Chicago Breaking Business ComEd confirms smart meters involved in ‘small fires’ (U.S.)

Fires involving smart metersA traditional electric meter, left, sits next to the smart meters that ComEd began installing in Naperville in 2009. (Chuck Berman/Tribune / August 30, 2012)


By Gregory Karp Tribune reporter1:05 p.m. CDT, August 30, 2012

Commonwealth Edison confirmed on Thursday that three of its smart meters, which wirelessly relay power-use data between homes and the company, have been involved in “small fires” in the Chicago region.
ComEd said the problems stemmed not from the smart meters themselves but from how they were connected to homes and businesses.
The news, reported by Crain’s Chicago Business on Thursday, is the latest among recent concerns about the safety of the devices.
Peco Energy Co., a sister company of ComEd also owned by Exelon Corp., said this month that it suspended a smart-meter installation program after 15 of the 186,000 installed devices overheated, including one that set fire to a home in suburban Philadelphia, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Then, this week, Maryland utility regulators, concerned about the action in Pennsylvania, held a hearing with four major electricity companies about smart meters, the Baltimore Sun reported. The paper quoted a Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. official saying the company had five incidents of the smart meters overheating out of 65,000 installed. None failed or was damaged.
“ComEd customers can be assured that we are taking every precaution possible to ensure their safety and satisfaction,” ComEd said in a statement. “We are working hand-in-hand with our Peco colleagues to understand and apply their key learnings here in northern Illinois.”
ComEd has installed digital smart meters at about 130,000 homes and businesses. “Since installation began in 2009, we have seen a limited number of issues related to elevated heating. We take these issues extremely seriously and, in each case, have taken steps to get to the bottom of the issues to ensure customer safety,” the statement said.
The problem is not with the smart meters, ComEd said. Independent testing showed the cause “was related to fitting and connection issues with an older-model socket that had a poor connection at the point where the customer’s wires and ComEd’s wires meet.”
All three smart meters that had problems used the same type of socket, ComEd said. Older-style analog meters also can have connection issues from loose fittings and corrosion, the company said.
“Technicians will look out for and modify the connection point when needed during full deployment of smart meters,” ComEd said.
All told, ComEd identified 15 connection issues that resulted in higher than normal heat conditions and damage to the smart meter. All the meters worked but ComEd replaced them, it said. None of the incidents were related to meter design, it said.
ComEd said it is performing daily temperature scans on smart meters, helping it identify heat-related issues.
The company is also sending its meter designs for independent evaluation. That testing will be completed before ComEd installs any more smart meters early next year, it said.

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