Smart Meter FAQs

Smart Meter Frequently Asked Questions


Smart Meter Upgrades


I have a time-of-day meter. What do I need to know about my upgrade, and will my rates change with a new smart meter?

If you are currently enrolled in time-of-day (TOD) rates using an Electrical Thermal Storage (ETS) unit your rates will not change with a new smart meter, but you may need a standalone timer to be installed at the same time as your meter upgrade. Here’s what you need to know:

  • We will contact all TOD customers by mail, requesting they call our Customer Care Centre at 1-800-428-6230 so we can determine if their home heating system requires a timer. Only TOD customers who have an Electric Thermal Storage (ETS) unit that is connected to their meter will require this timer.
  • If a customer requires a timer, we will book an appointment and will arrange for a certified electrician to visit their property. The electrician will install the timer and complete the smart meter upgrade. This process takes about an hour to complete with a momentary loss of power.
  • If a customer does not require a timer, a technician will simply remove their meter and replace it with a new smart meter. This process takes less than 15 minutes to complete with a momentary loss of power.

Once all meters in the province are upgraded, we will begin turning on smart technology which will help customers better manage electricity costs, improve response time in the event of an outage, and make connecting or disconnecting power easier and faster.

I’m a time-of-day customer that requires a timer. What kind of timer will be installed and is there a warranty for the timer?

We will be installing OMRON Digital Daily Time Switch (H5F) timers and yes, there is a lifetime warranty on the timer for as long as the customer owns the property where the timer was installed (the “Warranty Period”).

 If you run into any issues with your timer during the warranty period, please contact our Customer Care Centre at 1-800-428-6230 and we will be happy to assist, and if required, exchange the timer at no cost to you.*

 *If the damage is deemed to have been caused by the customer or the customer’s negligence, the ETS timer will not be covered by the above noted warranty. Nova Scotia Power shall not be liable for any damages in the event damages are as a result of an act of God. In the event the damage is caused by Nova Scotia Power’s negligence or wilful misconduct, direct damages shall be the sole remedy. In no event shall Nova Scotia Power be liable for any indirect, special or consequential damages to any persons or property resulting from or arising out of any installation, use, repair, delay in repairing, replacement, modification or removal of the equipment.


How can I verify my meter upgrade technician’s identity?

Your meter technician will arrive in a co-branded vehicle and will be wearing co-branded safety gear with both Nova Scotia Power and Tribus Services logos. Additionally, your technician will have an identification badge with the Nova Scotia Power logo and ‘Authorized Contractor’ included on it.

Who will be upgrading my current meter to a smart meter?

Our smart meter installation partner is Tribus Services. They were selected because of their extensive experience in safely completing large scale smart meter upgrades. They have completed more than two million upgrades in Canada, including specific experience installing the OpenWay Riva Centron meter that we are using. Tribus Services technicians are trained to safely and efficiently install smart meters. Their work is reviewed by inspectors, who conduct quality assurance audits on the upgrades.

The technicians are also trained to identify pre-existing problems at the customer’s home or business. If a potential safety issue is identified, they will not perform the smart meter upgrade. Instead, they will alert Nova Scotia Power that an investigation is required and that repairs are needed before the smart meter upgrade can proceed. 

How will smart meters work in areas with limited cellular coverage?

Smart meters and supporting technology do not use cellular or wi-fi at your home or business to function. The data collected by the smart meter is transmitted through our own secure and private network.

         

However, about 0.2% of our customers are located in such remote locations that we will not be able to establish efficient two-way communication with their smart meters. As a result, these customers will maintain manually-read non-standard meters. 

What if I move into a house that doesn’t have a smart meter, how do I get my meter upgraded?

You can call our Customer Care Centre at 1-800-428-6230 at any time to have your meter upgraded to a smart meter at no cost.

Are you recycling old meters?

Meters that are deemed to have no further operating value will be recycled with nearly 100% of the meter’s components – aluminum, copper, stainless steel – being repurposed. Only trace amounts of the meter and some plastics are processed at a landfill. We have partnered with Bay, Metal Inc. to manage the disposal and recycling of old meters.


Cost and Rates


Will I be charged for a smart meter?

No. There is no charge to upgrade to a smart meter.

 

 

Will smart meters make my bill go up?

No. Energy use, the weather and the number of days between meter readings are factors that can increase bills. Like all meters, smart meters measure consumption but do not affect energy use. Similar to analogue and digital meters, smart meters are regulated by Measurement Canada and undergo rigorous and regular quality testing to ensure power consumption calculations are accurate. 

Learn more about Measurement Canada regulations:

If your bill seems higher than usual, please contact our Customer Care Centre at 1.800.428.6230 and they will be happy to assist. 

Will time-of-day rates be available with smart meters?

Since 1997, we’ve offered time-of-day rates to residential customers who have Electric Thermal Storage (ETS) units. These units store heat at off peak times and release heat during the day when rates are higher, saving them money. Learn more here.

As part of the smart meter approval process, the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board (UARB) asked that time varying pricing tariff options be provided for consideration. Through stakeholder consultation, we will examine various options and seek solutions that reflect the energy needs of our customers, including a recognition that customers want options that support rate stability and affordability. Time-of-day tariffs will be voluntary when they become available. There will be no change for those who do not participate.

Will electricity rates increase because of smart meters?

No. Our investment in smart meters and supporting technology will enable us to provide customers with faster, more effective service and will help keep rates stable over the long term. 

How do I opt out of receiving a smart meter and what are the fees?

Smart meters are our new standard service and there is no additional cost to take advantage of their benefits. If you opt out of a smart meter, you will be choosing  non-standard meter service and will be charged a fee for that service. This ensures that the costs to manually read your meter and maintain older systems and processes for non-standard meters are not passed on to smart meter customers. These fees have been estimated as follows:

  • Customers whose meters are currently read every two months will pay a fee of approximately $4 per month. This fee and the number of times a meter is read annually, is subject to review and approval by the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board (UARB). Customers will not be charged these fees or experience a change in the number of times their meter is read annually until approval is received from the UARB.
  • Customers whose meters are currently read each month will continue to have monthly reads and pay a fee of approximately $22 per month.

The above calculations are subject to the review and approval by the UARB. These fees are an estimate and will not be charged to customers until the smart meter upgrade is complete and approval is received from the UARB to begin charging fees. It is our expectation that the UARB will review existing rates, which includes meter reading costs, and opt out fees at the time of the next General Rate Application. 

In order to opt out, you are required to review and submit an opt out acknowledgement form and a member of our Customer Care Centre will contact you to confirm your selection. 

Residential Customers, click here.

Business Customers, click here.

Customers who opt-out may, at any time, opt back in at no cost.

Why is there a fee for opting out?

The estimated fee to opt out covers the cost of providing a non-standard level of service. While the manual reading of meters is a component of this fee, it is not the only cost that is incurred to maintain legacy meters and supporting infrastructure. The opt out fee is an estimate and is subject to review and final approval by the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board (UARB). It is our expectation that the UARB will review existing rates, which include meter reading costs, and opt out rates at the time of the next General Rate Application. 

 Estimated fees will not be charged to customers until the smart meter upgrade is complete and approval is received from the UARB to begin charging fees. 

If I opt out can I keep my current meter? What if I want an analog meter?

Customers who opt out of the smart meter upgrade will retain their current meter. If they opt out after receiving a smart meter, the two-way communication device within the smart meter will be turned off and their energy usage will be manually read.

We do not intend on using analog meters in the long term because these meters are obsolete. In fact, we have not purchased analog meters in ten years. Since 2010, any analog meters in need of replacement have been upgraded to a Measurement Canada approved digital meter. The difference been digital meters and smart meters is that digital meters do not offer two-way communication like smart meters. They need to be read manually and do not offer the same benefits as smart meters. 

How much energy does a smart meter use and who pays for that electricity?

All meters, including smart meters, use electricity fed from the service wire and meter mast. Electricity that passes through the meter and flows into a home or business is based on the customer’s energy consumption, measured by the meter, and then paid for by the customer. Only energy delivered to the load side of the meter and onto the customer’s panel is recorded as usage on the meter’s register. Customers are not charged for the small amount of electricity that is used to run the meter.  

A smart meter consumes around 30 milliamps (or .03 amps) of electricity to operate. This is a very small amount and amounts to approximately 2.9 cents of energy consumed per day. This cost is absorbed by us. Customers only pay for the electricity they use.

The amount of energy required to run a smart meter is similar to the amount of energy required to run a mechanical (analog) meter, which consumes about 30 to 35 milliamps depending on the make or model. 

I have a time-of-day meter. What do I need to know about my upgrade, and will my rates change with a new smart meter?

If you are currently enrolled in time-of-day (TOD) rates using an Electrical Thermal Storage (ETS) unit your rates will not change with a new smart meter, but you may need a standalone timer to be installed at the same time as your meter upgrade. Here’s what you need to know:

  • We will contact all TOD customers by mail, requesting they call our Customer Care Centre at 1-800-428-6230 so we can determine if their home heating system requires a timer. Only TOD customers who have an Electric Thermal Storage (ETS) unit that is connected to their meter will require this timer.
  • If a customer requires a timer, we will book an appointment and will arrange for a certified electrician to visit their property. The electrician will install the timer and complete the smart meter upgrade. This process takes about an hour to complete with a momentary loss of power.
  • If a customer does not require a timer, a technician will simply remove their meter and replace it with a new smart meter. This process takes less than 15 minutes to complete with a momentary loss of power.

Once all meters in the province are upgraded, we will begin turning on smart technology which will help customers better manage electricity costs, improve response time in the event of an outage, and make connecting or disconnecting power easier and faster.

Health and Safety


I live in a large apartment building where many smart meters will be installed. Should I be worried about radio frequency emissions?

Radio frequency exposure levels in smart meters are far below Canadian and international safety limits. Even in places where multiple smart meters are installed together, as in high-rise buildings, the total exposure levels from multiple smart meters are still significantly below Health Canada's exposure limits. In third-party testing conducted in October of 2020, a single smart meter tested at 100x less than the safe exposure limit set by Health Canada and 15 smart meters (all communicating at the same time) in NS Power’s meter room tested at 92x less than the limit. Read more about Health Canada’s safe exposure limits here

Do smart meters cause power surges?

If the property owner’s electrical infrastructure is to code, there is no issue.

In some cases, pre-existing customer wiring, electrical deficiencies and/or overloading at the customer’s home or business can cause the meter socket or other electrical equipment to overheat. When this occurs, we work directly with the home or business owner to correct any unsafe conditions and verify that the customer’s electrical system meets all regulations. This means we assign an inspector to ensure the requirements of the Canadian Electrical Code are met. For safety, we often need to disconnect the customer’s power supply until the deficiencies are corrected. Working with our customers to correct these issues means that Nova Scotia homes and businesses are safer — an additional benefit to installing new, state of the art technology. 

Didn’t other communities install smart meters that caused fires?

We recognize that some jurisdictions encountered challenges when smart meters were initially deployed. Smart meter technology has matured rapidly, and the latest generation do not have the same issues that were encountered in the past. Today in Canada, smart meters are safely used in 70% of all households and businesses and Nova Scotia Power has benefited from the experience of others and applied the lessons learned. Our meters meet or exceed industry regulations and standards that are in place to ensure the health and safety of both our employees and customers.

Our supplier, Itron conducts rigorous quality assurance testing to ensure safety, accuracy and reliability. Before installation in the field, all meters are tested in accordance with safety standards established by a number of industry standards bodies. To date, more than 80 million CENTRON meters (including 20 million OpenWay CENTRON and OpenWay Riva CENTRON smart meters) have been successfully installed in North America without any safety issues. We use CENTRON meters. 

We’re confident our smart meters are safe.

What are radio frequency emissions and do smart meters have them?

All devices that use wireless communication produce radio frequency (RF) emissions, also referred to as “RF energy”. This includes common household items such as computers, wi-fi routers, and cellular phones. 

Health Canada’s Safety Code 6 sets the safe exposure limits for RF energy from wireless devices. The code reflects an ongoing review of published scientific studies related to safe human exposure to RF energy, including non-thermal effects. The OpenWay Riva Centron meter we’re installing adheres to Safety Code 6..   In third-party testing conducted in October of 2020, a single smart meter we’d installed on a detached residential home tested at 100x less than the safe exposure limit set by Health Canada’s Safety Code 6.

Since RF energy exposure levels in smart meters are far below Canadian and international safety limits, Health Canada does not require any precautionary measures to be taken. In cases where multiple smart meters are installed together, as in high-rise buildings, the total exposure levels from multiple smart meters is still far below Health Canada's RF energy exposure limits. 

For more information, please visit Government of Canada,  Radio Frequency Energy and Safety. This Health Canada website also provides more information about RF energy emitted from smart meters and why it does not pose a health risk. 

 

Do smart meters cause fires?

Today, more than 70% of Canadian homes and businesses safely use smart meter technology. Our supplier, Itron, has successfully installed more than 80 million CENTRON meters in North America, including 20 million OpenWay CENTRON meters without any safety issues. We are installing the latest generation meter in this line, called the OpenWay Riva CENTRON meter.

Itron conducts rigorous quality assurance testing to ensure safety, accuracy and reliability. Before installation in the field, all meters are tested in accordance with safety standards established by a number of industry standards bodies.  Our meters meet or exceed government regulations and safety standards set by Measurement CanadaHealth Canada Safety Code 6, and Underwriters Laboratories. Underwriters Laboratories is an internationally recognized standard-setting organization that uses extensive safety research and scientific expertise to ensure product safety, including managing the risk of fire.  

 

How do I know if smart meters are safe?

Today, more than 70% of Canadian homes and businesses safely use smart meter technology. Our supplier, Itron, has successfully installed more than 80 million CENTRON meters in North America, including 20 million OpenWay CENTRON meters without any safety issues. We are installing the latest generation meter in this line, called the OpenWay Riva CENTRON meter.

Before installation in the field, all meters are tested in accordance with safety standards established by a number of industry standards bodies.  Our meters meet or exceed government regulations and safety standards set by Measurement Canada and Health Canada Safety Code 6.

The smart meters we’re installing also meet Underwriters Laboratories safety standard 2735. This safety standard is a written document that outlines the process in which smart meters are tested to help mitigate risk, injury or danger. Underwriters Laboratories is an internationally recognized standard-setting organization which combines extensive safety research, scientific expertise and an uncompromising focus on quality. Our supplier is required to provide us with smart meters that have been approved by Underwriters Laboratories. In October 2018, our supplier, Itron, received a notice of completion and authorization to apply the Underwriters Laboratories mark, indicating that our meters complied with their safety requirements. 

Privacy


How will smart meters communicate energy usage information back to Nova Scotia Power?

Nova Scotia Power is building a secure and private communication network through the use of Connected Grid Routers, also known as CGRs or Collectors (we will not be using a cellular network or your WiFi). When meters have been upgraded and the communication network is up and running, meters will use wireless communication to securely transmit your energy usage information to Nova Scotia Power.

What information will smart meters send?

Smart meters transmit energy use information, in an encrypted format, over a private and secure wireless network to our data centre. Smart meters do not transmit personal information such as customer names, addresses or account numbers. Our smart meters adhere to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Interagency Report 7628 that sets guidelines for smart grid cybersecurity.

What will you do with my energy usage data? Is it kept private?

We take the privacy of customer information very seriously. We do not sell personal information and only share it with third parties in limited circumstances in order to provide services to customers. For example, e-billing and credit card transactions are managed by third parties (financial institutions). We also use third parties to collect payments and process data on our behalf.

The steps we take to protect customer information is specified in our privacy policy.

Will smart meters transmit data all day?

Our smart meters will collect power consumption data every 15 minutes and transmit this data back to Nova Scotia Power via a secure connection four times a day. We expect the duty cycle — the total time meters are transmitting — to be very brief, representing an average of 0.21% in a 24-hour period (approximately three minutes per day). This estimate reflects studies in other jurisdictions using similar technology.  

Smart Meter Technology


How do I read my new smart meter?

Our smart meter network will be turned on in late 2021 when all upgrades are complete. At that time, readings will be done remotely and in most cases, property visits will not be required to read meters.

Until the technology is turned on, we are still manually reading meters for billing purposes. While this is done approximately every 60 days by Nova Scotia Power, our customers often want to read the meter for themselves. Here’s how:

  • All smart meters cycle through several screens before they get to the screen displaying the kWh reading. These initial screens are normal.
  • For a residential smart meter customer, the screen that shows the kWh usage will appear with a code d1 to the left. This screen will also display the kilowatt hours used (kWh).
  • When manually reading a smart meter, residential customers should record the numbers that appear on the d1 screen.
  • Not sure if you have a smart meter? Our smart meters are branded with the name, OpenWay Riva. Most residential customers would have meters with a light blue label. The screens are digital. In addition, all smart meters have a seven-digit number beneath the bar code that always starts with a '2'.

Need help? Our Customer Care centre will be happy to walk you through the process. You can call them at 1.800.428.6230.

Have smart meters been activated and is the network on?

All smart meters begin measuring energy usage consumption at the time of installation. While smart meters are active, we continue to build the smart meter communications network in preparation for turning on the customer facing benefits of smart meter technology starting in late 2021. Some of the many benefits include:

  • View Your Daily Usage – Access your daily energy use information through your online MyAccount to give you more insight into how and when you use electricity to help you better manage your costs.
  • Set Notifications – Set-up personal energy use and billing notifications to help you control costs.
  • Billing Support – Our customer care team can review your daily energy use with you and help resolve billing inquires more efficiently.
  • Improved Response – Smart meters help us understand when and where outages happen, allowing for a faster, more efficient response.
  • Faster Connection – Connecting and disconnecting electricity can be faster and easier with on-site appointments not always being required.
  • Remote Meter Reading – In most cases, property visits will not be required to read meters and there will be fewer estimated bills due to meter access issues.

Will my generator work with a smart meter?

Yes. Smart meters do not impact household generators, so long as the generator is properly connected. This includes the common brand used in Nova Scotia, called GenerLink. A properly installed generator does not connect to any type of meter as this would be a hazard. For example, many of our customers use a product called GenerLink which connects to the generator not the power meter. The GenerLink device disconnects the meter and the service supply from the street preventing a back feed from the generator (back feed is a condition in which electricity from a generator flows back into the utility’s electric distribution system through the home’s breaker panel, causing a hazard. Back feed occurs if your home is not properly disconnected from the utility grid before using a generator).

GenerLink (along with other approved transfer devices) automatically disconnect a home from the utility’s electric distribution system when a generator is operating, eliminating back feed. This is a safe and proper way of connecting a generator to the permanent wiring of the home while disconnecting the meter and utility supply. The Canadian Electrical Code requires that these transfer devices be installed to prevent a generator from back feeding — ensuring only one source of supply can be connected to the wiring in the home at any one time. As a result, customers with these types of devices do not need to modify their generator prior to a smart meter upgrade, so long as it is connected properly.

More information about generator installation and safety can be found here.

Is the east coast environment inhospitable to smart meters?

We’re confident that smart meters can operate safely and effectively in Nova Scotia. A life test report on the smart meter we are installing, the OpenWay Riva CENTRON meter, was filed with the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board. This report examined operational performance in various conditions including issues relating to moisture infiltration.

It is normal to have a small amount of moisture condensate within the cover of any type of meter including an old analog or new smart meter, especially at times of the year where temperature fluctuations are common. This will normally dry up quickly on a warm day. If a customer feels it is excessive, they should contact our Customer Care Centre at 1.800.428.6230 and they would be happy to assist and send a crew to investigate, if necessary. 

What are the environmental benefits of using smart meters?

Smart meters will allow us to provide customers with faster, more effective service and keep rates stable over the long term. While we’re committed to a clean energy future, we have not made any specific commitments relating to the environmental benefits of smart meters. However, given the ability to monitor energy use more frequently and in greater detail, we expect many customers will turn off unneeded appliances, change to more efficient lighting, adjust thermostats and make other energy-saving changes that save money and reduce emissions. In addition, smart meters reduce emissions associated with performing services such as connections, disconnections and meter readings where vehicles are required.

Smart meters also provide the foundation for a new, and smarter, energy grid that will enable more wind and solar generation, battery storage and electric vehicles. This modern power grid is more energy efficient which helps manage costs while also acting as a catalyst for a cleaner environment.

I use renewable energy at my home. Do I need a smart meter?

Yes. You will require a bi-directional smart meter — one that collects energy usage data going into both your premise, and the grid, while also retaining the ability to transmit this information to Nova Scotia Power.  

Will there be job losses once smart meters are installed?

We are working closely with employees who are impacted by the smart meter upgrade, with a goal of providing each of these employees with a career transition opportunity. The smart meter upgrade has provided an opportunity for many of our employees in meter services to explore new career options and gain access to training to help further their career with Nova Scotia Power.

COVID-19 Protocols


I live in a condo and the meters are inside. Does that mean your technicians will enter the building? Is that safe?

We work with building management to gain entry and ensure that information about the smart meter upgrade is posted in the lobby or another suitable area that would be visible to residents. Our technicians wear personal protective equipment including cloth masks and gloves and wipe work surfaces with disinfectant. Physical distancing will be maintained, and the technician will keep any interaction with residents as brief as possible.

As a Nova Scotia Power customer, you will receive advance notification about the smart meter upgrades in your building. We will contact you at least two weeks prior through the mail and by an automated telephone call. 

Will you conduct upgrades in senior care facilities?

Yes. We are contacting the management of these facilities to identify an appropriate time to complete smart meter upgrades. We recognize the pressure COVID-19 has put on these facilities and its residents and we’ll perform the work when it’s convenient. As always, safety is our top priority. When the upgrades are scheduled, all health and safety protocols established by the care facility managers and Nova Scotia Health will be followed. 

Why did you suspend the upgrades back in March? What’s different now?

We suspended smart meter upgrades due to emerging pandemic conditions and restrictions. This pause gave us time to review and refine our safety protocols and acquire more protective equipment. We are confident we can perform smart meter upgrades in a way that fulfills pandemic protocols and protects our customers and employees.

Can I book an appointment to have my meter upgraded at a later date?

Upgrading to a smart meter is a quick and easy process – it typically only takes about 15 minutes with a momentary loss of power. If customers need an appointment to have their meter upgraded, they can do so by contacting out Customer Care Centre at 1-800-428-6230. 

What steps are you taking to ensure the safety of your customers and employees?

Safety is always our top priority. Our technician will knock at the customer’s door before beginning their work. They will wear a cloth mask and gloves. Additionally, they will have safety glasses with them and will wear them if required. 

As a result of the current Covid-19 pandemic, our technicians have received additional safety training and all protocols established by the Nova Scotia Chief Medical Officer of Health will be followed. This includes:

  • Wearing personal protective equipment including cloth masks and gloves.
  • Wiping surfaces before and after their work with disinfectant.
  • Maintaining physical distancing and keeping any interaction with customers as brief as possible.

Guidelines for technicians have also been developed to address coughing/sneezing etiquette, hand washing hygiene and how to properly maintain personal protective equipment. A comprehensive process to track the health and travel of employees and contractors has been put in place.