Questioning connection

Smart Meters: Resident claims installation caused problem with stove, Hydro says power surge unlikely.

Dissatisfied: Deane Williams holds the letter she received from Corix Utilities Inc. denying her claim for a stove she believes was damaged when a smart meter was installed at her home.

Dissatisfied: Deane Williams holds the letter she received from Corix Utilities Inc. denying her claim for a stove she believes was damaged when a smart meter was installed at her home.

Deane Williams is not impressed.

When a smart meter was installed at her house, she says the computer control panel on her stove immediately stopped working.

She thinks it’s a case of cause and effect, but Corix Utilities, the company contracted to carry out the meter installation, has informed her that neither BC Hydro nor Corix is responsible.

“I’m just plain pissed off. I think when you have Hydro you have an expectation of responsible service,” Williams said.

But BC Hydro says a connection between the smart meter installation and the damage to the stove is unlikely.

Asked about Williams’ complaint, BC Hydro’s senior media relations advisor, Greg Alexis, told the Observer in an email that it is highly unlikely a one-minute power outage would cause a power surge.

“The installation of a smart meter at a residence generally results in a one-minute power outage and household appliances are designed to withstand simple power interruptions, such as those caused by storms. Also, smart meters don’t carry a charge so replacing an old mechanical meter with a new meter has the same effect as unplugging and then plugging (in) your appliance.”

When the installer came to Williams’ home, she says, he was very nice and told her he recommended she unplug her electronics because power surges can be hard on them. She unplugged items such as the computer and TV.

“It didn’t cross my mind to unplug a stove.”

She said features such as the clock, the timer and the self-cleaning function that are controlled by a computer board stopped working right away.

“I have a hard time believing that this power surge is not in some way responsible. I think it’s a bit of carelessness… I’m not really impressed, especially after getting two different stories.”

She says she’s referring to what she was told when she first called BC Hydro and what she was told later.

“I called Hydro immediately and had been initially told that the damage to the computer control board of my stove was covered as they had so many other complaints. The fellow was very friendly and helpful, even doing some trouble shooting with me to ensure that it wasn’t just a fuse or a breaker. They then set up a claim and I thought it was going to be dealt with. A couple of weeks later I still hadn’t heard anything and called again. This time I got a very different story and was told that the original fellow was mistaken. Hydro was not responsible for the damage as the meter installation had been contracted out to Corix and they gave me that number.”

A Corix spokesperson told Williams her problem was unusual, she says, and they had had no other similar complaints.

“Since installing the new meter was the equivalent of a power outage, it wasn’t possible for the meter change to have caused this damage,” Williams says she was told. “Interesting to note that as we were home when the guy came to do it, he asked us to unplug our electronics. If there isn’t any risk, why did he ask us to do this?”

Although Williams said Corix told her on April 26 that someone would call her within five to seven days with a decision on her claim, it was more than a month before she received a letter.

The letter states:  “…Our investigation reveals that Corix followed all company safety and installation procedures. Furthermore, BC Hydro does not guarantee a constant supply of electricity and it is the homeowner’s responsibility to protect their electric appliances, devices and electronics at home with proper electronic protection devices. Therefore, we regret to inform you that we are unable to provide reimbursement for any expenses that you may have incurred. Accordingly, Corix denies any liability in respect of this claim.”

Alexis also noted that “BC Hydro’s smart meters are certified by Measurement Canada and Industry Canada and have also passed rigorous safety testing.”

Alexis also said that if a customer is not satisfied with Corix’s claim decision, the customer has the option to ask BC Hydro to carry out a further review and “we will investigate that claim thoroughly.”

At Jeremy’s Appliance Repair Service, employee Wendy Armstrong said that in speaking with one of the company’s technicians, they discovered they had both spoken to customers with broken appliances who had recently had smart meters installed. She said she asked a couple of customers with broken appliances about their smart meters as she was suspicious about a cause-and-effect relationship.

“With those customers I actually asked them about their smart meters as it seemed coincidental with the thing.”

One instance, she said, concerned a refrigerator that started to get warm inside though the lights were still working. With that one, the meter was installed the day before.

Another involved a stove that looked like it was working because all the lights came on, she said, but it wasn’t.