Smart meters have been in the news quite a bit in recent years. Many people fear that smart meters put off harmful radiation that can make them and their families sick. What’s the real story about smart meters? Are they dangerous to your health?
What is a Smart Meter?
Smart meters are used by utility companies to read the usage of natural gas, water, and electricity. Before the time of smart meters, meters were read by a utility company employee who went home to home reading the meters. Today, however, many utility companies have switched over to using smart meters.
The meters have become more popular in Europe and the US, with utility companies urging their customers to make the switch to smart meters rather than the old, wired meters. They’re often installed outside the home or building, where they silently work in the background.
How Do Smart Meters Work?
Smart meters monitor and record the use of utilities (water, gas, etc.) over time. The “smart” part of the meter is nothing more than the ability to communicate with the utility company. The meters send the usage data directly to each company, where the data is stored and used when it’s time to bill customers.
The meters use RF transmissions to communicate with the company’s central computer system. The RF transmissions are wireless radio frequency (RF) technology to send the data to the central computer.
Smart meters use AC sensors to measure voltage and amperage in the home’s circuit. These are digital sensors, which are very accurate. There are no moving parts, and they don’t fail like mechanical meters can.
When placed outside the home, smart meters use a Wide Area Network (WAN) to communicate the data about meter readers to the utility company. Data is received back to the meter, which includes information on tariffs and more. The smart meter sends this information to the home’s Local Area Network (LAN), also called the Home Area Network (HAN). In the home, the data from the meter reading may be shared on a display. The smart meter may also be able to communicate with smart appliances in the home.
So, what’s the problem with that? It seems efficient and harmless enough! The problem, for many, is the fact that the smart meter uses RF to transmit data. They believe RF radiation can cause symptoms and illnesses.
Communication via WAN
Some meters contain a transmitter (similar to a mobile phone), which communicates data with the mobile phone systems in the area.
Then there are smart meters that use a radio signal to send data to a central point. These meters are set up to use certain frequencies, which are similar to those used by mobile phones.
Other meters use a mesh system, where the information is sent from one smart meter to another. The data is gathered at one smart meter or central point and sent to the utility company once for several hundred homes. This radio signal is near the 900MHz frequency, which is close to what mobile phones use. The power of this frequency is about 1W or lower.
Communication via LAN
Inside the home, smart meters use a wireless signal that’s around 2.4GHz, which has a maximum power of less than 1W. This is similar to frequencies used by WiFi, Bluetooth, ZigBee, and more.
RF Frequencies & Smart Meters
The RF frequencies used by smart meters are a form of low-frequency radiation. So, in answer to the question, do smart meters put off radiation, the answer is yes. However, research seems to show that these RF frequencies are harmless.
There are two types of radiation. One is called ionising radiation, which is dangerous. This is the type of radiation put off by Chernobyl. This is high-frequency radiation, and it is powerful and causes major damage. You’re familiar with x-rays? These are a form of ionising radiation that you may have received x-rays for medical issues. X-rays can be harmful, too, but they are considered safe when used properly.
The other type of radiation is called non-ionising radiation. The frequencies for this type of radiation are categorised as radio frequencies. They’re the lowest type of radiation around and fall between 902MHz and 2.4GHz bands. They’re much less powerful than the UV frequencies you get when outside. And this is the type of radiation put off by smart meters.
Is Smart Meter Radiation Dangerous?
Can the radiation from smart meters be dangerous to human health? That’s a question that has not yet been definitively decided. According to the American Cancer Society, RF radiation has been classified as “possibly carcinogenic to humans” by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).
Because smart meters do emit RF radiation, there’s a possibility they could increase the risk of cancer. However, there’s still no clear data on this issue.
Smart meters have not been studied to see if they can cause other health issues. So far, exposure to RF radiation is not considered a health problem, at least one that causes severe illness.
Health Issues Reported by Utility Customers with Smart Meters
There are people who say they are made sick when exposed to the RF frequencies put off by smart meters. There’s a wide range of symptoms that may include:
- Short-term memory loss
- “fuzzy brain”
- Sleep disturbances
- Digestive problems
- Heart rate changes
- And more
So, how can people get sick from the RF frequencies used by smart meters? No one’s sure, as research has so far shown that these low frequencies are harmless. We receive more radiation from our cell phones than what’s emitted by smart meters.
What You Can Do to Protect Yourself
While the science isn’t clear as to what’s causing people to become ill, if you’re having symptoms, there are some things you can do to limit exposure.
1). Contact the utility company and ask them to replace the smart meter with an analog meter.
2). Use shielding in your home—one of the most effective ways is to use special RF blocking pain inside your home. It’s also possible to buy a smart meter guard, which is placed over the smart meter and will block RF exposure.
3). Request an EMF inspector to come and measure EMF in and around your home to find those sources that cause the highest levels of EMFs.
Until more research is done, the only other thing to do is avoid RF exposure as much as possible.