PSEG Long Island customers wary of estimated bills and who don't want to wait for their meters to be read every other month can now send in a digital photo via email.
The option was added as a feature on PSEG's website this month. The feature, which is on the same page that shows customers how to read the meter and call in their usage data, can be found online at nwsdy.li/readmeter.
To use the feature, customers must take an electronic photo of their meter readout using a smartphone or digital camera.
On the PSEG website, customers can click the link for "send a digital photograph." When they do, a form pops up asking for customer information. After they fill it out, customers attach the photo to the form, along with their name, account number and when the photo was taken. Customers can still call in their usage data at 800-490-0025.
There's also a link on the site to download a form that can be filled out and mailed using regular post. The form shows users how to read the meter and fill in the information.
Calling in or sending a photo of the meter avoids the need for PSEG to rely on an estimate when sending out bills. PSEG meter readers make it to most homes every other month.
In the past, customers have complained that PSEG estimates exceeded their actual usage -- requiring an overpayment until PSEG can reconcile it with a meter read. Others whose bills were underestimated have said they were socked with large bills when their usage was higher than estimated.
Several thousand PSEG customers have smart meters, which send the usage data back to PSEG headquarters at intervals all during the day using wireless cell and Wi-Fi signals. PSEG, as part of its rate-hike request, wants to install 60,000 new smart meters in each of the next three years.
Jeff Greenfield, a LIPA trustee, broached the idea of allowing digital photos of meters at a board meeting earlier this year, amid criticism that meters were not being read frequently enough after a cold, snowy winter.
PSEG at the time said it would look into the option. It's not quite as easy as Greenfield envisioned. His request was that PSEG allow customers to send in photos of meters directly from their smartphones.
Still, told of the feature Friday, Greenfield said, "I'm delighted PSEG Long Island embraced my suggestion that we employ the technology of the day and allow self-reading with the use of a camera phone; no different than a bank allowing you to make a [photo] deposit."
The photo meter-reading function "is just one of many new products, services and updates that we'll launch throughout the second half of 2015 allowing us to further deliver value to our customers," PSEG spokesman Jeff Weir said.