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. ••