What is a Smart Meter?

What is a Smart Meter?

From Ecological Options Network:

“Smart” Meters Exposed (cruzconcern):

Testimony from Winifred (stopsmartmeters.org)

Recent attention in the EMF community has been focused on wireless-emitting Smart Meters, also known as Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI). Smart meters are advanced utility meters, which typically use wireless radiation to transmit data on electricity, gas, or water usage back to the utility. Electricity smart meters can be distinguished from analog meters by the display, which uses digits instead of dials. Opposition aross the United States, as well as worldwide, has been growing.

Contrary to what is commonly claimed, many smart meters transmit wireless radiation continually and at high levels reported to exceed typical home wireless appliances. In some locations, the transmissions may be more than once per second, at levels said to be as much as 10 to 100 times that of a cell phone. One report from PG&E found approximately 10,000 signals a day on average and a peak power of 2.5 Watts. This power level exceeds the radiation of most home wireless devices, as you can see from the Distance page. It also exceedsrecommended safety standards such as that of the Bioinitiative Working Group and the Seletun Scientific Statement. Much of these signals are said to be for the maintainance of the wireless mesh system itself, as opposed to the actual transmission of utility usage data.

While utilities no longer have to send meter readers to check readings on analog meters, this benefit comes at the price of continual wireless radiation. On top of the smart meters, appliances would also be outfitted with transmitting antennae, as part of the smart grid plan.

Health Effects of Smart Meters

Many people who live in areas with smart meter rollouts have become seriously ill as a result of their exposure. Symptoms may include “headache, sleep disruption, restlessness, tremors, cognitive impairment, and tinnitus, as well as increased cancer risk and heart problems such as arrythmias, altered heart rhythms, and palpitations.” See a list of common health symptoms associated with smart meters. For some buildings, a large number of smart meters may be concentrated in one location, and may result in greater exposure to residents living near this location. Some individuals are especially unfortunate to receive a higher exposure if they live near a relay meter or if they have a smart meter on the opposite side of the wall from their bedroom. However, even those with smart meter radiation from neighboring homes have reported health effects.

Other Talking Points on Smart Meters

Besides posing a health risk, smart meters also pose concerns for privacy, security, fire, and increased billing rates. The following are some problems with smart meters that have been raised:

  • Lack of environmental impact study: No environmental impact study was conducted, but plants, bees, and humans all seem to be negatively affected.
  • Lack of UL certification: The smart meters are not UL certified as required by state electrical code.
  • Security risk: They pose a risk to security since they can be hacked. Watch a video about the security threat. Apparently, it may take only 2 days to hack a smart meter, and water utility hacking may have already occurred.
  • Privacy risk: They may be used for data mining or surveillance. For example, it is possible to tell from the electrical usage signature what type of appliance is being used, and therefore provide indicators as to when a person is at home or not, and how many people are in the home. People have been arrested based on information obtained from smart meters.
  • Fire risk: They may be installed by improperly trained personnel, resulting in fire hazards when improperly installed. It was reported that a smart meter was related to the San Bruno explosion. In some cases, gas leakages were even discovered for smart meters.
  • Rate Hikes: Electricity bills have reportedly increased significantly, rather than decreasing. Accuracy may also be affected by the temperature.
  • Health risk: They pose a risk as a Class 2B carcinogen and many are experiencing health effects attributed to smart meters such as headaches, heart palpitations, tinnitus, and sleeping disorders. The American Academy of Environmental Medicine, Santa Cruz Public Health Department, and Austrian Medical Association, have warned about the public health dangers of smart meters.
  • Interference: They may interfere with pacemakers as well as other wireless devices in the home. Appliance damage has also been reported.
  • Lack of energy savings: Some claim they do not actually result in energy savings, but may actually consume more power. Real energy savings requires changes in human behavior.
  • Lifespan: The reported lifespan of the smart meter is 12-15 years, much lower than the 50 year lifespan of an analog meter. Throwing away good analog meters violates environmental principle of “reuse”.
  • Cost: The smart meter also costs more than the analog meter, which can be purchased for approximately $50. The cost of the smart grid ultimately comes from the taxpayer and ratepayer.
  • Compatibility issues with alternative energy: Smart meters have been reported to be incompatible with solar systems.

For more talking points, see Orlean Koehle’s 30 Talking Points Against Smart Meters.

Variations in Exposure Levels

Keep in mind that one’s exposure level and duration of exposure may vary depending upon many factors including the following:

  • Relay meters: Whether one is at a relay location, which relays data from other meters and not just one’s own.
  • Colocated meters: How many meters are colocated together.
  • Distance from the meters, which may be a problem for small houses or nearby neighbors, and bedrooms on the other side of the wall that has the smart meters.
  • Building construction: Concrete and brick may offer some protection as compared to little if any protection from wood and drywall.
  • Activation of the smart meter: The wireless transmissions may not be activated immediately upon installation. However, some people may still react to the dirty electricity generated by the smart meter prior to this activation. (Note: Due to wide variances in the deployed technology, it is possible that some but not all smart meters models have significant amounts of dirty electricity.)
  • Where one is situated in the Home Area Network (HAN), Neighborhood Area Network (NAN), or Wide Area Network (WAN). Some places could potentially involve significant exposures to the wireless communications for all three. See Three Antennas Inside a Smart Meter for more information.
  • One’s Electricity Provider and Device Vendor: It has been noted that smart meters used by different utilities may have different power densities and levels of dirty electricity. For example, one analysis found that southern California smart meters had lower power densities and little dirty electricity in general, in comparison to Northern California smart meters. See smart meter analysis.
  • Whether the smart meter uses wireless radiation or broadband over power lines. It is said that Italy has employed wired smart meters.

Depending on one’s personal situation, the pulse might vary from once every 5 minutes to once every second or more.

Local Government Response

56 California cities and counties, 15 Michigan cities, and 53 British Columbia cities have moratoriums or resolutions against the smart meters due to public concerns which include health, fire safety, security, privacy, and increased costs to customers. Other protests are also occurring in Maine, Illinois, Vermont, Maryland, Michigan, Canada, and Australia, to name just a few places. Smart meters are being deployed rapidly and stealthily around the world. Orlean Koehle explains that the smart grid is part of the United Nations Agenda 21 and likens the smart grid to an old plan for technocracy.

  • The opt-out option has been considered, but this does not protect someone from powerful smart meter transmitters on neighboring homes.
  • Having smart meters with radio off has also been proposed, but experts warn that the switching mode power supply of smart meters still presents a health risk, and that analog meters are safer. Some people may be affected by the voltage spikes smart meters generate on the electric wiring even prior to RF activation.

Smart meters have been installed in many places, against homeowners’ wishes, and those who refuse them have had to lock their meters to prevent stealth installations. More can be read from the links below.

Safety Measures Taken for Smart Meters

The following are some measures that people have suggested out of concern for the various risks of smart meters:

  • Delay List: Some people have called the delay list to postpone the installation of the smart meter, or put up signs or legal notices refusing smart meters, although stealth installers have sometimes ignored this.
  • Analog Meter Locks: Other people have put up fences and locks on their analog meters. See also Smart Lock. However, some locks have still been broken through.
  • Letter to Utility: The Center for Safer Wireless provides a letter that can be used to notify the utilities that you do not want a smart meter: Letter to utility. According to the Center for Safer Wireless, the US Energy Policy Act of 2005 indicates that utilities should ask customer’s permission before smart meter installation, and no federal law mandates smart meters.
  • Neighborhood Representative: Some people have found smart meters installed when they were away from house. It has been suggested to find a retired person in your community to represent your street/neighborhood with a signed affidavit.
  • Replacement of Smart Meters to Analog Meters: Others who received smart meters, have had an electrician replace it back to an analog meter, e.g. see the Safe Electric Meter Replacement Kit. Stop Smart Meters! claims that the utility does not have the right to turn it off if you are a paying customer. However, as of December 2011, it appears that the utility has resorted to disconnecting the power. Under pressure, they restored some of these homes’ power, but not everyone’s.
  • Alternative Energy: Some people may use alternative energy such as solar energy to prevent reliance upon the utility– however, this should be done with care to minimize dirty electricity, e.g., from the inverter. This only covers electricity, however, and not wireless water or gas meters.

It is important to understand one’s legal rights. What the utility policy mandates or says is law, may not be what the government really requires.

Further Resources


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