Fire captain finds hazardous power surges follow Smart Meter installations

Matt Beckett is a fire captain who lives in Cameron Park, CA. He sent the following account of serious electrical problems that occurred after Smart Meters were installed on his house:

“My family moved into a 1982 built house approximately nine years ago and remodeled almost everything (including ALL electrical fixtures: lights, fans, switches, sockets, etc). Our home had what I believe to be it’s original analog meter at the panel. Two years ago PG&E replaced that meter with a “Smart Meter”. Immediately following we noticed power surges in the form of our refrigerator motor intermittently speeding up simultaneously with our lights becoming brighter. As a seventeen year veteran and current Fire Captain this caused me to become very concerned. We notified PG&E and called a licensed electrician to come out and assess. Both arrived at our house within one hour. The electrician checked “our side” and PG&E theirs. Nothing was found to be wrong or faulty, but PG&E decided to change out the connections at the power pole just in case. He also pulled the smart meter and replaced it with an analog. Two years have come and gone without any electrical problems. However, on 11/5/12 our analog was replaced with another smart meter. Within one week of this we noticed power surges once again in the form of lights becoming brighter, refrigerator motor becoming louder, motion light activating by itself in no wind conditions, and while vacuuming the motor increasing speed much like the refrigerator. This culminated on 11/25/12 with my wife noticing a plastic like burning smell coming from our office. Upon further inspection we noticed our computer, phone, and shredder were not working. They were plugged into a Belkin brand surge protector that fortunately did it’s job. This caused the carpet to become hot and melted underneath in a dime sized spot and burned up (inside) the surge protector. Immediately, we called PG&E and another electrician as in the past. Both were at our house within an hour and the same result was found. “Our side” checked out fine and PG&E did not notice anything wrong or faulty. The connections at our roof top power drop were changed by PG&E just in case (even though he thought they were fine). However, the smart meter was replaced with another smart meter. Later that evening our family room TV and components were working fine. However, the next morning they had no power. When I inspected the surge protector that they were plugged into, the same condition was found as in our office.”

Some homes just don’t work well with Smart Meters?

Matt spent four hours on the phone with PG&E, dealing with this problem and notifying them of his concerns. He demanded a rush on switching back to an analog meter. He says, “I’ve been met with multiple attitudes and accusations that I’ve not done everything I can do to make sure it’s not my house causing the problem.”  According to Matt, the only time there were electrical problems was when PG&E changed from the analog to the Smart Meter.

Although PG&E tells Matt he can file a claim for the damaged surge protectors, they say he now has to pay $75  plus $10 a month to keep an analog meter on his home.

Matt’s story is similar to the East Bay fire captain who reported electrical problems and a too hot to touch Smart Meter. Arcing Meter Hazards. Evidence is piling up against Smart Meter installations connected to burnt out appliances, fires and explosions.

Sandi Maurer, director of the EMF Safety Network has been compiling Smart Meter related fires stories since 2010. She says, “It is unthinkable that PG&E, other utilities, and regulators in California have neither publicly admitted to, nor squarely addressed this serious safety hazard related to Smart Meter installations. They are failing their statutory obligation to ensure safe and reliable utility service. ”

Fridge blows after smart meter installed

Canadian News reports an 81 year old’s refrigerator failed minutes after a Smart Meter was installed.

According to the article, his fridge was working fine, until the electric surge burned it out when the meters were swapped.

The installation company denied  the blame.  They offered no apology, and no financial compensation.  Reports of similar problems can be read here and here.

Arcing Meter Hazards

The following letter and photo were sent to the EMF Safety Network from a California fire department captain (Ross) who saved his home from a potential Smart Meter fire in 2009.  PG&E has admitted that Smart Meters have interfered with GFI’s and AFCI’s, but they have not admitted to any connection with a Smart Meter fire.

Friday August 21st 2009 approx 7pm PST

I was at home doing yard work in the late afternoon when my wife came outside and told me that “half the power was off again”. This had been happening on and off for about two weeks and it kept happening when I was at work. This was the first time I got a look at what was happening. It was a hot day and the AC was on. The power went off when my wife turned on the stove.

I then went into my garage and check my fuses. As I opened the door from the house to my garage I could smell burnt electrical smoke. I then rushed over to the fuse box but immediately determined that it was not the source.

I then went out side to where my meter was and I could instantly smell the burnt electrical smoke. As I was looking at the meter I inadvertently placed my hand on the meter itself and almost burned my hand. The meter was so hot you could not touch it. I then went back into my garage and felt the wall area where the meter comes in contact with my home. The wall was also very warm. Being the firefighter I am, I began to remove the sheetrock from the wall to check if I had a wall fire. There was no wall fire but the metal box into which all the homes wiring from the meter is stored was also too hot to touch with a bare hand.

At this point I called my father-in-law who is an electrician to come over and have a look. When he showed up, I told him what was going on and when he touched the meter a look of amazement came over his face and he stated ” This isn’t supposed to be this hot, we need to kill the power”.

At that point we shut the power off to my house and called the PG&E emergency line due to the fact it was a Friday evening.

PG&E sent out a service truck. When they arrived the gentleman walked up we explained what was going on and he asked “When was your Smartmeter installed” I told him ” About two weeks ago”. That when a light went off in my head.

When he went to pull the meter, it was still to hot to touch and the PG&E service worker had to put gloves on, even though the power had been off for approx one hour.

As son as he pulled the meter we could see what had happened. The receiving clips for the meter were burnt.  He then asked ” Did your power go off when the AC kicked on?” I said ” No my power went off when my wife turned on the stove to cook dinner”

He then said ” That makes sense, the burnt area is where your 220v goes into your house, you’re lucky it didn’t start a fire”

I then asked ” How did this happen?’

He then proceeded to tell me that they were having nothing but problems with the contractor who was installing the meters and that it was costing PG&E more money to follow the contractors through each neighborhood and fix the problems they were causing and that the reason they did this is that PG&E didn’t want to pay its own workers wages and wanted a cheaper price.

As you could imagine I was shocked at this admission.

He then went on, telling me that the burnt area was more than likely due to the contractors not being able to fit the new Smartmeter into place, so the widened the receiving clip and shoved it into place. By them widening the clips, the caused an area of no contact which then caused arcing every time we used and appliance with 220v.

What he said next then floored me.

He said ” Well you need a whole new box and there is no way we can repair it tonight. Technically you own the box and we would tell you to hire an electrician to fix it. PG&E own thee lines underground and everything up to the meter. Because this is behind the meter, technically its all on you”

At that point I almost blew my lid but then he said ” I am writing this up as a bad install by the contractor. I am tired of following those guys around and fixing their problems because it’s not right. I’m going to make them pay for it and hire an outside electrician to do it.” I was relieved at that point.

He then kept telling us more and more about all the problems and how this company only gave these people installing the meters two days of training and were hiring people who were not electricians. He also told us about injuries to contact employees were receiving due to lack of training.

At that point he said ” here is what I’m going to do for you. We are not going to be able to rebuild this until Monday, but I will bypass the 220v so you can use your basics, you just wont be able to do laundry or have no AC.”

He then alluded to the fact he wasn’t supposed to bypass the220v but he did it for us anyways.

Come Monday, the third party electrician showed up at my home to repair my box. He asked what happened and I told him, he then says ” This isn’t the first box I have had to fix because of those guys” meaning the contractors.

The pic you see [is] of the burnt area where the 220v went into the house.  Also you see the strips of metal in the other clips, this is where the PG & E service worker bypassed the 220v so I could at least have 110v for the weekend.

Texas Investigation Reveals Smart Meter Fire Risk

In Houston Texas, “Local 2 investigates Smart Meter fires” reports they looked into homeowners complaints of Smart Meter fires and found some people are left with no electricity and major damage to their homes, including burnt out appliances after a Smart Meter has been installed by the utility. 

“Charles Phillips saw smoke coming from the transformer in his backyard one morning last November. When he went out to inspect the damage, he said he saw a CenterPoint Energy contractor at his meter box with a fire extinguisher. He told me it had caught on fire, Phillips said.”

“Inside Phillip’s home, two TVs were fried, his air conditioner and garage door opener stopped working, and all of the wires and cables hooked up to his electronics were melted from the jolt his electronics took when a fire sparked after the installer removed his old meter. Phillips was left with a total of about $2,500 in damages.”

According to the article, Centerpoint, the utility for Houston Texas, has admitted the connection, stating there has been less than 100 problems. “CenterPoint’s LeBlanc said the problem is mostly in older homes where wiring is not up to code or something has caused a strain on the wires running into the meter box.”

In other areas, news reports indicate some utilities are beginning to recognize the problem.  According to this article, A CEO of Oncor, another Texas utility,  says, “the company has a new procedure for installation of smart meters after two house fires in Arlington last week.  Robert Shapard says old wiring in two homes could not support the new smart meters.”

In the State of Maine a news report states a utility supervisor admits finding Smart Meter fire hazards, “…the technicians are actually discovering more possible fire hazards than the company anticipated, and informing customers of dangers they otherwise would not have known existed. He said, so far, they have discovered 70 to 80 electrical issues in the Portland area.”

Powercor, a utility company in Australia, recognizes the safety risk from Smart Meters, stating, “A defect notice is issued when a wiring safety issue is identified.”  In Victoria, Australia, installers identified possibly life-threatening electrical hazards in 3500 Victorian homes.

In  July 2010 Cindy Sage, Sage Associates and James J. Biergiel, EMF Electrical Consultant wrote an article describing the risks of Wireless Smart Meters and Potential for Electrical Fires.

The EMF Safety Network has been collecting stories and news reports onthis issue.  Two unreported stories involved house fires and suspicions of possible links to the newly installed Smart Meters.  One fire started in a surge protector, which destroyed the older home.  The other was reported to start in a swamp cooler and the owner died in the fire.  Both had recently installed Smart Meters.  In the second fire, a loud humming was heard in the home,  an explosion sound and a computer fried, and later the fire erupted.

More info: Smart Meter Fires and explosions.

3 PG&E Smart Meters Explode at Santa Rosa Mall

According to the incident report from the Santa Rosa Fire Department on April 7, firefighters found the electrical room at the Santa Rosa Mall “charged with smoke” and “upon investigation found 3 PG&E meters that had blown off the electrical panel causing damage to the interior wiring of the electrical panel. A fire was still smoldering..”

The cause of the fire is listed as equipment failure and arcing coming from the switchgear area, and transformer vault.

According to a Press Democrat article, Santa Rosa Battalion Chief Jack Piccinini described the scene as a “meltdown”.

EMF Safety Network has been informed that the electrical room was filled with Smart Meters, which have been reported to explode and catch fire in other areas, including Bakersfield, El Cerrito, Berkeley, Oregon, Virginia, Texas, Canada and New Zealand. Inspectors in Maine and Australia found thousands of homes were at risk for electrical hazards from Smart Meter installations.

PG&E has admitted Smart Meters have interfered with GFCI and AFCI’s, which are electrical devices designed to protect against fires and shocks.

“Smart Meters are dangerous and PG&E and the CPUC should act now to stop the installation” states Sandi Maurer, EMF Safety Network.

More info: Smart Meter Fires and Explosions

Fire forces Evacuation of downtown Santa Rosa Plaza

incident report 2011-0005703-000


Sandi Maurer
EMF Safety Network
www.emfsafetynetwork.org