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PECO Meters May Have Led to 6 Area Fires

Several Newtown fires have been determined to have been caused by new PECO "smart meters."

 

After several fires in the region have been attributed to the new PECO “smart” energy meters, the energy provider on Wednesday stopped installation of the devices, officials confirmed to Patch Thursday.

Since the beginning of the year, nearly 180,000 of the new meters have been delivered to Delaware Valley households. By next year, the company had hopes of placing over 1 million across its service area, PECO spokeswoman Cathy Engel Menendez said.

As of Thursday, PECO has halted installation of the Sensus brand meters and has also begun a forensic investigation into what caused the meters to burst into flames.

One of the meters is being blamed for a fire that damaged a vinyl-sided house on Lookout Lane in Washington Crossing Sunday morning, Upper Makefield Fire Marshal John Kernan said.

Kernan said that his investigation revealed that the fire emanated from the meter box on the outside of the house. A neighbor and a passing jogger both witnessed the fire and saw flames and sparks emanating from the meter box.

The meter fire in Upper Makefield doesn't appear to be an isolated case either.

Three similar fires have been reported in Newtown over the past two months, township Fire Marshal Don Harris said.

The meter boxes are also being blamed for an April fire at the Bristol Garden Apartments in Lower Bucks County, Fox 29 reported.

The Upper Makefield fire marshal also reported he is investigating another recent fire to determine if that one was caused by a meter box.

Engel Menendez said in an interview with Patch Thursday evening that PECO has finished investigations into six of the 15 "overheating" incidents and has determined the problem has been caused by "preexisting" wiring problems, not with the newly-installed smart meters.

The utility company is planning to replace some Sensus meters that could overheat with another brand to see if the new meter performs better. The company is also offering inspection of the meters, a Bucks County fire official said.

PECO plans to update some of the smart meters' software via wireless signal in the coming weeks with a new feature that would shut the meter off if overheating occurs. An early alarm system is also being installed, Engel Menendez reported.

Both Kernan and Harris said homeowners have been lucky to this point that the meter fires haven’t caused injuries or more serious fires.

Utility customers who have concerns about their recently installed smart meters are able to call a PECO helpline at 855-741-9011.

 

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D C Signs August 21, 2012 at 11:58 AM
I just heard about this. Peco. came to my home to change the meter about a month ago. This is VERY scary! My husband has been very ill since the beginning of the year and I really don't need the added stress of worrying about a house fire! I can't believe that Peco has the nerve to make us get the new meters but if there is a fire it's the homeowner's fault if they catch fire due to "faulty wiring". I'm going to call Peco hand have my meter checked ... but I'm a bit wary.
Dan McGovern August 22, 2012 at 09:58 PM
Don't be in too much of a rush to have it changed. PECO changed ours after we called. I checked the first one numerous times to see if it was getting hot. It never did. This new one is warm to slightly hot. I'm not sure it's supposed to be warm but wanted to pass that on. For what it's worth, it went from a Flexnet Model 530X to Flexnet Model 560XZ. Both made by Sensus
Gerry Couch August 24, 2012 at 02:13 PM
Where are local town officials, wouldn't a municipal response be appropriate!
Dan McGovern August 24, 2012 at 03:15 PM
Called PECO about new one getting hot. They are supposed to send someone out to check. PECO said the new one is from a "new manufacturer". When I explained they are both Sensus products, she said "oh".
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