Smart meters pose little risk

As BC homes are switched over to smart meters, a reassurance for homeowners.

BC Hydro and customers all play a role in electrical safety, now and in the future. The installation of new meters throughout the province involves a visit to every customer, and provides a unique opportunity for BC Hydro to identify and address safety issues.

The risk of a smart meter exchange causing electrical problems is extremely low. Before smart meters, BC Hydro routinely exchanged up to 40,000 analog meters per year. In fact, meter socket failures are occurring at the same very low rate – about 0.05 per cent – with the new smart meter exchanges as they did with old meter exchanges.

Nonetheless, both BC Hydro and customers need to be on the lookout for any potential electrical safety issues.

BC Hydro has installed over 1.5 million smart meters throughout the province. The overwhelming majority of the installations have been problem-free.

When replacing a meter, BC Hydro plugs the new meter, which is the end point of the electricity grid, into the customer’s meter socket. The meter socket belongs to the customer. Like an electrical socket, a properly functioning meter socket should be able to accommodate frequent meter exchanges.

During the smart meter exchange, BC Hydro conducts a thorough inspection of the meter socket before a new meter is installed. If installers discover problems with a customer’s meter socket, BC Hydro will contact the homeowner and offer to bring in a qualified electrician to fix the problem at BC Hydro’s expense.

Meter socket failures are extremely rare. To date, there have been approximately 1,000 cases where BC Hydro has found pre-existing damage to a customer’s meter socket after the old meter was removed, including eroded wiring, improper meter socket installations, and pre-existing electrical bypasses.

Like old meters, smart meters do not generate a charge and are designed so that it is impossible for the connectors to come into contact with each other. In fact, the new meters provide improved surge protection – up to 575 volts, as compared to 385 volts for old meters.

In addition, the new meters will enable BC Hydro to alert the customer if they are exceeding their service rating and in need of an upgrade to ensure safety. Smart meters are regulated by British Columbia Electrical Safety Regulations, the American National Standards Institute, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, and International Electrotechnical Commission.

While equipment on the customer side of the grid is designed to last a long time, it can sometimes deteriorate through the years. The best indicator of any issue with electrical equipment is lighting.

Customers should watch for sustained flickering of lights or multiple lights getting brighter or dimmer in their home. If customers notice this problem, they should contact an electrician.

Customers should also ensure that any modifications to a home or business that involve wiring are done by a qualified electrician.

For more information, please contact BC Hydro Media Relations at (604) 928-6468, or visit the website at www.bchydro.com/media

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