Peco Energy, the electric utility serving the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania region, is temporarily stopping its smart meter installations to investigate why 15 of the meters overheated, including one that caused a fire at a home in Bucks County Wednesday.
According to a news article in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Peco has finished investigations of 6 of the 15 instances of overheating and says it likely was caused by "preexisting" problems with the homes' wiring where it connects to the meter â€“ and not a fault in the meter itself.
"We want to make sure we understand exactly what is happening, since safety is our top concern," said Peco spokeswoman Cathy Engel Menendez.
Similar fires have been recorded in Australia, British Columbia, California and Florida. In all cases, utilities attributed the fires to faulty home wiring.
Peco knew about the potential dangers of fires caused by faulty wiring and is taking a number of precautions. Technicians wear fireproof clothing while performing the meter installations. And while wiring and related maintenance is the responsibility of the homeowner, Engel Menendez said "If we see there's a problem with customer equipment, Peco has been repairing it where it's visible."
The overheated meters were provided by Sensus and Peco plans to replace some of them with meters from L&G, another provider, to determine if the meters do contribute to the hazard. Because the meters are capable of two-way communications with the utility, Peco will modify the meter software so the devices will turn off automatically and send an alarm if they detect a problem, she said. The upgrade installations will begin August 26.
The utility has installed 186,000 advanced meters since March and plans to deploy 600,000 by next year