At the 6th annual Fuel Poverty and Climate Action Conference, one of the workshops will focus on smart meters: the latest rendition of the electric meter. However, how did we get to that point of monitoring our energy usage? Here is a brief look at the history of our little friend who can be found indoors or outdoors: the electric meter.

The first known patented meter was drawn in 1872 when Samuel Gardiner developed the DC lamp-hour meter to record the lamp hours back when lighting and the telegraph were the only harnessers of electricity. However it wasn’t until the development of the incandescent light bulb that this invention became a hotbed for electricity enthusiasts.

In 1879, Thomas Edison developed a chemical meter that measured the power used through mass. A few years later, Elihu Thomson had been tinkering with building a better chemical meter eventually resulting in one of first reliable wattmeters. Replacing Edison’s copper bars with silver and connecting with an aluminium disk and a small motor, his meter helped people to see the value of electricity and thus it was no longer a free source of energy. Thomson’s meters became the status quo in monitoring electricity receiving first prize in a meter competition in Paris in 1890.


In 1886, Edward Weston developed the moving coil galvanometer type that would become the template for the Amp, Volt and Watt meters for the next 100+ years. Two years later, former Navy member Oliver B. Shallenberger at Westinghouse developed a meter that is close to the modern watt hour meter and sets the new standard for electric meters.

In 1892, J.A. Fleming starts work on what would become the vacuum tube in the 1900s with E.B. Moullin developing the first real one in 1922. This form of meter helped to measure higher amounts of voltage and replaced the coil galvanometers. In the 1970s Digital multimeters were showing up and two decades later, they outnumbered tube based multimeters.

Nowadays the smart meters are a two way form to measure electricity and/or gas usage without estimates giving both the customer and the energy provider a clear record of what should be the amount billed. A popular topic of discussion in Ireland, Smart Meters will be one of the five workshops where you can open dialogue and discuss the subject at hand.


You can now book your tickets (Early Bird price available until February 17th) for the Fuel Poverty & Climate Action Conference taking place in Croke Park on the 6th of March

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