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Smart Meters Wreaking Havoc With Home Electronics 375

Posted by samzenpus
from the learn-to-play-nice dept.
wiredmikey writes "About 200 customers of the Central Maine Power Company recently noticed something odd after the utility installed smart meters in their homes: household electronics, including wireless devices, stopped working, or behaved erratically. Many Smart Meters broadcast in the 2.4GHz frequency range. Unfortunately, so do many of the consumer gadgets we take for granted these days including routers, electric garage doors, fire alarms, clocks, electric pet fences, answering machines, and baby monitors — even medical devices. The electromagnetic congestion in the home is in some ways similar to the growing electronic congestion in hospitals as they acquire more and more electronic monitors all operating within a few feet of each other. Medical equipment has been known to shut down or give erroneous results when positioned close to another piece of equipment. Such interference is not new, just getting worse — rapidly."
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Smart Meters Wreaking Havoc With Home Electronics

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  • Smart Meters (Score:5, Interesting)

    by thejynxed (831517) on Thursday November 24, 2011 @06:46AM (#38156690) Homepage

    These things are about as useful as tits on a lawnmower. The meters can't even record accurate use if your house wiring is over 20 years old. The power company where I live is having fits because not a single one of the smart meters they installed in the historic district of the town where I live (and I live in this district) is recording accurate consumption. They've found meters read 1kWh for an entire week. In an apartment building with 6 apartments. To be fair, the wiring is about ancient in these buildings. Some of it has cloth coverings. The fuse boxes in most of them still use the old "stick" fuses made out of waxed paper, etc, etc, etc. Breaker boxes? WHO NEEDS THOSE :P

    Also of note: the historic district rules prevent people like the power company from installing more than a single meter per standing structure. This makes tenants very happy, as that means each and every single apartment in the district is "utilities included" when it comes to rent.

  • Electric pet fences (Score:5, Interesting)

    by 1s44c (552956) on Thursday November 24, 2011 @07:03AM (#38156764)

    I'd never heard of electric pet fences before. You Americans scare me.

  • Re:Shielding (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Neil Boekend (1854906) on Thursday November 24, 2011 @07:10AM (#38156784)
    Shielding doesn't work if the device needs an antenna to function. Wireless devices need their antenna's. These devices work on the same frequencies as wireless/bluetooth/micowaves/dect/alarms.
    "POE. Try it, bitches" would have been more appropriate. Assuming the transformers allow high frequency signals to pass, a relatively high power/low frequency/low bandwith (The supplier doesn't need to check your usage more frequently than once a year, multiplied by the amount of data (1K would easily be enough) multiplied by the amount of subscribers in the area) POE communications channel would let them check all the houses without driving a car through the neighbourhood at all.
  • Re:Even better (Score:4, Interesting)

    by blackicye (760472) on Thursday November 24, 2011 @07:15AM (#38156806)

    Do not use wireless devices. Use cable connections in all that is possible.

    I usually tell this to my corporate and residential customers also, why would you want to go wireless when
    you can run everything wired, and have it running, cheaper, faster and more stably?

    The main reason they give is the unsightly wiring or additional trunking to the installation, the rest of the wiring is often concealed in their
    homes or offices and they didn't think to add Cat5E or Cat6 to their infrastructure when they renovated.

  • Re:2.4GHz? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Chrisq (894406) on Thursday November 24, 2011 @07:16AM (#38156810)

    Why would 'smart' meters not use SMS or something similar? Whatever 'green' imperative has these meters requiring more than that is a fail, by definition.

    This is an obvious and sensible solution. I expect that the reason comes down to mobile operators wanting to charge electric companies too much to use the service.

  • Elster REX2 (Score:0, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 24, 2011 @07:52AM (#38156964)

    My electrical provider uses the Elster REX2, which operates in the 900-something MHz range.

    http://www.ifixit.com/Teardown/Elster-REX2-Smart-Meter-Teardown/5710/1

    Look closely...the meter gets your power draw via an inductive ring that doesn't physically touch the hot phases, so no chance it can electrically interfere either. And it'll work no matter how old the building is.

    Our electrical provider installed a batch of these right before we got some extremely cold weather, and since this is Florida, people set their thermostats into the 70s during the winter. Bills shot up due to the weather, and the meters were blamed. Not a single meter was found to be working incorrectly.

  • Re:Why, just why!? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 24, 2011 @08:25AM (#38157080)

    If we're talking meter reading, then use the mobile network. Powering up to send a text with the reading every 3 months isn't exactly a big deal and I'd imagine would be considerably cheaper than still having to send someone to each property.

    The dumb meter I've just gotten here in Australia uses a mesh network to communicate with neighbouring meters. The meters report their own status every 15 minutes, and supposedly pass on status messages from surrounding meters until it reaches a central node for the area, which I haven't found yet. I haven't bothered to monitor the thing yet to see if it broadcasts continuously, or just for a burst every 15 minutes. Fortunately, the local meters are using 900MHz, so they don't interfere with my stuff, but the manufacturers data sheet lists 2.4GHz as another option. I imagine in countries where they haven't been given a free chunk of spectrum like they have been here, they're using 2.4GHz to save money.

    The reason for the every 15 minutes is that the usage total is timestamped, and some time in the future we'll be moved to a time of use tariff, which will be calculated for me. The meter, of course, can't show me peak/off-peak amounts, just a running total. Why would I need to know when I can just trust the power company to work it out for me?

    Of course, this is all based on the assumption that we "need" meters that are wirelessly networked. This seems to be one of those Great Assumptions that only the terminally stupid would dare to question, and thus there is no point in bothering to give an answer because we wouldn't understand it anyway. Pay no attention to the naked emperor walking down there street there.

  • Re:Smart Meters (Score:4, Interesting)

    by perryizgr8 (1370173) on Thursday November 24, 2011 @08:43AM (#38157162)

    how does old wiring hamper the ability of the meter to measure power usage? seems like something else is going on.

  • Re:Even better (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 24, 2011 @08:45AM (#38157166)

    Can you come round and run some Cat5 from my bedroom to my living room and charge me nothing for the cable and trunking, and nothing for your time and expertise?

    No? So how is wired cheaper then?

    Especially in this context when we're talking about dropping in one black box to replace another, versus dropping in one black box to replace another, laying cables, trunking cables, possibly going into the ceiling or floor, and connecting those to *every plug socket in the house* so every device in the house can talk to the meter. And doing that for every home in a given service area. For every service area in the country.

    I guess your business is running cables, yes?

  • by _Shad0w_ (127912) on Thursday November 24, 2011 @08:49AM (#38157178)

    Energy firms in the UK already report unusually high power usage to the police, as it's often a sign of someone running a canabis factory.

  • Re:Not so smart (Score:4, Interesting)

    by neokushan (932374) on Thursday November 24, 2011 @10:04AM (#38157660)

    By not shitting all over adjacent spectrums. They all operate within the 2.4Ghz range and they can do whatever they want within that range as long as they don't mess up nearby parts of the spectrum. There are other regulations as well, such as power output that are part of the FCC rules but that's it. These smart meters are probably within spec but hogging the whole spectrum all the same.

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