A Nanaimo mother is questioning the safety of B.C. Hydro smart meters after malfunctions and a near fire in her home’s electrical system.
The smart meter was installed at Ashley Suggett’s home on Weeks Crescent Nov. 18.
“Less than a week later our electricity started going funky,” Suggett said. “We had strobe lights for our dining room table, my daughter’s room would just go crazy, our TV in our rec room would just flick itself on. My daughter is convinced our house is haunted. The cats were going nuts.”
Suggett said one of her cats would stare at the wall in her daughter’s bedroom at the spot where the electrical meter is installed on the outside of the home.
When she turned her stove on, the lights in the kitchen would brighten, but the stove would not heat.
Suggett tried checking the breakers in the electrical service panel, hired an electrician and finally called B.C. Hydro, when power to her home failed altogether.
The problems stemmed from overheated wiring where the electrical meter is plugged in the house.
Suggett was without power for two days while repairs were made.
Ted Olynyk, B.C. Hydro spokesman, said B.C. Hydro changes 40,000 meters annually for various reasons and encounter few problems.
“This isn’t a meter issue and it certainly isn’t a smart meter issue,” Olynyk said. “A lot times we’re finding it’s a wiring issue.”
Olynyk said the meter swaps, which are being handled by technicians working for subcontractor Corix, simply involve the power being switched off to the house, the old meter is unplugged, the new one is plugged in and the power is then restored to the house.
It is the responsibility of the homeowner to ensure that the wiring in the home is in good condition, he added.
“With older homes, for whatever reason, there can be a degradation of the wiring completely beyond the control of the homeowner,” he said. “There may have been multiple home owners and they may not know the condition of the wiring.”
Olynyk described the degradations as silent hazards that would be there regardless of whether the meters were changed.
“With installing 400,000 meters across the province, we’ve become aware of a few rare problems that have become evident to us,” Olynyk said, adding that in those cases, B.C. Hydro is working with homeowners to make sure service is restored.
He did not know how many issues similar to Suggett’s had occurred in Nanaimo.
There have also been instances, Olynyk said, where installation technicians spotted a degradation of the box the meter plugs into and cancelled installations until the problem is corrected.
Suggett, who rents the home, said power has since been restored and everything appears to be working correctly, but there is still a hole in the wall of her daughter’s bedroom where burned wiring had to be replaced. Her husband’s stereo and some entertainment equipment belonging to a downstairs tenant is not working.
Suggett said she does not have tenants insurance and is waiting to see what costs for repairs or replacement of the equipment will be covered.