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Cities like Cape Town use large amounts of electricity and each consumer needs to be able to have their consumption metered.

Electricity meters are a complex subject with so many advancements having taken place over the decades since the first patent in 1872. There have been thousands of variants, many using highly impractical and imprecise measurement techniques (like Thomas Edison’s electrolytic meters). We’ll take a look at the most common types of electricity meter still in use in Cape Town today.

Electricity meters with round dials are most likely electromechanical accumulation meters.

Electricity meters with round dials are most likely electromechanical accumulation meters.

What Are the Different Types of Electricity Meter?

  • Accumulation Electricity Meters

Sometimes referred to as a “flat-rate meter”, accumulation meters continually record the total amount of electricity consumed since the day of installation or since the meter was last reset. Energy consumption is billed monthly based on the difference between the monthly readings or based on an estimation of monthly use averaged over the previous 12 month period. These are some of the oldest electricity meters still operational in Cape Town today. They can be easily identified by the numerous analogue dials of cyclometric display, but sometimes they still have a rudimentary digital display.

  • Interval Electricity Meters

The interval electricity meter captures consumption figures in half hour intervals. Instead of the “spinning disc” measurement method used in accumulation meters, this type of meter records energy consumption electronically with integrated current transformers. These meters also record the time of day but are not considered “smart” since they’re not connected to any software applications for remote viewing or control. 

  • Smart Electricity Meters

The smart electricity meter is one of the most advanced energy utility measuring solutions available today. Smart meters include a number of additional features not present in interval meters. They are able to feed information through to software applications for remote viewing and control. Additionally, their interval for measurement feedout can be changed according to priority where extra granularity is concerned. 

Electricity meters have become ‘connected devices’ with support for mobile phone apps and remote operation

Electricity meters have become ‘connected devices’ with support for mobile phone apps and remote operation.

Do Electricity Meters Need to Be Changed?

According to the City of Cape Town, electro-mechanical (accumulation meters) have “reached their end-of-life, are not being maintained and require replacement to comply with applicable standards”. Replacing them with smart meters will ensure compliance with applicable standards as well as provide all of their advanced features. However, it’s extremely important to note that replacing an electricity meter is very dangerous and potentially deadly if not performed by qualified professionals.