PECO is continuing to work to resolve the problem of the overheating electric smart meters that have sparked fires in Bristol, Newtown, Middletown, Upper Makefield and other area communities in recent weeks.
So far, PECO confirms in a letter sent to Patch that over 150,000 Sensus meters are still currently installed in homes throughout the area. About 50,000 L&G brand meters dot the sides of area homes.
As of last Thursday, 26 meters were reported to have overheated and two of those incidents caused property damage beyond the area surrounding the meter. The company has found that 7 incidents were caused by pre-existing conditions with customer equipment and another 7 were caused by installation issues or water intrusion, the company said. Investigators working for PECO report that 12 incidents remain under investigation.
Along with free inspection of the boxes, the utility company has been wirelessly updating some of the smart meters' software. The update adds a feature that would shut a meter off if overheating occurs. An early alarm system is also being installed, spokeswoman Cathy Engel Menendez said.
Late last week, PECO responded to a Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) inquiry on the recent outbreak of overheating Sensus meters. The Philadelphia-based utility received a request for more information on the overheating incidents on August 24.
The PUC, PECO and meter vendors are set to meet Thursday afternoon in Harrisburg to discuss the issue, officials said.
“The request was issued following PECO’s ongoing briefings to the PUC about incidents involving overheated meters. This is a routine information request by the PUC and PECO typically receives these requests about a variety of issues including major projects, system performance and storm response,” according to a statement from PECO.
The utility company has replaced thousands of the Sensus meters with the L&G brand to see if the other meters performs better, Engel Menendez said. The utility is also working with Sensus to “develop enhancements” for their meters.
"PECO is working with two independent experts for additional forensic analysis and testing to evaluate the performance of the meters. The results of all of these efforts will help determine how PECO will resume installations in the future," a statement read.
PECO had hopes of placing over 1 million across its service area over the next year, Engel Menendez said. The effort is part of a program that is funded by a $200 million federal grant.
As of Friday, all new installations remained stopped.
Authorities in several different states are also investigating fires that are believed to be related to new smart meters.
The new meters are used to wirelessly transmit power-use data between homes and the utility providers.
Utility customers who have concerns about their recently installed smart meters are able to call a PECO helpline at 855-741-9011.