Is your electric meter dangerous?

Some say new meters are leading to fires

(WXYZ) - Bonnie and Owen Medd said they never had a problem with the electric meter on their Ann Arbor home until DTE Energy replaced it with a new advanced "smart" meter. Then, it exploded.

"The DTE man told me we were very lucky our house didn't go up in flames," said Bonnie.

The Medds  blame their new smart meter. 

Smart meters send information about energy use by radio frequency back to the power company.  This allows power companies to eliminate the need for meter readers, and to immediately detect outages.

DTE Energy has installed almost one million smart meters in Oakland County and other metro-Detroit communities, including Ann Arbor where the Medds live.

After hearing about the fire at the Medd's meter, 7 Action News started digging.  We found similar fires are being reported across the country.  Our sister station, WPTV in West Palm Beach, Florida, has covered several fires linked in part to smart meters.

We asked DTE Energy what it had to say to customers about the danger.

"DTE Energy believes there is no reason for concern, and we remain confident in the safety, security and benefits provided by the meters," a spokesperson said in a statement.

The utility company says that when there have been fires at homes with smart meters, the smart meter has not been the issue. Rather it has been a part on the home connected to the smart meter or wiring.

The Medds are not convinced. They say their home is only 10-years-old, so any parts on their home should be in perfect working condition. They say the only thing that changed before the fire was the meter.

The Medds don't want a smart meter until more studies are done on their safety.

"We try to save energy like everybody else," said Owen Medd. "It seems like a useful tool, but burning down the house seems like a bad side effect."

DTE is working to implement an opt-out program where customers can pay to not have a smart meter. The proposed program still has to be approved by the Michigan Public Service Commission.

"For me to pay to have peace of mind is wrong, " said Bonnie Medd in response to that proposal.

Fires are not the only concern people are raising when it comes to these meters. Some have asked whether the radio frequency sent out by the meters poses any health risk.

DTE says the radio frequency level is low.

Our sister station tested them and found the energy given off is miniscule, smaller than the amount of energy given off by your cell phone. Radio frequency experts say-- in theory-- it is more dangerous to have a cell phone in your pocket, than a smart meter on your home.

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