Same Sh*t, Different Utility: Smart Meter Catches Fire, Utility Denies Homeowners’ Damage Claim

By B.N. Frank

Opposition to utility “smart” meters (electric, gas, and water) is worldwide.

Utilities encourage or sometimes force consumers to accept these dangerous devices (see 1, 2) in order to remotely control and/or ration energy use (see 1, 2) as well as collect consumer usage data 24/7 to sell and/or share with 3rd parties including police departments!  Documented issues associated with “smart” meters include billing errors/higher bills, cybersecurity risks, installation mishaps, mechanical issues, harmful radiation emissions, short life spans as well as fires and explosions (see 1, 2, 3, 4).  Of course, utility companies tend to not take responsibility when smart meters catch fire and/or explode which has led to lawsuits filed by insurance companies in California.  Perhaps that needs to happen everywhere else too.

From WMAR:

Smart meter catches fire, utility company denies homeowners’ damage claim

BGE: “Equipment failure due to normal wear and tear”

BALTIMORE — A Baltimore County couple said their smart meter “exploded” causing nearly $1,500 in damage to their home. They filed a claim with BGE to pay for the repairs, but it was denied.

Susan Kahl was watching TV at around 10:15 p.m. on October 5 when she heard a loud noise.

“I heard a softer sound and then I heard what I thought was a motorcycle or dirt bike backfiring and then the lights went out and the generator kicked on,” Kahl said.

Kahl and her husband, Richard, had no idea what happened until the electrician came in the morning.

“He said, you better call BGE. He said that meter exploded and there was melted metal on the glass plate of the meter, and it had melted the siding and you can see a little bit where the soot is on the telephone box,” said Kahl.

The electrician added that he hadn’t seen this before, so the Kahls called BGE.

“And the technician didn’t come until 5:15 in the evening and he said he’d never seen anything like that happen. And then the next day, they sent somebody to follow up and look at it, and he said he’d never seen something like that happen,” Susan Kahl recalled.

The Kahls filed a claim with BGE thinking they’d be reimbursed, but several days later, they received a denial letter.

“They were denying our claim because that was normal wear and tear on the meter,” said Susan Kahl.

BGE investigated the event and could not find any willful default or neglect on their part that led to the power outage/surge. “Our investigation concluded that the cause of the power outage/surge was equipment failure due to normal wear and tear,” according to the letter sent to the Kahls.

“We don’t bother with this stuff, you know, I just cut grass around here, don’t even bother with it something like that just happened unexpectedly,” said Richard Kahl.

The Kahls estimate their smart meter was installed around eight years ago.

WMAR-2 News Mallory Sofastaii contacted the Maryland State Fire Marshal. In the last 10 years, they’ve received reports of 38 fires connected to smart or regular meters.

“There are tens of thousands, if not millions of these smart meters located across the state. It’s not something we’re focused on, but certainly something we want to keep an eye on,” said Oliver Alkire, senior deputy and spokesperson with the Maryland State Fire Marshal.

The Maryland Public Service Commission, the state agency that regulates public utilities, only gets notification from utilities of meter events when property damage exceeds $50,000 or results in a hospitalization or fatality. A spokeswoman said they’re only aware of one meter-related incident in the last few years.

BGE wasn’t available for an on-camera interview and said they cannot comment on the Kahl’s claim since it’s “a customer issue.”

The Kahls feel it’s the utility company’s equipment, they should take responsibility. And with no explanation on what exactly caused the failure or what they can do in the future, they worry about it happening again.

“Yah, I’ll tell you the truth, I’m afraid to go back upstairs and go to bed because you just don’t know,” said Susan Kahl.

In an email, BGE spokesperson Richard Yost provided this safety information:

Customer and employee safety is our top priority. BGE inspects residential gas meters for leaks, atmospheric corrosion and any other abnormal operating observations. Commercial meters are inspected once a year, residential once every three years, and any inside meter assemblies once every five years.

Every electric meter we receive is accuracy tested by the manufacturer prior to being shipped to BGE. Once received at BGE, we perform sample testing in accordance with COMAR regulations to verify functionality and accuracy of the shipment prior to installation. Once in service, we perform meter testing in accordance with the In-Service Program (ISP) which is audited by the PSC annually. This program performs random sample testing on in service meters in accordance with ANSI standards concerning random sample testing. We perform maintenance replacements based on data received from the meter, or when a meter ceases to communicate over the AMI network. Included in this data is temperature monitoring. When elevated temperatures are reported, BGE responds to investigate and perform maintenance as needed.

Safety guidelines:

• If you have concerns about how your meter is operating, please contact BGE.
• Never tamper with the meter.
• Keep the area surrounding the meter clear of boxes, furniture, shelves, etc.
• Do not build walls or paneling that obstructs access to the meter.
• Never hang anything from or lean anything on a meter.
• Instruct children not to climb on or play near a meter.
• Keep meter clear of any landscaping that obstructs access or visibility.
• Do not build decking or fencing that blocks access to the meter.
• In winter, carefully clear ice and snow from the meter, as well as from any appliance exhaust vents.
• Never use a snow blower or plow around a meter. Shovel the immediate area carefully by hand.

Sofastaii also checked with the Maryland Office of the People’s Counsel who said these matters are generally an issue for homeowners insurance, however, the Kahl’s claim was less than their deductible.

For any utility disputes, customers can file a complaint with the Maryland Public Service Commission by clicking here.

Complaints about “smart” meters inspired a documentary film and led to Americans demanding “opt-out” programs and obviously filing lawsuits (see 1, 2, 3).  Nevertheless, proponents continue to insist that they are necessary for “energy efficiency” programs despite research that has proven otherwise (see 1, 2).

Activist Post reports regularly about “Smart” Meters and other privacy invasive and unsafe technologies.  For more information, visit our archives and the following websites:

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