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What's a Meter Geek?

by Nancy Reinhart — last modified Nov 30, 2011 01:17 PM
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By Sam Avery, of Avery and Sun, a KySEA group member

When was the last time you looked at your electric meter?  If you’re like most people, you don’t even know where it is, but if you’re a Meter Geek, you’re likely to answer: “This morning.”

I became a Meter Geek the day I hooked up the PV system on my own house.  I just stood there watching the numbers bounce around.   Dan joked: “Where’s Sam…?  Oh, he’s over playing with his inverter.”  I still check it every day or so.

But I’m not the only one.  I just got an email from Dennis and Wendy:  “Yesterday morning the electric meter read one kilowatt hour less than the day you all hooked up the panels. I doubt that we will ever have to pay more than the basic rate again. Thanks. It is a great feeling.”

And then there’s Don.   (We installed his system a couple of years ago.)  He had one of the old rotating wheel meters.  He called me up one day to tell me that, with the sun shining and just the right number of lights on and the coffee maker brewing, he could run outside and watch the wheel come to a perfect balance.  It tried to edge one way or the other until the coffee was ready, and then it resumed its backward march.  He used to invite friends over just to stand outside and watch it with him.

When you install solar, you get rewired.  You pay attention to things you did not notice before.  You watch what the clouds are doing, how the shadows play, and wonder how many kilowatt-hours you’re likely to produce today.  You think about the sun bringing life into your home.  More importantly, you think about where the new energy is going.  It’s yours – for free – but there’s only so much and you don’t want to waste it.  You want to have enough for how you live but you want to live by what is there.

The most important thing about being a Meter Geek is that you begin to see energy as energy – not just as a bill you have to pay.  You stop converting it into dollars.  It falls on your roof, you gather it up, and turn it into lighting, music, vacuum cleaning, computing, televiewing, or coffee brewing.  You’re not buying anything – and not mining or burning anything, either.  And you’re paying attention to how energy flows through your life.  If you don’t have a way to produce energy and you’re trying to conserve, it’s all yin and no yang – it’s all going one way and you’re trying to slow it down but you can’t make it stop.  But when energy flows both ways you see the yin and the yang.  You feel the balance. 

The reason I’m raising this topic now is that I am about to have the consummate Meter Geek experience.  The day I installed my system – the day I became a Meter Geek – my electric meter read 3432 kilowatt-hours.  That was November 2007.  The PV system has been cranking out kwh ever since, more than I have been using, and today, Aug 25 , the meter reads 00008.   By the time you read these words it will have gone to 00000, and I have no idea what happens after that!  It’s another Y2K.  I’m a little afraid it will read 99 million or something, and some computer will spit me out a bill for $ 9 million or so.  I have no idea.  I’ll be finding out soon, but you won’t find out until….

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