by Brian Rudnick
PECO is replacing the existing electric meters in the neighborhood with new remote controlled smart meters using Radio Frequency (RF) transmission. Installer Peter Paige stopped by one morning, as scheduled, to make the 15 to 20 minute switch-out at our house.
This is the process: Wearing fire resistant clothing, Paige first dons personal protective equipment: a hood, helmet and goggles to guard against a flash which might occur should he touch a live spot inside the box. He credits the protective gear with saving him on more than one occasion!
Paige then records the old meter number and reading and the new meter number and reading on a multifunctional, handheld electronic device. Then pulling off the old meter, the lights in our utility room and house go out. With a helmet-mounted lamp lighting the box, he tests the voltage. Trilling sounds indicate it’s OK. He snaps in the new meter and attaches a seal; its thin gauge wire can be cut but if it is discovered so, will indicate tampering.
With the handheld, Paige then takes photos of the old meter. Melting, burning or char on the plastic back of the old meter will indicate an electrical problem that a special PECO team will follow up on. And lastly he beams a red light at the meter to activate it.
And it’s on to the next job. Paige says his appointment team can do up to 15 or 20 or more on a good day.
The smart meter allows PECO to turn it off in case of either emergency or delinquency. The new meter also has a sensor that detects overheating, surges or other improper conditions, can signal PECO and can shut itself down. Soon, a website will be available for customers to monitor and analyze their electric usage and achieve savings.
A “New Metering Technology” handout Paige provides explains that the new meters are being installed in accordance with the requirements of Pennsylvania Act 129 of 2008. In addition to the quick detection and correction of problems, the new technology is expected to provide the basis for new products and services. The handout also addresses consumer concerns about the level of Radio Frequency (RF) emitted by the meter and potential concerns about the privacy and security of the information captured.