Meters that Endanger: Shocking Details from a Whistleblower

Are smart meters just too complex? Are they veritable blackboxes (well, beige) of assorted electronic components,  jury-rigged and thrown together in an off-shore factory, and then slapped onto houses without proper safety testing? Sure, we all have electronic devices in the home, but through this particular device passes all the electrical current for the house. That’s a set-up asking for trouble.

From the beginning, smart meters have had problems leading to fires and other electrical dangers. News stories have run all over the U.S. and around the world about installations leading to devastating damage. (Here’s a local SF Bay Area fire we’d like to see more fully investigated.)

A lawsuit made available to us recently detailed just how such faulty equipment could end up attached to the electrical wiring on millions of homes. In Alabama in 2009, a Sensus engineering employee named Don Baker was fired for repeatedly alerting his management to the presence of a multitude of dangerous defects in the smart meter they were manufacturing (model iConA). As he states in the complaint he filed, this whistleblower reported serious flaws in design and functioning that could lead to electrical danger, overheating, and/or fire. In fact, the failure rate of the meters was twenty times higher than it was supposed to be, and the engineer contends that at least two house fires were the result. Sensus meters are used by utilities across the U.S. and in Canada, such as PECO, Alliant Energy, Alabama Power, and NVE.

In May 2010, Mr. Baker filed a complaint [PDF]. The type of suit is called  “qui tam”, where an individual alleges harm to his government. This complaint alleges that the manufacturer and the utility companies received federal monies but provided a defective product. The U.S. Attorney’s office in Alabama declined to pursue the case, because the utility said they had not received federal money for the metering project; but the allegations about the dangerous defects in the smart meters made in the complaint have not been refuted or even addressed.

In the complaint Baker relates in detail what makes the meters dangerous, and the allegations are damning—and alarming. A few highlights:

[Meters] may fail dangerously when subjected to a sudden surge of electricity …. Meters found to contain ‘flux’ or loose solder residue …. Calibration equipment not properly designed …. Electric resistor component defective …. Internal temperatures up to 200° Fahrenheit …. Hot socket alarm …. Drastic overheating to the point of catastrophic failure, melting, and burning….

Cutting corners in business and manufacturing is hardly something new; the difference here is just what is at stake: this product is installed in every house in a utility service area, and the electrical current for the house runs through it. Even a half-percent failure rate can result in serious amounts of property damage, or even death, given the total number of “customers”—though this word implies a voluntary acceptance of the product, when in fact installation of smart meters has been very largely involuntary. Truly optional consumer goods actually get more testing than smart meters.

The sort of defects and failures enumerated in this suit might well have been caught with an independent safety-certification process such as Underwriters’ Laboratories (UL). But these Sensus iConA smart meters, and every other type of smart meter, have never been subjected to such testing.

The suit states: “Mr. Baker has direct personal knowledge that Sensus and Southern Company [the utility] have installed approximately one million iConA meters in Alabama homes with knowledge that the meters are seriously defective and pose a substantial fire hazard and that at least two Alabama homes have burned as a result…. [They] were well aware that the iConA was defective and the entire project flawed.” [Emphasis ours.]

Baker submitted the information he had to the Office of the U.S. Attorney and the FBI in Feb 2010. He contends that the defendants named in the suit, Sensus, Southern Company, and Alabama Power, “perpetuated a fraudulent conspiracy” to obtain $165 million from federal stimulus funding.

These meters were never tested—for either for safety or performance—instead they went straight to out for installation. Then Sensus altered the components and design—again without safety testing. Only one percent of the Sensus meters were tested—for accuracy only—but never on a house while connected to the grid.

“It quickly became apparent that the meters were fundamentally unsound.” Baker states in the filing. “[The contract] carried an acceptable failure rate of 0.5%,” but in the first year, the meters were “failing at a rate of 9.0% per year.” Baker made reports to Sensus management about quality and safety issues, but he was ignored and eventually fired.

What was technically wrong with the smart meters that Sensus was producing? The suit alleges four categories of defects and failures: 1) Electrical Fast Transient Failures; 2) Flux Contamination and Inaccuracy Issues; 3) Faulty Components; and 4) “Hot Meters.” These technical issues are explained below.

The suit goes on to make three charges against the defendants: 1) False Claims; 2) Conspiracy; and 3) Suppression, Fraud, and Deceit. These legal issues are explained in more detail below.

Corporate recklessness—and lack of regulation to curb it—has remained a core issue in the smart meter debacle. From the Silver Springs Network antenna which increases the power of the radio over FCC limits (see page 14 of this CPUC doc), to arcing problems due to unprofessional installation, to multiple FCC violations, to the lack of any independent safety testingit is clear that if there had been effective government regulation, it could have changed the face of this “deployment” dramatically.

If you don’t like the idea of more government regulation, then how about consumer choice? If individual customers could choose between utilities, even choose their own meter—again, the landscape would also look very, very different.

But instead we are saddled with corporate utility monopolies, aided by government collusion, which adds up to a poisonous combination—whatever your political beliefs might be. It is an arrangement designed to enrich corporations, with impunity.

Why isn’t the public up in arms about these risks of smart-meter fires and explosions? There have no comprehensive investigations by major media. Early in 2011, a major news station in the SF Bay Area was doing work on this. They interviewed us several times as part of an investigation into smart-meter fires. What happened? The story never aired, and calls to the investigative reporters were not returned.

Without coverage in the mainstream media, people will be left to find out about this issue through social networks or independent media–or worse, suffer their own fire or property damage from the meter.

This is yet another reason why the proposed opt-out here in CA is—even with analogs—incomplete and inadequate. Given the growing evidence of fire risk and safety, this is not a device we should be forced to pay to avoid. Smart meters should not be installed on any home, any where, without a thorough safety investigation.


Technical details from the lawsuit about Sensus meter defects:

1) Electrical Fast Transient Failures: The manufacturer and the utility were both aware, the suit alleges, that the smart meters (iConA) were unsafe and could fail dangerous when subjected to a power surge. [This was certainly evident for another make of smart meter, the one installed in Palo Alto last October.] One critical test was skipped for the Sensus meters, the Electrcial Fast Transient Test (EFT). When this test was performed on a sample of the iConA Sensus meters, they all failed. This was after over 80,000 meters were already installed.

2) Flux Contamination and Inaccuracy Issues. The complaint states that production of the iConA meters was sloppy. Sensus performed two investigations and found 130,000 meters contained loose solder residue called “flux.” They also found that equipment used by the manufacturer to calibrate was not properly designed, calling into question the accuracy of the meters. This was after 400,000 meters were installed—non of which were recalled for testing. Baker himself has investigated over-reporting meters, and found individual meters giving readings seven times the actual electrical usage.

3) Faulty Components.  Baker alleges Sensus and the utilities had reason to suspect that some components that were going into the iConA meter were faulty, with very high failure rates. Well into the delivery process, it was found that an electrical resistor was defective on at least 85,000 meters. Over 170,000 meters were also found to contain another faulty component made by Epson.

4) “Hot Meters.” These Sensus meters, the complaint alleges, posed a risk of injury or death. Sensus knew that 19,000 installed meters were reporting a “hot socket alarm”—that is, the internal temperature was getting over 200°F. Sensus received reports of overheating to the point of melting and burning. The plaintiff Baker documented himself meters reduced to lumps of blackened plastic, while the company insisted a meter couldn’t melt at less than 500°F.

Ultimately it was bringing to the attention of his supervisors a burned meter that resulted in a house fire that ended Don Bakers career at Sensus. Instead of conducting an investigation, they fired him.


Legal details alleged in the complaint:

1) False Claims. The defendant in the suit, the plaintiff alleges, presented false or fraudulent claims to the U.S. government that their smart grid project was eligible for ARRA funds when it was not. The equipment was defective and unfit.

2) Conspiracy. The defendants acted with the intent to defraud the U.S. by submitting false records to obtain the funds.

3) Suppression, Fraud, and Deceit. The defendants misrepresented or suppressed the fact that the smart meter that formed the basis of their smart grid architecture was dangerously defective.


Alabama house fires possibly resulting from defective smart meters:

Family Blames House Fire On Georgia Power Meter. “Sparks started flying from the TV and power box.”

Atlanta house fire, due to power meter; double blow to Haitian family. “Faulty power meter sparked devastating house fire–twice.”

Alabama woman says smart meter is fire hazard.; The letter the city government wrote to Sensus [PDF].

Related Press: 2010 Article from Cleburne News (AL), which has since been scrubbed from their website:

2010 Article from Montgomery Advertiser (AL) which has been since scrubbed from their website: “The meter was … replaced five days before their double-wide burned to the ground…”

2009 Article from Georgia new site, since removed:  “…Steady stream of complaints about the meters since the devices went into general use ….The firemen

told him they are keeping records and turning in their findings to the electric company.”

Article from Atlanta news site, since scrubbed from website: “A power surge … After firefighters put out the blaze, they said it reignited again hours later.”

This entry was posted in Citizen rebellion, CPUC, Federal Energy Act of 2005, Federal Government, legal issues, PG&E, Safety, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

22 Responses to Meters that Endanger: Shocking Details from a Whistleblower

  1. This whole thing is probably just an elaborate salvage operation to get at the metals analog meters contain. Smart Meters are, what, 80% plastic?

    What’s next, a door-to-door campaign forcing people to trade in their gold for wooden nickels?

  2. Caroline Ceconi says:

    I can’t find anyone to take responsibility for damage from new “green” housing construction where my property has been damaged from several aspects. My biggest problem is the digital smart meters facing my smart meter that is on gas meter. I interrupted Wellington installing meter telling me to call PG&E and they will remove it and just call them. It is now over two years and now discovered the other side of my house has even worse RF which combined with green digital spiking has created even worse magnetic fields in my home. I had liscensed electrical engineer help figure what circuits to turn off. PGE has years of reporting files and the PUC has letter on file.

  3. Ron says:

    At last! A whistleblower with a face, an electrical engineer well-placed within the industry, having:

    1. Plenty to reveal about faulty design and components utilized in smart meters, extensive negligence, the scope of consequent fire hazards, etc.
    2. Four specific meter defects listed and explained: Fast Transient Failures, Flux Contamination, Faulty Components, and “Hot Meters”.
    3. A bona fide lawsuit already filed in US District Court
    4. A real, verifiable name, lending gobs more credibility to his denunciations than those of two prior anonymous whistleblowers linked in the above report–

    California Fire Department Captain “Ross” reported how his own home very nearly caught fire. His highly qualified investigation determined the unmistakeable cause and source of excessive heat was the smart meter installed on it.

    A Wellington employee related training inadequacies of temporary workers subcontracted through PG&E. These amateur personnel are not California certified electrical contractors. Whistleblower discussed how fire hazards are often created during meter installations. Workers are paid according to number of meters installed, thus providing the wrong incentive to perform hasty, sloppy work at the expense of safety.

    Don Baker worked for Sensus, manufacturer of iCON A smart meters. He was in a quality-control position having intimate familiarity with their fire safety shortcomings, of which he notified his superiors.
    Fortunately for the general public, Sensus fired Baker. With job security no longer an issue, Baker was liberated to come out of the company closet and publicize dangerous shortcomings indispensable to public welfare. He took his disclosure a big step further with this qui tam lawsuit, a brilliant strategy.

    We thank you Don Baker for mustering the courage to come out unanonymously. Your invaluable findings provide solid evidence of industry neglect, oversight, recklessness, and carelessness.

    iCON A Smart Meters are manufactured in Mexico; whereas those used by PG&E are built in China, with the radio transmitter components supplied by Silver Springs Network in the Bay Area. It would be useful to learn whether the different meters utilize any of the same components?

    Go Don!

  4. Paul Westmoreland says:

    about a year ago I caught a Carroll EMC {Carroll County, Georgia} employe pulling my electric meter. When I confronted him he told me there was a problem with my meter box and I would have to have an electrician come out and fix it. I told him no the problem was that new smart meter he had in his hands, I told him they were no good. He acted clueless, so I told him to call his boss. He walked away from me and talked on his cell phone for a few minutes and then without saying a thing he worked on my meter box an reinstalled the meter. A few months later a family I know house burned down killing their youngest son. I am no fire expert, but I don’t think it takes an expert when you see the burn pattern come to a point where the meter box was located. These thing should not be used! Like the Ford Pinto case, where Ford knew a rear end collision could engulf the car in fire but they figured paying off law suits would be cheaper than fixing the problem. These smart meters are the biggest cover up since then.

    • Sorina says:

      We really need to get together on this one. If it starts to take human lives and no one wants to take the responsibility, i.e corporations and politicians, who are only the one percent of the entire population . We must realize, that we are the other 99% and that immediate action taken is very necessary. These meters are
      not compatible with our analogue meters. The expulsion is 24/7 dangerous carcinogen. To top that off most of the components are made of plastic. This must be the cause for all the fires reported that are related to the smart meters.
      The heat gets too intense and the analogue wiring cannot absorb it. This is the cause of the meltdown of the smart meter. Walking in to a well known drugstore, I could not help but notice a sign on the door for people who have heart problems and carry devices to control it. For those people who are not yet familiar with the “Smart Mete” program, please inform your self and get to the All the instructions will be found there. Do not hesitate, but inform your neighbors and family members as to the dangers of these contraptions. good Luck, you are not alone in this

  5. Pingback: Don Baker, a Sensus Engineering Employee, filed a complaint with direct personal knowledge that these Alabama smart meters were defective and dangerous | Maryland Smart Meter Awareness

  6. Pingback: NIPSCO and getting RID of our ‘Smart Meter’ « Elkhart County Grassroots Hub

  7. Pingback: Whistleblower Engineer reported flaws in Smart Meters causing danger and fire: |

  8. Pat says:

    Fpl in Florida started using them in 2012 .They can turn your usage rate up or down without you knowing .Take a police scanner and get close to the STUPID/SMART meters and listen ! The wifi sounds came through my wireless head phones,Tv sets,Computers ,car radio,everything ! If you want to drive them crazy?lol TAKE SOME FOIL AND FORM IT OVER THE METER !LOL They can’t receive anything from the meters! THESE METERS ARE NOT SAFE !

  9. joseph ezekiel says:

    a month ago i was at a meeting with the man nationally responsible for all the electric meters in the country. he lied to me straight in my facem answering to my question regarding radiation from the new smart meters that the company was starting to install. he said that the smart meter emits one–yes-one! pulse per 24 hours, and that one “in the middle of the night when everyone is asleep”. seeing the true answer was somewhere between 10 000 and 190 000, i ask how a criminal like this one runs free and works in a high-salaried air-conditioned job and an entire population will be embraced by a huge shroud of radiation 100 times more intense than the radiation of cell phones

  10. anumpeshi says:


  11. Paul H says:

    Yes, one pulse using more wattage than normal. “in the middle of the night when everyone is asleep” This is the one that hits you like a ton of bricks at 3 or 4 am. The electrical properties of this pulse just happens to be the same size of an average adult human brain. My area was at 3:12 a.m. ………….Richard,,,,,,,Richard? Where art thou?

    I have found many more that are experiencing the same thing and coincidentally that’s when my analyzer detects abnormal activity.

    • Richard says:

      Thanks for caring enough to ask about me, Paul 🙂 I’m still here… It’s just that your comments have had such a numbing effect on me (as well as other readers, I suppose) and so I don’t bother responding to your drivel. If anyone cares to follow up on your unsubstantiated claims, then I would refer them first to the comment string at the following link – Ciao 🙂

  12. please advise’

  13. Pingback: More Smart Meter fires? | Smart Meter Harm

  14. Eddie Higgins says:

    Please Help!

    I need help with having the smart meter removed from my mother’s house. She has congestive heart failure already, and the meter is right below all of the bedrooms. Who do I need to contact in Alabama, that can back us up on this. She is sick, we are both depressed, and both very aggressive most of the time. Once again, Please Help!

  15. recently I had an incident when my heart went in severe palpitations 220 beats per minute . I was taken to the hospital where they installed an icd device in my chest .this was the second of two incidents of rapid heart beat .this first was at home ,the second was at Jekly island on vacation .I am convinced the smart meter caused the one at home in Woodstock ,Ga. has a class action suit been filed if not why not .surely there is some lawyer out there who would take the case .

  16. Jackie Atkins says:

    I just googled these meters because Al power came out and said my meter was causing an alarm to go off at their office. The man removed the box until it cooled and put it back on. This is the second time this has happened. The first time the guy said he couldn’t touch the meter because it was so hot. He got a coat out of his truck to remove it with and threw it on the ground. He spliced a wire that he said could be causing it. My 3 year old grandson lives with me so this is scaring me.

  17. Engeneers? says:

    Meter is just a piece of WIRE. That’s all. Imagine you take any wire that comes to your house from the electricity pole, and insert your own piece of wire into that wire. Basically, splice the original wire, insert, say, same piece of wire, and that’s it. That’s your electricity meter. Any meter works like that. So, any violation of specification such as plugging one million stoves or heaters into that circuit will cause any wire to melt. Meters have nothing to do with anything. Common sense has to do with EVERYTHING. Do not plug more utilities into your electric circuit than is allowed. Else, anything will burn: wires, meters, walls, etc. Good luck.

  18. Norm says:

    All those concerned about their health and privacy in regard to the smart meter, I suggest that you either purchase or build a removable shield around the smart meter and attach the shield to the metal meter base with a couple of magnets and then run a ground wire from the shield to the incoming conduit.
    The shielding can be made from aluminum screening(such as from a screen door) The magnets can be purchased from a cabinet supplier. Make the shield so it can be removed for meter servicing and replaced after servicing. In fact an aluminum turkey roasting pan will also work. The shielding will not stop “dirty electricity” produced by the so called “smart meter” You have every right to protect your health and your privacy. We are supposedly living in a democracy. We must fight to keep it! Never give up1 never, never,never, never.

    You will stop over 95% of the radiation, and probably stop the accompanied radio communicstions.

  19. Terry Stephenson says:

    Being an Electrician in Alabama, it caught my attention when they began installing the smart meters en mass on area homes. The company they contacted to do the work went from house to house installing the meters and I saw not one case of the installer being gentle. In several cases on older homes, the existing power meter had been installed for many years and had been seized into the socket. This led to many meter sockets being broken inside as the installers banged the new meters into place. Also the new meters are slightly thicker and were not designed to fit under existing meter covers which had to be forced around them. There has been a large uptick in meter socket replacement jobs due to the thicker sockets being installed and causing loose connections. While I can not say with certainty that they have caused house fires locally I can verify that they do provide the requisite temperature to do so.

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