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Frequently Asked Questions

UniSource Energy Services is installing meters at homes and businesses that 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 are being installed?

UES is installing Automatic Meter Reading (AMR) meters manufactured by Itron. Although AMR meters lack many features associated with more advanced "smart meters," they can 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.

Why is UES installing AMR meters?

AMR meters offer an accurate, affordable way to measure consumption of natural gas and energy usage. While our traditional electromechanical meters must be inspected visually each month, usage data from AMR meters can be forwarded to us automatically through a fixed network or gathered quickly and easily by UES meter readers driving nearby in vehicles equipped with a remote collector.

Our AMR meters are an affordable replacement for electromechanical meters at the end of their useful lives. New electromechanical meters are no longer available, and UES’ AMR meters cost about the same as comparable digital meters without wireless communications capability. That, combined with lower meter reading costs, helps make AMR meters a good investment for UES and our customers.

AMR meters also make it easy to gather usage data more frequently than once a month. Aggregated hourly readings from AMR meters can be used to track natural gas and energy use levels in certain areas of town, helping utilities plan for system improvements. AMR meters also could give customers an opportunity to view their usage data on a daily or even hourly basis, although UES has no such plans at present.

Are UES’ AMR meters considered "smart meters"?

UES and others in the utility industry would not describe AMR meters as smart meters. So-called smart meters typically feature two-way communications and can be equipped to relay data to and from air conditioners, refrigerators and other specially equipped devices within a customer's home or business.

UES’ AMR meters, by contrast, communicate one way and are not linked to appliances or other devices within the home. AMR meters collect the same data as a traditional meter but have just one additional feature: the ability to communicate readings wirelessly.

How do AMR meters work?

Like a traditional electromechanical meter, AMR meters measure the amount of natural gas or energy flowing through the main service lines that provide electric 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 AMR meters communicate readings?

Our AMR meters send out readings approximately every 30 seconds. Because these communications last only a few milliseconds, the meters are typically communicating for less than two and a half minutes in a 24-hour period.

Is there any reason to be concerned about exposure to RF signals from AMR meters?
The brief wireless signals from UES’ AMR 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 (FCC).

In October 2014, the Arizona Department of Health Services completed a study about the use of AMR and smart 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 AMR meter is installed at my home or business?

UES’ AMR 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 AMR meter.

Does UES seek customers' permission before installing AMR meters?

No. Electric 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 request that an AMR meter be removed from my home or business?

Requests to have a digital meter removed must be submitted in writing to Customer Service Manager (SC122), PO Box 711, Tucson, AZ 85702.