What do you know about “smart” electrical meters?
In Colorado, the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has given the green-light to Xcel Energy (the state’s largest electrical utility) to “go smart,” spending more than half a billion dollars on high-tech company-wide digital equipment and “smart meters” to be installed on their customers’ homes and businesses.
It sounds good. You get a smart, state-of-the-art, digital device installed in the place of your old analog power meter, and it communicates with the grid – hundreds or thousands of times a day – with granular data on when (and how much) you use electricity.
No more meter readers!
What’s more, you have a lot more information to work with, if you care to work with it, in making choices about your home’s energy usage.
And Xcel Energy gets more information, too – who’s using electricity, how much, and which areas and neighborhoods need more or less power routed their way.
But hold on.
A closer look at the smart grid trend may give you pause.
Is this really smart?
You Could Be “Enmeshed”
There are many downsides pointed out by smart-meter detractors, from the costs (the utility company passes those onto your utility bill) to the reported unreliability of smart meters to correctly report your power usage, to concerns about privacy (what are they allowed to do with all that information they collect on you?).
But the biggest concerns seem to be health related.
Smart meters do a couple of things which can pose health risks:
- Smart meters create “dirty power.” When your home’s electrical system receives a flow of power different from what it “expects,” this is called “dirty power” or “dirty electricity.” That dimmer switch in your dining room, for instance, creates dirty power by turning your lights off-and-on – sometimes thousands of times per second – to create the dimming effect. Other appliances in your home, from the variable-speed motor in your air conditioner to the hand-held hair dryer in your bathroom, are also contributors. Dirty power can cause all kinds of health problems, from hearing impairment to brain impairment. And smart meters, while they do reduce the amount of power you ultimately use, are a big source of dirty power in the homes in which they’re installed.
- Smart meters create Radio Frequency (RF) radiation. Radiation sounds bad, doesn’t it? Not too smart. But that’s exactly what smart meters produce. Now, smart grid proponents do say the RF radiation risk is low… they point out that your smart meter’s RF output is regulated by the government… but those regulations are based on the impact on a man of more than six feet in height and weighing 200 pounds (is that you?)… and it’s based on the level of RF radiation produced by the average smart meter in isolation.
… But your smart meter does not operate in isolation.
Your smart meter is singing in chorus with all the other smart meters in your neighborhood, and in the next neighborhood, and everywhere within the “mesh” of cell towers and reception equipment being installed by the utility company (and paid for by you).
So no one knows the true impact of RF radiation – and dirty power – that could be attributed to the smart grid phenomenon.
But it’s likely to be greater than the smart meter’s staunchest allies suggest.
Get in touch with your qualified local electrician today. No one’s smarter about smart meters than your electrician. Maybe the dirty power and RF radiation problems in your particular home are not that big a deal – your electrician can test and find out. But maybe having the electrician check your system for electromagnetic interference, and having a whole-home dirty power filter installed, could be the smartest moves you could make.