Thinking Tech

Wait -- California smart meters do have problems

Wait -- California smart meters do have problems

Posting in Design

When the meters transmit power data back to the utility, they interfere with household electronics, customers claim.

Remember how an independent investigator said last week that the millions of smart meters being installed across Northern California by Pacific Gas & Electric were not malfunctioning and overcharging customers, even though a lawsuit against PG&E and over 1,300 customers claimed they were?

Now the San Jose Mercury News says it's collected dozens of complaints on its Action Line from readers who claim that the wireless smart meters interfere with their household electronics -- cordless phones, crib monitors, patio speakers, wireless headsets and microphones, home security systems, motion detectors and remote-controlled garage doors -- as the meters transmit their power data back to the mother ship.

PG&E, which was dinged for poor customer service, told the newspaper that the problems are not with the smart meters, but with all the other wireless equipment their customers have. Here, a PG&E spokesman advises one customer to get a refund on the baby monitor:

"We are sorry the customer encountered this inconvenience. The SmartMeter device meets all Federal Communications Commission standards, so in cases like this, the baby monitor wasn't built to a standard where it would not receive interference from legally transmitted equipment like a SmartMeter meter. It is likely that the replacement monitor was designed so it would not receive interference from legally transmitting equipment, which is why it is no longer experiencing interference. This reader might want to seek a refund from the store or maker of the first monitor she purchased."

The investigator, Structure, did say in its report that no new issues had cropped up with the meters -- PG&E was aware of this one already.

My prediction? Watch for a lot more conflicts like this before smart meters are accepted without questions by the public.

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Deborah Gage

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Deborah Gage has written for the San Francisco Chronicle, Minnesota Public Radio, Baseline and various magazines and newspapers. She is based in San Francisco. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure