back to article Americans resort to padlocking their dumb meters

Campaigners across America are resorting to padlocks and metal cages to protect their 'leccy meters, convinced that the smart versions will damage their health. The Georgia Senate is busy passing a bill allowing customers to opt out of having a smart meter fitted, and without cost, but some of the locals are concerned that …

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"A lot of people are getting sick, they're getting symptoms of insomnia, ringing in the ears, heart palpitations, some diabetics are having trouble controlling their blood-sugar levels" says Leah Spitzer

Yes, granted, a lot of people are getting ill. No link to meters though. Smart or otherwise.

But: People are allowed to believe whatever silly thing they want, and as long as they aren't a danger to others, should be allowed to decide how they want to live their lives.

And I must admit smart-meters make me a bit uneasy, in a "Thin-end-of-the-wedge" kind of way.

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Gav
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Boffin

Watching you

Have to agree. There is plenty opportunity here for the power companies to abuse the connection into your home and monitor things other than energy usage. All to "help improve our service to you", of course. But the idea of there being a spy on your electricity line watching what you're doing each day isn't that far fetched.

The RADIOWAVES CANCER campaigners are, naturally, loons with very little idea of how tiny the power of these devices. They very probably already been living for years with electrical appliances that inadvertently broadcast just as much as radio noise.

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Joke

I have all those symptoms...

I'd better get a meter fitted pronto to cash in.

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Big Brother

Tinfoil Cures All

It's nothing a little tinfoil hat can't solve.

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Re: Tinfoil Cures All

That and duck tape!

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Coat

Duct tape is like the force

It's light on one side, dark on the other, and it binds the universe together.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Tinfoil Cures All

Yes Potatoes everywhere, wearing them are also well protected from the Alien mind control...

they still wind up well done!

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Learns How Much Enegery You Are Using

So I can learn how much power I'm using with a new meter?

I'm fairly certain that information has always been on my bill.

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Re: Learns How Much Enegery You Are Using

Does your bill break it down into daily usage, or tell you what devices were using it?

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Stop

Re: Learns How Much Enegery You Are Using

Smart meters don't break down the usage by device, they can't, like 'dumb' meters they only know how much power is flowing into the property before the consumer box and before it's split into various circuits for lighting, sockets and high power devices like ovens. You're confusing a smart meter with electricity metering devices like the kill-a-watt which sits between a device and the socket.

A smart meter is just a standard electricity meter that allows for real time readings to be taken automatically by the power company and when they want, to remotely turn off your power because the grid is overloaded or you haven't paid your bill. Those are in fact the only two reasons why power companies are pushing out smart meters, the nonsense about allowing people to better manage their usage is just the justification they are giving for the inconvenience and cost to the customer that these 'upgrades' are causing. They have government backing, especially here in the UK because of the projected shortfall in electricity production in the next few years which will necessitate rolling blackouts. They can't turn off every house in a neighbourhood without risking killing some poor bastard on a ventilator, smart meters allow them to exclude such homes and those of your local MP ...

As for the latter, yes, my dumb meter (30 years old) has always told me the daily usage, even the hourly usage by virtue of the figures displayed on the front. Note the figure at the start of the period you want to measure and subtract it from the figure at the end of the period - easy peasy.

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Re: Learns How Much Enegery You Are Using

Does it break it down by device? No.

Does it give you daily usage? no

Hell, It doesn't even tell them when the power is out (or for that matter, when it's back on)

We've had 9 power outages in the last 13 months, the longest was 3 days (when a tornado took out the sub station for our 'extension cord' last March). I only count outages of 10mins or longer mind.

I'm with Georgia Power, and got a 'smart meter' about 2 years ago.

It's actually harder for me to see usage. Before I could see how fast the disc spun, now it's a guess as to how long the lcd segment takes to move on to the next.

I wish they'd spent the money on upgrading the infrastructure. We're literally on an 'extension cord' from a town to the northwest, which means we get our power from upstate.

Funnily enough ,we have a hydro power station in the county. We're not linked to it. There's a massive coal plant (the biggest CO2 polluting plant in the US) about 20 miles south of us, we're not linked to it. There's another coal plant 15 miles east of that, we're not linked to that either. I just want power thay doesn't go out if it rains hard. Is that too much to ask?

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Holmes

Re: Learns How Much Enegery You Are Using

My power company says its all rainbows and unicorns:

http://www.bchydro.com/news/conservation/unplug_this_blog/2011/home_area_networks.html

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That pesky readio frequency and my diabetes

Oh yes, it is the TV and my phone that are making my sugar-levels soar sky-high, not the fries and doughnuts.

Speaking as a diabetic, and having interacted with lardies who find everyone to blame for their high blood-sugar but them and their mouths, I can say that I have noticed every new technology allows people to shift the blame from tiresome facts to the Uncontrollable Other.

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WTF?

No tinfoil hats

2 very logical objections to smart meters.

1. Whats the long term benefit to me, once I've found the high consuming devices (its not like I dont know what they are. And no - the reduction of my emissions to AGW to not count. How much carbon does the production of a smart meter cost? How many years until the pay off point?

2. How long until they get p0wned?

No need for tinfoil hats at all - the sensible objections are enough.

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Re: No tinfoil hats

Good points.

Really smart meters could be of benefit when you have really smart equipment in the house to negotiate good (=cheap) moments to switch on (like the washing machine automatically picking suitable times to do the washing to minimize cost). Whether there are any benefits now is debatable.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: No tinfoil hats

They can already do that- give it a 'power saving' mode that stops it turning on during whatever the power companies agree is Peak Time (I guess when Eastenders or Corrie are on). There's got to be a simple table somewhere...

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Re: No tinfoil hats

Well, a possible potential benefit is when energy is cheap (in the middle of the night) you can have your new super-quiet dish and clothes washing machines run saving you a few pence.

But we're a long way from that it seems.

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Re: No tinfoil hats

@Chad H

You can already do that. The old, dumb, electromechanical meter has two readings, one for daytime and another for off-peak. Presumably the demand curve doesn't vary that much from day to day, so a day/night scheme works OK.

The trouble is that you pay more for peak-time power under this scheme. The original idea was to run night-storage heaters, so the heavy usage during the off-peak period would offset the extra daytime cost. Night storage heating is about as popular as the central fire below a hole in the roof these days, but I bet there are still a lot of dual-rate meters around.

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smart new equipment

Rather than replacing big, expensive white goods, put a timer switch between the appliance and the wall socket, so it switches on during the off-peak periods.

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Holmes

Re: No tinfoil hats

Cheap leccy at night but they charge you more than everyone else in the daytime. Unless you are an owl or a insomniac you don't save any money.

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Re: smart new equipment

What Red Bren said.

I live in a small apartment in an Italian village; the gas option is actually more expensive as it's priced on the assumption that most demand will be for families and businesses. Small apartments in cheaply-converted 400-year-old structures aren't really worth the faff of digging up the cobbled streets for.

So I have a 40 litre electric heater—essentially a kettle nailed to my bathroom wall. This is plugged into a €7 timer bought from a local supermarket, which, in turn, plugs into a standard 16A socket. It's set to switch on in the morning and evenings for 30 min. each, with a 15 min. 'top-up' around 1300 hrs. as otherwise I tend to run out of hot water for the washing-up.

This is in a country that imports almost all its energy supplies—fossil fuels included—as it lacks natural reserves for production of same. Italy gets about 70% or so of its electricity from the French and the Swiss. (Ironically, almost every village around here proudly announces its "nuclear-free" status on their boundary signs.)

And, yes, that "cellphone masts = CANCER!" bullshit appears to be here too, albeit only in the smaller, more isolated, areas. There are quite a few dead spots as a result. None of the morons responsible for that appear to understand how cellphone technology works: the further apart your masts are, the more power your phone needs to use to reach them, thus negating their entire argument: by refusing permission to build more masts, they're exposing themselves to more RF energy, not less.

Ignorance seems to be easy to find in the countryside, where techniques for working the land haven't really changed all that much in generations. The horses have been replaced by large, noisy machines, but these machines are performing functions any farmer can recognise; the only thing that's changed is power source, which used to be organic, but now has the name Ferrari* stamped on its sides. It's that newfangled "electricity" stuff they're still struggling with.

* (A pretty common name in Italy, so yes, there is such a thing as a cheap Ferrari, as long as you don't mind it having a large, noisy, diesel engine, no doors or roof, and a top speed of roughly 30 mph. In green.)

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@Larry F54 Re: No tinfoil hats

If you have some non-smart washing machine without a start timer, then in most cases a simple timer unit between the socket and the washing machine will solve that.

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@Kubla Cant Re: No tinfoil hats

I recently had my old mechanical spinning-(single)-disc meter replaced by a new, dualmode-LCD-meter so that I could take advantage of lower 'leccy rates at night to run the washing machine, the dishwasher, the breadmaker and other devices as applicable. No electric water heater here, except for a 10l close-in boiler under the kitchen sink (powered all day, so no benefit there)

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@King Jack Re: No tinfoil hats

Depends on your usage pattern. I have very modest power usage during daytime, then just your average lighting during the evening, and the power-hungry stuff happens at night (washing, dishwashing), and I definitely have a lower bill. So much so that the cost of meter replacement (which I got billed for as I had asked for it) will pay itself back in about three years.

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That region of america is really diving fast towads the Ideocracy depicted in mike Judge's film.

Due nearly entirely to religion.

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Headmaster

Re religion causes stupidity

I think the causal link is more: rational thought = absence of religion rather than religion = absence of rational thought. Same correlation applies but you can't blame the pope for rednecks.

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Energy company PR

<rant> The thing that gets me about smart meters is that the energy companies try to sell it as a benefit to me. If I want to know what my energy use is I have a meter which I can look at when ever I like. Not that I can easily work out the cost or compare the cost as they like to have so many tariffs so as to make it very difficult.

The smart meter is for them to build a picture of my energy use to either charge me more (to at least cover the cost of the smart metering system and provide some shareholder value) or to better control their costs (reduce costs and deliver shareholder value).

</rant>

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Anonymous Coward

Smart meters serve two main functions

i) allow for the possibility of dynamic tariff rates

ii) allow for remote disconnection of supply. The meter disconnects supply anyway if the meter loses wireless connectivity.

Everything else is deception.

So what's in it for me? And what's in it for the utility suppliers?

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Re: Smart meters serve two main functions

"The meter disconnects supply anyway if the meter loses wireless connectivity"

Please tell me that's not true!!!!! That's an insane idea.

Lorry parks by smart meter, cuts off signal, all power goes off ......

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Re: Smart meters serve two main functions

You forgot one, in the UK anyway.

Smart meters will be pre-paid, which removes the embarrassment of the pre-pay rates currently charged, usually to people who can least afford them, so everyone goes prepay and hides the issue. Run out of pre-pay and your option ii) to shut you off is always available.

The whole issue of pre-pay and shut off is very much a UK thing and political, whilst making UK meters more expensive, so we will all pay for that. Roll-out is from 2014 - 2019 and it is unlikely that options to decline will be allowed.

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Re: Smart meters serve two main functions

What's in it for you (or at least for me): not having to shovel a path to the meter during the winter anymore. Also, a bit less pollution by not having a bunch of guys driving trucks around to all the meters constantly. My old meter was replaced last year...aside from the total lack of warning when they did it, no complaints so far. We'll see how it goes.

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If the people are so sensitive that they are affected by having a Smart meter installed in their home they wouldn't be able to function like a human at all, the amount of background radio noise its horrendous and they would surely be affected by that all day not to mention:

Short range radio for ID tags

Short range radio on traffic control systems

Lifts

Vending machines

Photocopiers

Wireless

The list goes on, if it really affected them that much they would probably have already moved to a deep cave in the darkest part of the world.

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Stop

Misinterpretation

Smart Meters referred to here are NOT the ones which tell you which appliances are the ones costing you money. Smart Meters are the ones that dynamically feed your usage data hour by hour to the Energy company so that you are accurately billed and your forecasted usage is more accurate too.

All these concerns about health could be removed by ensuring that the antenna used was sited on the roof with a coverage of 360 degrees in azimuth but only 190-200 degrees in elevation. That way, no antenna that was close enough to do harm would send energy in your direction. (The signal strength received falls off proportional to the square of the distance from the antenna).

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Re: Misinterpretation

They also have the ability for OTA firmware updates and in the future will be used to ration types of smart devices which can be used at different times. e.g. No internet for United States Security reasons. Yes sir!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Misinterpretation

You must live somewhere flat. From my desk, I can see 14 of my neighbor's roofs. Tell me I won't see any of that RF again.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Misinterpretation

I am glad at least ONE person is thinking about a rational solution, rather than just having an emotional rant, so thank you Tom Kelsall.

In the USA, many object to the intrusion on privacy, others are already reporting billing inaccuracies. Some are fine with the concept of a "smarter meter," but have a very real concern about the wireless transmission methods, where your meter is not just like a cell phone, it acts as a cell tower - relaying all kinds of data unrelated to your home, and in "bursts" every 40 seconds, which Electrically Hyper-Sensitive people report are more troublesome than continuous radiation.

There are many other ways to transmit the data other than using cell phone signals, for example transmitting right back on the power line. They will probably resist the rooftop antenna suggested on cost basis.

One has to ask, why do they want to create this wireless network when they already have a wired network (the power lines themselves can carry data signals)?

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RF interference

What about the effect on other wireless devices using the same frequencies? I know of one remote monitoring system that went toes up after someone installed a wireless CCTV system.

And how smart are the meters? Is it just monitoring or control? Could we have a drive by disconnection of a whole area?

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Re: RF interference

Disconnection is a major concern for the security design.

The idea is to use a digitally signed command for that single meter. Broadcasts are not allowed by design.

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Re: RF interference

Our smart meter *IS* causing me insomnia, but not the kind the tinfoil will solve.

It turns our our smart meter stomps all over the frequencies used by our baby monitors, causing a *SPZZRT* every second or so while it is transmitting. You can actually hear the other meters communicating down the mesh over the monitor (SPZZRT....Spzzrt....spzrrt...). This happens every hour or so, often waking up my wife and I.

BUT - at times there is other activity , either some kind of test or software update that results in a few hours of constant chatter.

Interesting for me from the techno-geek stand point, but pretty much wipes out our baby monitor's usefulness. Good thing our kids are old enough we don't really need them much except when the kids are sick.

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Good for them

One thing you can be sure of, is that these aren't for the benefit of the householders.

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Anonymous Coward

So disappointed

with the exception of the 'cat' (further up) no one has yet linked this to global warming - your just not trying!

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Re: So disappointed

How about...

Smart meters use more power than normal ones, therefore they force us to emit more CO2 into the atmosphere causing GLOBAL WARMING!!! PANIC!!!

Lord, think of the children....

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FAIL

Re: So disappointed

Did you neglect to account for the lack of manual data collection?

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There are people linking this to global extermination

http://www.gandhi-auftrag.de/energybox.htm

Unfortuantely that's in German, but google translate gives a good enough translation.

Some quotes:

"3G has always been basically a pure weapon system and 3G mobile phones are just side effects."

Of course they link it to Nostradamus and Mind-control and whatever. There's even IBM marketing blurb in the mix. In a nutshell this is all there for global extermination and mind control.

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Friends in high places?

"Here in Blighty smart meters won't be compulsory..."

Unless someone has another word with the right Lord, perhaps?

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/labour/4389589/Lords-fiasco-Lord-Truscotts-meetings-with-minister-and-officials.html

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Pint

Demo EM fields

Take a magnet (the little tiny super-strong sort) and hold it in you hand so that it's free to wiggle about. With an electric stove top, turn it on and quickly (before it gets hot and burns your hand) probe the magnetic field with the magnet. You'll be amazed at how vigourously the magnet will vibrate. If you're lucky, you can even get it spinning inside your closed hand.

Smart meters would be about 12 orders of magnitude less.

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Brilliant

> some diabetics are having trouble controlling their blood-sugar levels

Isn't that the definition of diabetes?

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Re: Brilliant

diabetes means that your pancreas does not make enough insulin and or cells do not respond to insulin normally. It can be controlled.

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If they hadn't been told it was using radio signals they wouldn't have even noticed.

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