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Old 07-24-2011, 10:34 PM #1
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Exclamation Smart Meters - a few common misconceptions cleared up here.

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I've added THIS post on 1/31/12 a few pages in to this thread.

^^^^Something EVERY ONE SHOULD READ!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!





I keep coming across threads regarding Smart Meters.

Some are well written and well educated threads.

Others (which are the majority of them) have some more or less gruesome misconceptions in them, they are outright scary.
Scary because some of those believing the wrong stuff feel save about not getting busted.
One of those terrible misconceptions is causing some people to feel save with their grow when using Flip Flops to avoid power spikes, more about that later on.

Some of those posters seem to have picked up info somewhere and without having an educated input on their own about that subject they are believing (and spreading) that misunderstood/incomplete info.

In no way am I claiming for myself being "Mr KnowItAll" about this subject and some of what you are reading below might be quoted from elsewhere (very little though). However the 99% I wrote myself is from a certain background I have.
I will try to cover the most common misconceptions floating around so if you spot something I might have missed please feel free to add your educated (!!!) input.

What I am writing here applies to the US of A where I used to live but may apply to other countries as well.
Where I live now we don't have electric meters. And no I don't live in a cave. Just check out he links in my sig if you wanna know more.


First of all please allow me to explain the following:

A Smart Meter is only as smart as it has been made by humans.
There are 4 major manufacturers around, the biggest one around with the most sophisticated models being GE, another being ABB.


The great majority of Smart Meters are HIGHLY customizable
(remotely programmable) 24/7 w/o having to have physical access to them.


What does this mean for you?

This means the Smart Meter provided by your electricity company can (but not always does!) have a lot of functions.
Some of those functions around are "not so desirable" by MJ growers, other functions don't really matter.
The design of a Smart Meter says absolutely nothing about its functionality (what it can do/ or actually does). You can have a analog looking model but it still being a Smart Meter.

You can have a fancy shmancy fully tricked out looking digital meter but it still could be used just as a "bare minimum" model.




How do you know/find out what kind of Smart Meter you have?


This is a VERY DIFFICULT (almost impossible) task to find out about:

You could go and Google your Smart Meters serial &/or manufacturers number but that still won't tell you what was programed in it.
You could call your electricity company and ask questions...but you would very likely end up @ their call center where some minimum wage working guy/gal is sitting having absolutely no idea what the hell you want to know, probably not even what you are talking about.
You could write and then mail them a written inquiry to find out about the functions your Smart Meter has...but how would that guarantee an accurate answer giving you a peace of mind?
Even if you were given an accurate answer the next day your power supplier could go ahead and do a remote "upgrade" of your Smart Meter adding functions - and you would not know about them. The "answer/reply" you got the day before would be grossly outdated.



Now on to the types of Smart Meters used.

This is not a complete list.
There are not going to be errors in it but what you are going to read here is absolutely correct as of July 2011, it just may not cover everything in to its last detail.



There is a type of Smart Meter being used which is a "bare minimum model".
It reads your usage and just your usage.
All it does is record and transmit by different means how much you have used. Not when you have been using how much power within your billing cycle nor anything else.
It transmits your total usage @ the day your billing cycle ends and just that.
It basically is the same meter you have had before but w/o the meter reader having to show up anymore.

Then there are those Smart Meters which record not only how much power you have gone through but also @ what time.
This is when it starts getting a bit "hairy".

What they record looks similar to this.
Not very detailed to the "naked eye" the average home user has.


You can see how much power you have used @ what time but as I already said the whole thing is not very detailed.
Now some might say "Hey that's what we as the end-user can see, but the power company can see a whole lot more!"
Of course they can, but that does not mean they do. YOU just won't know.

A fully digital Smart Meter, nothing analog about it anymore:




Picture below shows another Smart Meter.
Looks kinda simple with its old style looking spinning disk in it.

Guess what?


The manufacturer of this type makes those widely feared fully tricked out models!



Smart Meters can have so many functions programed to them...if you go and read up on what they can do it's almost not even funny anymore.

In this little thread I am boring you with just a very few of those functions, most of those of more or less value to the average MJ home indoor grower.

Besides what you already have read above Smart Meters can also have a function allowing the electricity company to remotely shut off the power where that Smart Meter has been installed.
This means they don't have to send out someone anymore to disconnect your meter.
It is a fully automated function in 1st place. No bill paid within x-days and BAM you're sitting in the dark!

And what next?

Potentially a fat re-connection fee!

But all of you are paying your bills on time, right!?


Anyway on to another feature that will really scare the crap out of you IF you already have a Smart Meter or are about to get one and cannot opt out about it:

These is one of the more "tricked out" units.

They have been (or can be) remotely programmed to make you as the end user the guinea pig of users.
Among their many (dis)advantages are the ability to monitor daily demand, implement conservation programs, create usage profiles by time of day, and detect in real-time potentially hazardous leaks or outages.

Hazardous leaks!? Did anyone catch that!?


Without getting too technical here and since we can't discuss illegal activity such as stealing power which is NOT RECOMMENDED in first place many of these meters can measure the back flow or negative Ions. If you are stealing power some of these models can detect that. And that's what I have to leave it by.

Running 18/6 cycle during vegging?

A few weeks later 12/12 during flowering?

Guess how your cycles will jump out on this graphic:



Then we got another type.

Now this one is pretty bad.

However as of 7/2011 it is of little to no concern for indoor growers unless your ballast has been equipped (with your knowledge - or not) by a transponder being able to communicate with your Smart Meter.

Be VERY aware when buying equipment such as ballasts from unknown sources!

This is a transponder read-out of electrical equipment equipped with such:




One last (but VERY IMPORTANT) thing I would like to say here is the below:

I keep reading posts about avoiding usage spikes when growing. There seems to be a great amount of people believing those spikes are a dead giveaway for indoor growers.

They are not.


And I am going to tell you why:
The ballast itself doesn't generate any significant load - the load comes from the lamp. If you extrapolate this thinking out, you would have a large electrical bill from simply plugging in the ballast with no lamp connected - it doesn't work that way. (thanks rives)

Spikes are not a significant source/giveaway for an indoor grow.


If you turn on your TV, your fridge comes on, you are vacuuming etc. you are creating a more or less dramatic usage spike for a few seconds when the electrical item is being turned on.

LG's 42″ 1920 x 1080 LCD TV for example has an average power consumption of 176W.

The Color (Tube) TV you might have burns 286 Watts.

Computer 80-150Watts.

Dishwasher 1200-1500Watts.

2.5 Ton AC 3,500 Watts

Refrigerator 200 to 700 Watts (depending on if the compressor is on or not).


All of the above when you turn them on create a start up spike which eventually smooths off shortly after (a few seconds).

What does this have to do with your grow?

Ballasts running bulbs have a more or less typical start-up signature when your switch them on. Each ballast has a different one. Magnetic or Digital ballasts they all have a start up signature spike to them.
See one of the graphs above showing such spikes.

But it is VERY HARD (and I mean really really hard) to determine whether it is a ballast which was turned on creating that start-up spike or something similar such as an HQL reptile and/or aquarium lamp.

The give-away is not the start-up spike so many seem to think it is.

It is your excessive usage being created with your indoor grow.

A Flip Flop is NOT going to provide you with ANY SECURITY!
Flip Flops switch the load on your ballast to other bulb(s) (commonly used during the 12/12 cycle) causing the ballast not having to re-start. Many think the aforementioned process will avoid a spike (such as previously mentioned) but it will NOT lower your power bill.
The caveat is that the spikes, while not easily attributable to HID lighting (or whatever flavor), are most easily going to be recognized by their repeatability. Spikes of the same magnitude at a highly repeatable interval over several weeks are going to be suspect. Most spikes generated within a house are going to be from a device responding to a relatively random event (thermostat, etc), rather than a reasonably accurate 12 hour period. Unfortunately, this is probably an event that could be easily picked out by an automated search.

Spikes are NOT the main "give away" though - there are just too many of those around in an average household.

I am not saying you gotta be concerned having your little 600 Watt closet size indoor grow going.

But those large(r) scale indoor grows boosting your bill from an average let's say $200/month to $600 (or more) per month often will raise a red flag.
There is no one sitting behind a computer @ the electric company looking @ Tom, Dick & Tracey's bill thinking:

"Oh Tom must be growing pot, his power bill is $668 and his neighbors who has a similar size house is only $186."

These are automated programs determining based on programed factors if there MIGHT be foul play involved (read further below what happened to me years ago).
Some electric companies will send you a letter announcing an inspection to check if there might be something wrong such as an AC not turning off anymore or you are running your pool pump 24/7 or your well pump does not cycle anymore and is running continuously. All those are fairly big user of power, especially over a lengthier stretch of time.

Other companies (such as they are very well known for in the state of Florida) create a "knock & talk" @ your door by the local Sheriffs department.
One might think power suppliers are happy about high bills as long as they are being paid for and yes some actually are (such as PG&E in Cali) but not everyone lives in Cali ya know!?

Years ago when I lived in Florida (but was not growing indoors) I had a visit like that.
I knew what the issue was and I still did not let them in, especially because I had nothing to hide.
@ this point you will be asking yourself is SH stupid, why I did not let them in?

That was because I wanted to see what was going to happen.
Yes it was simple as that, I am that kinda guy.

Nothing (I was aware of) happened for a week.

Then the electric company knocked @ my door @ 6:30am.
I told them through the intercom to come back when normal people are awake and not when they are still sleeping.
They showed up 4 hours later accompanied by an LEO officer. I asked the Electric Company rep for his work ID which he showed me.
I also asked why he brought a Sheriff with him.
The Sheriff answered instead & said they do that for their security. I replied the electric Rep can come in but the Sheriff is not going to.
The Sheriff asked "Why not?"
and I told him "Because I don't have an emergency and don't like strangers come to my house in 1st place."

Not 5 minutes later the electric comp. rep left due to seeing my pool heater set to 105F and it therefore running most hours of the day & night. My parents were living with me back then and my Dad had real bad arthritis and he spent most of the day sitting in the 105F water easing his pain.

Before the electric rep left he asked me why I did not make it easier for him from the beginning, I answered because as long as I pay my bill on time I should not have to show proof what I use the electricity for no matter how much it is.




Good luck y'all with your growing experience.

Don't be paranoid but be careful & use your common sense. Exercise proper odor control and always remember DO NOT TELL ANYONE WHAT YOU ARE DOING!

Excessive usage of electricity can be a dead giveaway but the #1 reason for busts are snitches (your jealous buddy, your mad x-wife or gf, nosy neighbor, maintenance man etc.)



So don't smell and ESPECIALLY don't tell!







Edit:
Please also read this little very recent "bonus article" I have come across:



Direct link to story (or read below):
Smart meters help cops identify and bust indoor marijuana growing operations

Toledo : OH : USA | Mar 02, 2011
By RobertTilford01


Smart meters can help police bust indoor marijuana growing operations. It does so because the smart meters provide highly detailed energy use data, that could be used in real time surveillance of neighborhoods, communities, cities and eventually the nation's entire electrical grid.

In central Ohio, law enforcement officials file as many as 60 subpoenas each month for energy use records of people suspected in indoor marijuana growing operations. It seems that most of the residences with indoor pot growing operations are in quit neighborhoods without much traffic.

HOW COPS USE SMART METER TECHNOLOGY IS INTERESTING
According to Drug Enforcement Agency, the subpena is only "one tool" used to catch illegal grow house operations. What typically happens is that police may recieve a tip of suspicous activity and undercover officers might not find anything illegal during a routine surveillance of the suspect's residence. So then "utility consumption records" can be sought which could be one indicator police use to get 'probable cause' to go search the place.


Using smart grid for surveillance to catch indoor pot farmers is not new. We found references to this going back to 2005 see: "NeverGetBusted" document "fishing for pot" and the Dallas Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog reported on "Texas warrantless surveillance program" in which Austin Energy provides police with "customer usage information" to find grow houses.


POT GROWERS GET "SMART" ALSO
In writing this article, I did some investigating and found some people who traffic in pot willing to talk with me about there smart energy concerns. They indicated there are many ways around that kind of smart meter surveillance and monitoring. The primary one, don't opt for smart meter technology, if you can. They cited the use of solar energy panels to feed back energy into the grid, gas generators and the tapping of nearby electrical utility lines illegally for power (smart grid makes that more and more difficult however). One fellow indicate the possibility of 'meter tampering or bypass', but I didn't really understand how that works, but thought I should mention it.

TRENDING NOW- SMALLER MARIJUANA GROW OPERATIONS
The growers say the trend now is "hydro" and "chronic" so called: "one hit wonders" - or the growing of high quality medical grade marijuana, through cross breading and genetics. So marijuana grow operations are forming that are tending to be cultivating smaller crops that interestingly enough sell for more money. So it will be interesting to see how this will evolve over time. If marijuana was legalized the government could tax the f*cking shit out it, like they do now for alcohol and cigarettes. But that is my personal opinion.


MANY DIFFERENT ENERGY SPIES
But law enforcement is only the beginning of how smart grid can be used to spy and commit what might be called: "soft forms of espionage".
Insurance companies for example could use the smart grid data as real time surveillance to determine if people are present in the home they are asked to insure as a primary residence. The press also could use smart meters to monitor and report on celebrities and politicians energy usage and meter data.


THE "DARK SIDE"
Everything has a "dark side" as Darth Vader would call it. So to smart meter technology. Criminals may want to see the data to determine the "point of least energy usage" which would give then the best time to come around the house to burglarize it maybe...or see what kind of high dollar appliances you might have to rip off! Creditors too could use that data to theoretically determine in behavior indicates credit worthiness for example. And I can think of a billion others, but you get my point.
The scariest report I saw was the fact that smart meter grids could include as many as 440 million customers meaning 440 million "new hackable points" by the end of 2015 (reported by Computerworld), according to Lockheed Martin General Manager of Energy and Cyber Services.


So besides privacy conerns for criminals - smart grid presents new vulnerability to the electrical grid itself.
In the near future we may see a time when energy will be regulated and more controlled ad so will your usage of that energy.


Welcome to George Orwell's 1984.








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Something every grower "on the grid" should be aware of:


Smart Meters - a few common misconceptions cleared up here.


Last edited by Strainhunter; 01-31-2012 at 09:54 AM.. Reason: edited a couple minor errors, some spelling and an bonus article.
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Old 07-24-2011, 10:51 PM #2
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Beautifully done.
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Old 07-24-2011, 10:53 PM #3
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Damn dude... u scared me again... really have gotten loose in the medi States. I can hardly imagine what FL must be like... just crazy you can get a door knock like that.
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Old 07-24-2011, 11:13 PM #4
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i know you're not referring to my thread... extremely simple question met with all sorts of retarded answers
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Old 07-24-2011, 11:14 PM #5
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Nice reading and well done research.

Started to work for one of the biggest electric companies in Sweden for 2years time.
Only time i got called out to check out a person are if stealing power or if your running on almost full load all the time (just to check so yours house does not burn down).
Electric companies are more then happy to send you a high bill as long you pay it in time.

But i live in Sweden so don't know for sure how it works in the U.S
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Old 07-24-2011, 11:17 PM #6
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What an informative post. Thanks for putting out the effort to write this.
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Old 07-25-2011, 04:32 AM #7
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great info Strainhunter!
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Old 07-25-2011, 04:47 AM #8
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I love that you did this. I love that you challenged them. I love that you told the cop he couldn't come in. Especially since you didn't have anything to hide.

Next time that cop is called upon to do the same sort of thing, he's going to remember YOU and remember that you were a legit citizen. Might make it easier on the next few guys who are actually doing something.

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Old 07-25-2011, 04:51 AM #9
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Great,and timely article. What I get out of it is to have something to show if PG&E comes a knocking.
Air conditioners,space heaters and spa heaters are big power users.
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Old 07-25-2011, 05:04 AM #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rick shaw View Post
Great,and timely article. What I get out of it is to have something to show if PG&E comes a knocking.
Air conditioners,space heaters and spa heaters are big power users.

An AC has a HUGE spike when it comes on.
Space heaters don't & neither do spa heaters but all 3 are great power users.

A 3 Ton AC (36,000 BTU) will draw about ~100 amps for the compressor on START UP.
Newer units are less than 12 amps on 220Volt and are normally installed on a 30 amp circuit. They will draw around 2,500 to 3,000 Watts while running.

PG&E in Cali very likely won't bother you if you pay your bill on time and are within state legal limits regarding your grow.
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Something every grower "on the grid" should be aware of:


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