Greater Sudbury Utilities is using 173 of the smart meters that have been linked to house fires in Saskatchewan.
Reports suggest the Sensus Generation 3 meters have led to nine separate house fires in the Prairie province, and some communities like Medicine Hat, Alberta have halted installations of the suspected meters all together.
HydroOne, the province’s largest electricity distributor, does not using any of the Sensus meters. According to Canadian Press, 30 out of 77 smaller distributors – including Greater Sudbury Utilities – do use the American-made smart meters.
Despite that, Greater Sudbury Utilities said Sudburians need not be alarmed.
“Yes there have been smart meters put in, yes there were fires in installations where it happened, but the real question is what caused it,” said Brian McMillan, vice president of electrical distribution with the Sudbury utility.
Until the cause of the fire can be determined, McMillan said trying to figure out a solution would be an impossible task.
Up to this point, most issues that have arisen have been as a result of external factors, such as high voltage, water seepage into the meter base, and worn down meter bases, he said.
Most of the smart meters in Sudbury were installed between 2008 and 2012.
According to McMillan, the installation period was also used as a sort of inspection.
“Every time we went to a site to change a meter, our contractors were instructed to look at the meter base for holes, worn down spots, anything looking in need of repair,” he said. “If there was something, we looked at it and got it fixed.”
McMillan said he is unsure as to whether or not the same procedure was undertaken by SaskPower.
In addition to installation precautions, Generation 2 and later Sensus models also have “hot socket” alarms, meant to send an alert back to the utility if the unit is beginning to overheat.
McMillan added they’ve only ever had calls about the Generation 2 models, and that they’ve all been in response to hot socket alarms.
He said it can be challenging sometimes to run diagnostic tests, because ultimately the meter base is owned by the customer as part of the property, while the smart meter itself belongs to the utility company.
Customers encouraged to call
If people are concerned about their smart meter, Greater Sudbury Utilities encourages customers to call in to find out whether they have a Generation 2 or Generation 3 model installed.
At this point, the company is not planning to switch out any of the Sensus model meters.
“We’re waiting for further technical data to make sure we’re solving the right problem,” McMillan said. “What you’re really talking about here is risk, and the risk that one of these is going to cause a fire in your home is not very high.”