ONTARIO – Many households in the Madawaska Valley have had Smart Meters installed in the last five years. They were introduced by Hydro One with the intention of helping individuals manage their electricity costs by means of a ‘time of use’ electricity price structure showing on-peak, off-peak and mid peak times for using hydro. Smart Meters have been useful in this respect, and give people the option of doing their laundry, for example, at a time of the day or week, when electricity is off-peak and therefore cheaper. However, there has been some safety concerns related to Smart Meters that many individuals may not be aware of.
The Office of the Fire Marshall (OFM) issued a communiqué in October, cautioning of these safety issues that are primarily associated with the installation process of Smart Meters in both residential and industrial structures across Ontario.
According to the OFM, since May of 2011, there have been seven reported incidents of “smouldering fires and/or explosions involving either the electrical smart meter, or the meter base to which it is mounted.” It seems these occurrences are the outcome of a problem with the meter base, improper installation, or a failed meter. Luckily no injuries have resulted from these incidents but, nevertheless, the OFM takes this very seriously and is investigating each case.
Similar links between Smart Meters and fire hazards have occurred in other Canadian provinces and also in the United States. Madawaska Valley Fire Chief Andy Peplinski emphasized, however, that there have been no such reported incidences in Renfrew County, but said that it was important for individuals to be aware of the potential risks.
If you notice smouldering fire, fire meter explosion or ‘pre-fire’ signs, such as smoking, melting, charring or other inexplicable damage to your Smart Meter, contact your local fire department immediately; fire departments are obligated to report any of these incidences to the OFM for further investigation.
Peplinski said it’s important for people to note that the Smart Meter is the property of the utility company, but the maintenance of the base is the homeowner’s responsibility. However, access to the base can only be arranged through the utility company.
Other electrical anomalies around the home should also be investigated such as dimming of lights, frequent contact shocks, or appliances that were previously in good working order, burning up.
“In these instances”, Peplinski said, “you should definitely get your electrical system checked by a qualified electrician.”
Story continues in the January 2, 2013 issue of The Valley Gazette.