the customer’s email inbox. Or if the customer has automatic bill pay the computer will send a signal to the customer’s bank computer to pay the bill. The bank computer will pay it. This means there won’t be a need for billing clerks at the utility company anymore. Those people will be out of jobs soon. Paper bills will still be mailed to the rest of us….. for now.
Low income and fixed income people often don’t have the funds to pay their utility bill resulting in loss of service. Having utilities cut off required a customer to go to the main office to pay the bill and pay for a reconnect. Sometimes a person could negotiate a payment plan. All that will go away with the new smart meters. What happens if you don’t pay your bill with the new smart meters? The mother computer at the utility company simply sends a wireless message to the smart meter on your house to turn the utilities off. There will be no need of a physical person going to the house to disconnect the service or later re-connect it again. Those people will also loose their job.
There won’t be a need for an office for negotiations anymore either. IF its still there? I haven’t been to the main utility office in years but the last time I was there they were already switching to using a call center overseas instead of face to face clerks. With the smart meters a total switch to call center is possible. More lost jobs.
With the new smart meters we can expect roaming brown outs. All done by the computer to slow down or even black out some areas in the name of conservation. Potentially the utility company will have the ability to force conservation on a family by simply browning out how much they are allowed. If the smart meter is told to allow only 20 kWh per day the family inside must decide what to use and what to give up. On the flip side the smart meter can say we are using more than we actually are with no way to prove the meter is wrong. If there is no way to check the accuracy how are we to know its correct?
Did you know that if you use absolutely zero electricity it still costs you money? Here in Louisville the rent for each household electric meter is $10.75. The recent price hike, to pay for these new smart meters, is an additional $9.65 per month bringing the monthly rent to $20.40 even if you don’t use any at all. The rent for gas meters is currently $13.50 and now they are allowed an additional $2.99 that brings the gas meter rent to $16.49. So, with absolute zero gas and electric use the bill will be $36.89 per month! $442.68 a year. I don’t know how many houses or apartments in this area but that is a LOT of rent collected every month.
A few days ago a new electric smart meter was put on my house. No one else’s, just mine. It had been so long ago that I had completely forgot signing up for an early one. Before I understood what they actually were. I’m not happy about the meters but might as well get it over with. The first day this new meter was installed it read all zeros. I’ll never see those again so I took a picture. Twenty four hours later it read 10 kWh used. A week later and I’ve used 36 kWh. An average of 5.2 per day is not bad at all. IF the reading is correct. Some people around the world have reported over charging due to faulty readings.
Of course the weather has been really pleasant so no need for heat or air to run up the numbers. I’ve not done a lot of cooking or anything either. I do expect the number of kWh to go up some as the weather get hotter. I’m going to keep watch on the numbers because I would like to keep them under 300 a month and hopefully less than that eventually.
In my opinion, it would appear these new smart meters could be much more vulnerable targets of terrorism or EMP than the old dial type meters are. A computer hacker in a far away place (or in your neighborhood) could right now be thinking of ways to destroy our electrical grid. OR hold it hostage like they’ve been doing lately with computer data. Would you be prepared for a sudden black out? I am. I store things just in case of a storm black out. A hacker black out would be not much different. If you don’t do any storm prepping maybe you should?