Analog Meters Withstand “Hot Sockets” Better Than Smart Meters

Reno Fire InvestigationKey Article Point

Even if  electric utility companies are able to “blame” a hot socket or customer wiring for many smart meter-related fires, the  meters themselves likely contributed to the fires, the severity of the fire damage, or the speed at which the fires spread.

Introduction

Subsequent to a house fire, one of the primary responsibilities for  investigators is to determine the point of origin and cause of the fire.  Determining the cause typically involves establishing whether the fire was accidental or criminal in nature.  It is also possible that the final investigation report will document that the fire’s cause remained “undetermined.”

When a smart meter and associated meter box are the origin of a fire, many times the evidence is burned or “consumed” to the extent that a full cause determination is difficult to make with certainty.  This is exemplified by examining the above photo for a smart meter-related fire in Reno, Nevada, still under investigation.  For some smart meter fires, the fire may simply be documented as “accidental” and where the cause was “electrical” in nature.  In other instances, a complete forensics investigation is not completed due to a lack of training, time, or other needed resources for the assigned investigators.

Utility companies are able to take advantage of the above situation where it is usually difficult for fire investigators to “definitively” establish  the cause of  smart meter-related fires.  Utility companies (and particularly meter manufacturers) thus always blame the customer’s wiring or a “hot socket” issue for smart meter-related fires even when contrary evidence exists.  A hot socket is where there is a loss of tension in at least one of the meter socket jaws for the meter receptacle.  This loss of tension contributes to micro-arcing that can lead to eventual catastrophic failure of the smart meter with a subsequent explosion and/or fire.

Industry Testing Results

The primary purpose of this article to establish that even if the “hot socket” is a source or “cause” of a smart meter-related fire, it is probable that the smart meter contributed to the eventual catastrophic failure.  This has been confirmed through industry testing results that utilities won’t disclose. …

Industry testing by a company called TESCO – The Eastern Specialty Company, arrived at the following conclusion (and as pictured in the slide below):

“Electromechanical meters withstand hot sockets better than solid state meters.”

TESCO Results

Slide 15 of the presentation by a TESCO representative indicates that:

“At the start of our laboratory investigation the oldest electro mechanical meters withstood hot sockets the best.”

“The latest vintage solid state meters withstood hot sockets the least.”

There was an acknowledgement that meter manufacturers recently (“over the course the past twelve months”) have begun to release smart meters designed to better withstand hot sockets, but this is little comfort to the people and millions of homes  across North America where smart meters have already been installed over the past several years.

Slide 5 (shown below) of the presentation by a TESCO representative states:

“Legal counsel for the utility customers would not allow publication of any data linking their utility to this sort of research.”

Also note that Slide 5 indicates that meter manufacturers and utilities “wanted an independent third party to … prove that the meters [themselves] were not the source [of fires].”

TESCO Slide 5

What is described above is not exactly an objective testing goal. …  So the presentation/ testing results makes the “desired” conclusion that “hot sockets are the source of the problem not hot meters,” but yet solid state meters are more susceptible to catastrophic failure than traditional analog meters.  That logically means that smart meters are indeed a source of catastrophic failure “problems.”  Hopefully you appreciate the “sleight of hand” on how these testing results are presented by the industry testing company.

Conclusions

SkyVision Solutions believes that there are inherent issues with smart meter construction and operation that makes fires more probable or severe than with traditional analog meters.  These issues were discussed in a recent comprehensive article, Smart Meters Increase the Risk of Fires!   Some of these reasons deal with the potential flammability of plastic enclosure materials under fault conditions and the fact that electronic components contained within smart meters such as metal-oxide varistors (MOVs) can burst into flames when degraded over time from such conditions as voltage surges in the power lines.

Actually, one only needs to read documents written by Underwriters Laboratories to confirm this common sense conclusion whereby the UL wrote:

The introduction of smart meters raises new concerns about functional safety, performance and product safety, data security, and interoperability, which are not fully addressed by the [current] standards. … This [new] standard was developed to address problems that have been reported from field installations of smart meters, including fires, meters ejecting from meter socket bases and exposed live parts.  When electronic components are overstressed, there is a potential for the components to explode.”

In any case, based upon the evidence presented that traditional analog meters withstand hot socket conditions better than smart meters:

Even if  utility companies are able to somehow “blame” a hot socket or customer wiring condition for many smart meter-related fires, the smart meters likely contributed to the fires, the severity of the fire damage, or the speed at which the fires spread (as compared to a traditional analog meter).

Do you still want a smart meter attached to your home?  I didn’t think so.

———————————————

Source Material for this Article:

TESCO Presentation by Tom Lawton on “Hot Socket Issues – Causes and Best Practices” at the Southeastern Meter School & Conference 2014, available for viewing (as of October 16, 2014) at:  http://www.slideshare.net/bravenna/hot-socket-issues-causes-best-practices.

“Writing a Fire Investigation Report,” at http://www.interfire.org/res_file/reports.asp.

About SkyVision Solutions

Raising public awareness and finding solutions for smart grid issues related to invasions of privacy, data security, cyber threats, health and societal impacts, as well as hazards related to radiofrequency (RF) radiation emissions from all wireless devices, including smart meters.
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3 Responses to Analog Meters Withstand “Hot Sockets” Better Than Smart Meters

  1. 1vimana1 says:

    You are spot on there with all of your sensible comments Sonia R.

  2. Pingback: APS in Smart Meter Fire Lawsuit

  3. Sonia R. says:

    I’d like to expand on the comment within the article about the plastics of the smart meter, which represents the bulk of what the meter is made of. Consider this…boy scouts are taught that they can ignite dry tinder by using a magnifying glass turned so that it is aimed at the sun. Eventually, there is smoke, then fire. What is so different about a smart meter? It has a large thick glass over it. Could it be that the glass acts to magnify the intense sunlight on a hot day, which then melts the plastic, which runs on the fragile wire components, causing failure then fire? The analog meters were predominantly composed of heavy metal, which is not vulnerable in the above scenario, even though the metal could get hot; it didn’t seem to cause failure of the meter itself OR melting of the delicate wires. We all know that electronics should always be protected from extremes of heat and cold. Has anyone ever studied this in a lab or checked out the time of year and climate of SM fire locations? Failure could occur from either temperature extreme, as is evident in the fires in Canada and resultant recalls of thousands upon thousands of smart meters. The finger pointed at SMs as the cause is pretty convincing, as before SMs, I can’t say that I have ever heard of a house fire being attributed to an analog meter..

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