How We Read Meters

Electric and Combination Customers

Virtually every home and business we provide energy for has received an upgraded meter. These more accurate meters are equipped with two-way communication capabilities and make it easier to read your monthly use.

To report a reading, a module within the meter sends total energy use through a secure network. Then, you have the ability to view your energy use online the following day.

Upgraded meters give you the tools to make more informed energy choices and offer benefits like:
  • Increased meter read accuracy.
  • The choice to select the bill due date that works best for you.
  • Detailed energy use information at your fingertips.
  • Faster knowledge of outages, so we can respond more quickly.
You can discover energy-saving tips, receive automated alerts when your energy use is trending higher than expected and review your energy use by hour, day or month.
Q: What is an upgraded meter?
A: An upgraded meter is technology in the form of a digital meter with communication capabilities. We use the cellular telephone network to read meters remotely, once each day. The cellular device within the meter enables two-way communication to gather total energy use and send it back to us. This usage information is in no way allowing us to determine how much energy individual appliances within a home are using.

Q: Do upgraded meters cause high bills?
A: No. The upgraded meters are tested for accuracy by our meter vendor. High bills are typically caused by weather related use, past due balances, billing span day variances, budget plan adjustments or catch-up bills from estimates.

If you’ve noticed that your bill seems higher than previous months, consider the following:
  • What’s the temperature setting on your thermostat?
  • Do you have electric or natural gas heat?
  • Are you using a space heater?
  • Have you added anything new to your home since this time last winter?
  • Is your home well insulated? When you stand near your doors and/or windows, do you feel cold air coming in?
Small changes in your energy use can impact your bill. If you have an upgraded meter, you can track your daily energy use online.

Q: What if I don’t want an upgraded meter on my home?
A: As of December 2017, the majority of installations were complete. If you’d like to opt out after a meter upgrade, there is a one-time fee of $123.91 (if notified prior of installation, the one-time fee is $69.39) and a $9.72/month charge after that to cover the manual meter read. For more information or to opt-out, please call 888-862-2199.

Q: I’ve heard that there is concern about radiofrequency (RF) exposure. Where does Consumers Energy stand?
A: We take concerns about your health seriously. Scientific and medical evidence to date suggests that exposure to RF fields does not cause adverse health effects provided that exposure is within safety guidelines. The United States government and the international health community - including the World Health Organization and numerous independent studies - have deemed low-level radiofrequency to be entirely safe. Our smart meter program has been approved by the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC).

Q: What do upgraded meters mean for you?
A: Upgraded meters mean -
  • Improved Outage Response: The upgraded meters present improved power outage detection which may reduce outage time. In the future, the sensors along the lines of distribution on the smart grid will enable us to locate and determine the cause of the outage, often even before you report the outage. In addition, we’ll have the ability to re-route your electricity around the faulty power lines to restore your power more quickly. This means greater reliability and service quality.
  • Accurate Billing: Because your daily energy use is sent to us, upgraded meters will virtually eliminate estimated bills. The upgraded meters will also eliminate surprise energy bills at the end of the month because you will have the ability to go online and monitor your accruing bill throughout the month. You can track your daily energy use online.
  • Select Your Bill Due Date
  • Pay as You Go: Our payment option that lets you pay ahead for your energy use.
  • Switch Your Rate: Rate options allow you to save money by reducing your energy use when demand is highest and energy is most expensive.

Q: Why is Consumers Energy investing in a smarter energy future?
A: We work to improve our customer service and energy service reliability. Smart Energy is part of the company’s ‘Promise to Michigan.’ Smart Energy technologies, including upgraded meter technology are key to serving our neighbors better.

Q: What are in-home privacy and related issues surrounding upgraded meters?
A: In addition to your health, in-home privacy is taken seriously. We have a dedicated team that is committed to keeping you and your privacy safe. Data privacy concerns are comparable to cell phone use and corresponding data. Similar to how your cell phone provider sends a bill that monitors when you used your minutes, we’ll be able to send you information regarding when you use your energy. Sign up to receive outage and billing alerts.

Data collected from all our meters is subject to stringent data-privacy protections.

We comply with the best security practices. Similar to protecting a computer from viruses with firewalls, we will protect customers using security features. The meters and associated communications system are encrypted and equipped with security features to prevent unauthorized access.

Q: What is the Smart Grid?
A: The smart grid is the modernized electrical grid. Utilizing digital technology, supply and demand of electricity can be better managed to enhance system reliability and efficiency.

Natural Gas Customers

Gas Automated Meter Reading (AMR) is being implemented for our gas-only customers. This technology upgrade to an existing natural gas meter will improve our customer service and how we read meters while providing more accurate bills due to the higher read rate.

How Do They Work?

With this upgraded meter, a communication module will be securely attached to the face of an existing natural gas meter with no interruptions to your natural gas service. Then, once a month, the module will communicate your total natural gas use through a secure signal to a vehicle driven by a trained technician. The meter read is sent via a radio signal (similar to cordless phones, baby monitors and garage door openers) and is encrypted.

To ensure your bill’s accuracy after the communication module is installed, a meter reader will continue to walk by and read the meter only for a period of time.
Q: Is my data safe?
A: Yes. We use the highest level of security that is available (called enhanced security). The total gas use is encrypted and sent securely from the gas communication module via radio signal to our vehicle. There is no personal information sent via the secure radio signal.

Data collected from all our meters is subject to stringent data-privacy protections.

We comply with the best security practices. Similar to protecting a computer from viruses with firewalls, we will protect customers using security features. The meters and associated communications system are encrypted and equipped with security features to prevent unauthorized access.

Q: Is the gas communication module safe?
A: Yes. The communication module is a low power (10 milliwatts) battery operated device. The battery lasts at least 20 years per the manufacturer’s technical specifications. The gas communication module meets Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and Underwriters Laboratories (UL) standards, and does not require a FCC license to operate.

Q: Will my bill due date change?
A: Some customers will experience a bill due date change as they transition from a manual meter reading route to an optimized driving meter reading route.

Q: Can I select my bill due date?
A: No. Driving routes to collect meter reads occur once a month based on optimized driving routes. Therefore, we are not able to offer customer selected bill due dates.

Q: Can I opt out of having the gas communication module installed?
A: Presently, there is no opt-out or non-transmitting meter program associated with this meter reading technology. If one becomes available, it will be MPSC-approved. The charges of such a program will cover the cost to have a meter reader continue to read the meter, as well as the costs to upkeep the field and back office hardware and software.

If you have questions, call us at 800-477-5050.

How To Read A Meter

Maybe you don’t have an upgraded meter, or maybe you’ve chosen to opt out of the upgrade. Learn to read your home’s meter manually with these simple steps.

Electric meter reading

How to Read An Electric Meter 

Some electric meters have five main dials. Record the numbers from left to right for each dial hand.

  • For hands in between two numbers, record the lower number but if it's between 0 and 9, use 9.
  • If the hand appears to be directly on a number, take a look at the dial to the right before recording the number.
  • If the right dial has not yet passed 0, record the lower number.

Submit a Meter Read

Natural gas meter reading

How to Read a Natural Gas Meter 

Natural gas meters have four main dials. Record the numbers from left to right for each dial hand.

  • For hands in between two numbers, record the lower number but if it's between 0 and 9, use 9.
  • If the hand appears to be directly on a number, take a look at the dial to the right before recording the number.
  • If the right dial has not yet passed 0, record the lower number.

Submit a Meter Read

What Is An Estimated Meter Read?