Contact 13: The bottom line on smart meters

Contact 13: The bottom line on smart meters

CREATED Jul 20, 2011

Las Vegas, NV (KTNV)-  Thousands of new smart meters are being installed across the valley, but not everyone is happy about it. We've received a number of e-mails and questions on Facebook from people wondering if they'll cause a spike on your power bill or have have an impact on your health. Contact 13's Tricia Kean takes your concerns to NV Energy for the bottom line.

"How many other people are having this issue?" Char Auriemma asked. She had her new smart meter installed back in February and had issues from day one. "I went to work everything was working, I came home, not so much," Auriemma says. She claims during installation of the new meter, a power surge actually fried her home computer. And she isn't alone with her concerns.

Angel Defazio suffers from a neurological disability and wears a mask because her body can't even handle the smell of perfume in the air. Now she has a whole new fear. "We should not be lab rats!" she says.

So Contact 13 took your concerns to NV Energy's main man, Gary Smith, overseeing installation. Tricia Kean asked him "How are they suppose to be better than the old system?"

"Well they provide us with what we call, two- way communication," Smith says. He also says the smart meter comes with a radio that communicates with NV Energy. Data is collected and then passed on to the customer. Eventually you'll have access to your own daily energy use, split into 15-minute intervals.

"And that's the big change," Smith says. "We usually only collect the meter read once a month. Now your collecting it in 15-minute intervals so that now we can offer those great tools for customers."

So will this new meter translate to a more expensive electric bill? Smith says no! "They are recorders of usage and so their going to record what is actually in the home or the business," he tells us.  But what about Char Auriemma, who says a power surge while NV Energy was putting in her smart meter, destroyed her computer. "Who's paying for this," Auriemma asked. "I'm like this was perfectly fine when I left the house. "

Smith says so far, NV Energy has received about 130 similar claims involving a power surge affecting personal equipment, like computers." It's the disengagement of power and turning the power back on can cause equipment to have that problem" Smith says."

After weeks of talks between Auriemma and NV Energy, the utility agreed to pay her more than $600 for the cost of her computer. But other customers like Angel Defazio have safety concerns. She suffers from toxic encephalopathy , a degenerative disorder of the nervous system. "I'm afraid of loosing muscular control, muscle weakness because of the radiation hitting the brain," Defazio says.

She has done some research and points out that the radio inside smart meters emits what's called radio frequency emissions just like a cell phone. And earlier this year, the world health organization pointed out that radiation from cell phones could possibly cause cancer. But NV Energy says the meters are safe.

"They do create RF emissions, very low RD emissions," Smith says. "Our meters are all FCC certified. So the federal government controls the standard around smart meter safety."

To make sure smart meters meet that standard, Smith says NV Energy has three different tests done, including an independent third party test by the University of Nevada Reno. Despite NV Energy's claim, Defazio says she'll continue to fight against the installation of any smart meter at her home.

"They put the meter on my house, there's going to be a law suit issued." Defazio says.

So here's the Contact 13 bottom line: More than 300,000 smart meters are already installed in the valley. Smith says it's very accurate at recording your power usage. But that's all it does, so he says it won't charge you for anymore than you're using. If you do have a concern about installation of the smart meter, make sure to call NV Energy at 402-4273.