Frequently Asked Questions

Tucson Electric Power meters can be read remotely through low-energy wireless communications equipment. The following questions and answers offer more information about this technology.

What kind of meters does TEP use?

TEP uses automated meters manufactured by Itron that transmit usage data through a wireless radio frequency (RF) signal. These signals are received through fixed network equipment or remote collectors carried by TEP meter readers. TEP also uses some meters that send data over the cellular network.

Why does TEP use automated meters?

Automated meters offer an accurate, affordable way to measure consumption of electricity usage. While traditional electromechanical meters must be inspected visually each month, usage data from automated meters can be forwarded to us automatically through a fixed or cellular network or gathered quickly and easily by TEP meter readers driving nearby in vehicles equipped with a remote collector.

Most of TEP’s automated meters cost about the same as comparable digital meters without wireless communications capability. That, combined with lower meter reading costs, make automated meters a good investment for TEP and our customers.

Automated meters also make it easy to gather usage data more frequently than once a month. Aggregated hourly readings from automated meters can be used to track electricity usage, helping utilities plan for system improvements.

Are TEP’s AMR meters considered “smart meters”?

TEP’s AMR meters, by contrast, communicate one way and are not linked to appliances or other devices within the home. AMR meters collect the same data as a traditional meter but have just one additional feature: the ability to communicate readings wirelessly.

How do automated meters work?

Like a traditional electromechanical meter, automated meters measure the amount of electricity flowing through the main service lines that provide service to customers from TEP’s local distribution system. The meters periodically communicate these readings through a low-energy wireless signal. In some parts of town, these signals are picked up by fixed network collectors installed on TEP facilities. In other areas, the signals are gathered through remote collectors carried by TEP’s meter readers. In either case, the readings are forwarded to TEP computer systems and used to bill customers.

Is automated meter reading data secure?

Yes. The energy usage information transmitted wirelessly between TEP’s meters and data collection devices employ technology standards that comply with the data privacy guidelines and regulations set by the Arizona Corporation Commission.

How frequently do automated meters communicate readings?

Automated meters using the fixed network to transmit data send out readings approximately every 30 seconds. Because these communications last only a few milliseconds, the meters are typically communicating for less than 2 ½ minutes per day. Meters using the cellular network will communicate less than 3 seconds per day.

Is there any reason to be concerned about exposure to RF signals from automated meters?

The brief wireless signals from TEP’s automated meters have a much lower power density than emissions from Wi-Fi, cellular phones or other common RF sources. The meters operate at energy levels that are less than 1/100 of 1 percent of the RF exposure limit specified by the Federal Communications Commission.

In October 2014, the Arizona Department of Health Services completed a study about the use of automated meters. According to a report summary, “Exposure to electric meters (AMI and AMR) is not likely to harm the health of the public.” To read the study, conducted on behalf of the ACC, click here.

Does TEP seek customers’ permission before installing automated meters?

No. Meters are part of TEP’s electric distribution system and are replaced as needed at the company’s discretion, under the oversight of the ACC.

Can I opt out of the use of an automated meter at my home or business?

Requests to remove an automated meter must be submitted in writing to Customer Service Manager (SC122), PO Box 711, Tucson, AZ 85702. Customers who opt out of having an automated meter will receive a digital meter that does not transmit data wirelessly.