We probably haven’t dedicated enough space to one of the trendiest items for politicians/business people trying to promote clean energy and energy efficiency: the smart grid and smart meters. Probably because we think they’re a bit overrated, a fact we hit on in our post “Smart Grid – Who benefits most, utilities or customers“. This thought was reinforced in our post “Living with a smart meter” where we chronicled Gary Hart’s observations about his life with a PG&E installed smart meter.
Aside from the fact of how useful smart meters are to utility customers, what about something more important: the safety of smart meters. There is at least one smart grid safety documentary and a blog titled Stop Smart Meters that don’t think they’re safe.
The Electric Power Research Institute researched the safety of smart meters last year and they were pretty clear that they’re evaluation found that radiation from smart meters fell well below the FCC limits on radiation:
The EPRI research addressed RF from a specific type of smart meter with measurements conducted at the manufacturer’s test facility. For a continuously-operating rack of 10 meters, each operating at a nominal power rating of 250 milliwatts (typical of many residential units), the RF power density level 1 foot in front of the rack was 8 percent of the FCC limit; at 20 and 50 feet, these values dropped to 0.18 and 0.11 percent, respectively. From 8 inches behind the rack, RF power density was 0.6 percent of the FCC limit.
Notice that their report said “8 percent of“, not “8 percent over”.
According to a Grist article on the safety of smart meters, the radiation from a cellphone at your ear is 1000 micro-watts/cm^2! Almost 5 times the maximum level that the Stop Smart Meter film links to in a research PDF. So why aren’t these documentaries focusing on cell phones instead of smart meters? I guess all these people worried about smart meters don’t use cell phones.
While I’m not sure if smart meters actually help customers save energy, I wouldn’t be worried about the safety of a smart meter if I had one on my home. I’d be more worried about fossil fuel power pollution. When researching this issue for yourself, I would be wary about looking at numbers of radiation that aren’t compared to other sources of radiation that we live with in our daily lives. Also, keep in mind that you should only be concerned with the radiation you would receive from a smart meter while living in your home, not 1 meter in front of the meter. How often have you stood right in front of your existing meter? What about the amount of time you spend with a cell phone inches from your brain!
What are your thoughts?