PECO suspends installation

PECO last week sus­pen­ded in­stall­a­tion of its new “smart meters” while the util­ity  in­vest­ig­ates 15 fires that were re­por­ted at homes in Bucks County after the new meters over­heated.

No fires were re­por­ted in North­east Phil­adelphia, said com­pany spokes­wo­man Cathy En­gel Men­en­dez, who ad­ded that 186,000 smart meters man­u­fac­tured by Sensus already have been in­stalled.

The new meters, which send and re­ceive in­form­a­tion from PECO, are re­quired by state law. They are de­signed to help the util­ity more quickly re­store power dur­ing black­outs and also provide PECO and its cus­tom­ers with more de­tailed power-us­age in­form­a­tion.

Some people have said they are afraid of the smart meters, but not be­cause they feared they would over­heat and start fires. In­stead, some res­id­ents have com­plained that they think the meters emit dan­ger­ous ra­di­ation. Oth­ers have pri­vacy wor­ries, and still oth­ers simply don’t like that they must al­low their old meters to be ex­changed for the new smart meters. The com­pany has countered that new meters are safe and can’t spy on cus­tom­ers. They are, however, re­quired by law and the util­ity could cut power to cus­tom­ers who don’t per­mit the new meters’ in­stall­a­tion.

So far, the util­ity has com­pleted in­vest­ig­a­tions of six of the 15 in­cid­ents, En­gel Men­en­dez said last week. She said pre-ex­ist­ing is­sues with the cus­tom­ers’ equip­ment were found in those half dozen in­cid­ents.

For ex­ample, if there had been ground set­tle­ment in a home since it was built, the meter board —  the gray board on the side of the house — was not at­tached se­curely. A meter is at­tached to the board, she said.

Be­sides not in­stalling new meters be­cause of the in­cid­ents in Bucks, PECO is ana­lyz­ing data provided by each new meter.

“We will be re­pla­cing some of the Sensus meters we have in­stalled with L&G meters to de­term­ine if there are dif­fer­ences in their per­form­ance,” she said.

En­gel Men­en­dez said the com­pany be­lieves the L&G meters may pre­vent the is­sue in the fu­ture. “We want to in­stall the meter, val­id­ate its per­form­ance and see if it may be a good solu­tion for our cus­tom­ers,” she said in an e-mail to the North­east Times.

PECO, she said, is work­ing with Sensus to de­vel­op en­hance­ments for its meters. The first such im­prove­ment would be for the meter to auto­mat­ic­ally shut off ser­vice if a prob­lem is de­tec­ted. That up­grade is ex­pec­ted to be avail­able Aug. 26. An­oth­er change would in­clude an early alarm that would be sent dir­ectly to PECO to tell the util­ity a prob­lem has been de­tec­ted. That should be avail­able by Sept. 6, the spokes­wo­man stated in her e-mail.

Cus­tom­ers with any con­cerns about their newly in­stalled meter should con­tact 1-855-741-9011 to sched­ule an ap­point­ment to have the meter and its sur­round­ing equip­ment in­spec­ted. ••

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