Frequently Asked Questions
UniSource Energy Services meters can be read remotely through low-energy wireless communications equipment. The following questions and answers offer more information about this technology.
What kind of meters does UES use?
UES uses automated meters manufactured by Itron that transmit usage data through a wireless radio frequency (RF) signal. These signals are received through fixed network equipment or remote collectors carried by UES’ meter readers. UES plans to install a limited number of meters that send data over the cellular network.
Why does UES use automated meters?
Automated meters offer an accurate, affordable way to measure consumption of natural gas and electricity usage. While traditional electromechanical meters must be inspected visually each month, usage data from automated meters can be forwarded to us automatically through a fixed or cellular network or gathered quickly and easily by UES meter readers driving nearby in vehicles equipped with a remote collector.
Most of UES’ automated meters cost about the same as comparable digital meters without wireless communications capability. That, combined with lower meter reading costs, make automated meters a good investment for UES and our customers.
Automated meters also make it easy to gather usage data more frequently than once a month. Aggregated hourly readings from automated meters can be used to track natural gas and electricity usage, helping utilities plan for system improvements.
How do automated meters work?
Like a traditional electromechanical meter, automated meters measure the amount of natural gas or electricity flowing through the main service lines that provide service to customers from UES’ local distribution system. The meters periodically communicate these readings through a low-energy wireless signal. In some parts of town, these signals are picked up by fixed network collectors installed on UES facilities. In other areas, the signals are gathered through remote collectors carried by UES’ meter readers. In either case, the readings are forwarded to UES’ computer systems and used to bill customers.
Is my meter reading data secure?
Yes. The energy usage information transmitted wirelessly from your meter to UES’ collection devices employ technology standards that comply with the data privacy guidelines and regulations set by the Arizona Corporation Commission.
How frequently do automated meters communicate readings?
Automated meters using the fixed network to transmit data send out readings approximately every 30 seconds. Because these communications last only a few milliseconds, the meters are typically communicating for less than 2 ½ minutes per day. Meters using the cellular network will communicate less than 3 seconds per day.
Is there any reason to be concerned about exposure to RF signals from automated meters?
The brief wireless signals from UES’ automated meters have a much lower power density than emissions from Wi-Fi, cellular phones or other common RF sources. The meters operate at energy levels that are less than 1/100 of 1 percent of the RF exposure limit specified by the Federal Communications Commission.
In October 2014, the Arizona Department of Health Services completed a study about the use of automated meters. According to a report summary, “Exposure to electric meters (AMI and AMR) is not likely to harm the health of the public.” To read the study, conducted on behalf of the ACC, click here.
How can I tell if an automated meter is installed at my home or business?
UES’ automated meters have a digital display instead of spinning dials. If your UES meter bears an “Itron” brand and has a digital display, it is an automated meter.
Does UES seek customers’ permission before installing automated meters?
No. Meters are part of UES’ natural gas and electric distribution systems and are replaced as needed at the company’s discretion, under the oversight of the ACC.
Can I opt out of the use of an automated meter at my home or business?
Yes. Customers who request removal of an automated meter will be charged a $47 Automated Meter Opt-Out Set-Up Fee. They also will be charged a monthly $26 fee to cover the higher cost of reading and maintaining meters that must be read manually. These fees were approved in August 2016 by the Arizona Corporation Commission.
Requests to remove an automated meter must be submitted in writing to Customer Service Manager (SC122), PO Box 711, Tucson, AZ 85702. Electric customers who opt out of having an automated meter will receive a digital meter that does not transmit data wirelessly.
Customers who opted out of using an automated meter before the fees were approved will be subject to the new monthly $26 fee beginning in October 2016 if they do not contact UES and agree to use an automated meter. To avoid this fee, these customers must contact the UES Customer Care team at 1-877-837-4968 before the due date of their September 2016 bills and agree to use an automated meter.