Posts Tagged ‘smart meters’

Smart Meter 101

July 9, 2011

After the long weekend of July 4th earlier this week (btw, my 75th birthday)
I went to the Post Office to get my mail and there was a notice from PG&E
announcing their SmartMeter program. I already knew (thanks to
FaceBook, http://www.facebook.com/groups/220070751367188) that I did
not want an SM near my home. At the bottom of the notice in small print
was a phone number (866-743-0263) for opting for a “delay” in the
program. I called at once (morning of July 7th) and registered for delay. The
representative asked the reason, and I said I did not want the radio
transmission near my home. I was told that they would install the SM, but
turn off the radio transmitter.
On returning home later in the day I found that PG&E had already come
and installed an SM (see photo). You might want to go now and check your
electric meter.

I noticed the legend “Silver Spring Networks” at the top of the meter, and
googled them, finding http://www.silverspringnet.com. One of the White Papers
on their site explained:
To date, the majority of smart meters deployed in the United
States use unlicensed spectrum. The reason for the
overwhelming success of this approach is simple – compared
with solutions that rely on privately licensed spectrum, solutions
utilizing unlicensed spectrum are the most reliable, proven and
cost-effective choice for smart grid communications. Silver
Spring Networks is a leading smart grid solution provider whose
communications platform, based on unlicensed 900 MHz
spectrum, has been selected to power more than 17 million
smart meters in the United States and abroad.
Browsing for 900 MHz I discovered this band is adjacent to the 33 cm
amateur radio band (full wavelength a little more than one foot) and is used
by cordless phones, cell phones, and wifi. The health hazards of these
UHF (ultra high frequency) electromagnetic waves are well documented.
My wife Ray also called the PG&E SM number and learned that opting for
“delay” would entail a monthly fee (amount unknown at present). Having
some experience with the technology for EMF shielding in my engineering
background, I browsed the web for homemade faraday cages (EMF
shields) and found a nice idea using aluminum foil and duct tape here:
http://howto.wired.com/wiki/Make_a_Faraday_Cage_Wallet
Before recommending this approach I want to build a cage for my SM and
test it, as it may not work well without a good grounding connection. More
on this in a future blog.
If the cage works, that means that you can self-remedy the radiation aspect
of the SM technology, so PG&E will still have to come and read your SM
manually as always in the past. Even if you build in a window to facilitate
this reading, the PG&E meter reader may rip off your cage and carry it
away, so it is important that the cage be inexpensive and simple to install.