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Smart Meter Buzzkill

Dear Dan,
In the Central Valley of California, our energy provider is removing the old type electric meters and installing what they call “smart meters.” This gives them real-time info on power usage (exactly when usage starts and how much is used) all in the guise of saving energy. Seems like a big problem for indoor growing as it makes it easy for them to spot 18- or 12-hour power spikes every day.
My question is: how do we grow inside and not raise any red flags? Even keeping the wattage low won’t stop them from spotting usage trends. I hope you can help us in this matter. Big Brother strikes again it seems! – Big B in Madera, CA

Dear Big B,
I’m going to assume you are growing for recreational purposes because medical marijuana growers in California are protected from prying eyes and harassment. Perhaps you could look into becoming a caregiver for a needy patient? I’ve even heard of some electric companies giving discounts to registered growers.

If that’s not possible, your other option is to alternate your grow-lights between ballasts so that the meter never stops and there are no trends to spot. This requires two flowering rooms set on opposing light/dark schedules. The bulbs in one room are on while in the other room their counterparts are off. Every 12 hours, the timer on the ballast flipper switches between lights, running them two bulbs for each ballast instead of one. Many people have wood shops and other hobbies that raise their bills without raising red flags. As long as you pay your bills regularly, most companies turn a fairly blind eye to increased usage.

Then again, the best option is to grow bigger plants outside and forgo the electrical grid altogether. Most people in your area have some yard space or land where they could put an opaque greenhouse and let the sun do the work for them. With a caregiver’s license and a small plot of land, you might be surprised how much more you can accomplish in the great outdoors.

Have a grow question? Ask away at


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