After several years of hype, North Carolina will debut a true "smart meter" this year that lets customers adjust thermostats from an iPhone or any other Internet portal.
Based on initial testing, the feature is expected to save the customers about 6.5 percent on their monthly power bills.
But to benefit from the interactive utility feature you have to be a customer of tiny Wake Electric Membership Corp., the state's first utility to offer this kind of smart grid feature for its customers.
This spring, Wake Electric will start offering its 34,500 customers in seven counties the Monitor and Manage Program. The utility -- which serves parts of Wake, Durham and Johnston counties -- will let customers operate major appliances remotely and also check their household electricity usage on a real-time basis.
Don Bowman, Wake Electric's manager of engineering, said the feature will let a customer adjust or turn off a water heater, or adjust heating or air conditioning, without getting out of bed, if the customer has a iPhone, iPad or other similar device.
"Anything you can do in front of the thermostat you can do remotely over the Web portal," Bowman said. "You can set comfort levels, preferences and times."