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AFCIs & Smart Meters ?


Nolan Kienitz
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Anyone have any observations about Smart Meters and their RF signal transmissions tripping AFCIs?

I did a few searches here at TIJ with no matching results.

I've read a couple of posts over at Mike Holt's forum about PG&E having such problems and putting the old mechanical meter head back in place.

Noted a posting on another forum of a similar occurance in SE Texas.

So ... looking for any additional information anyone may have.

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Yes. It's a minor problem, at least so far. Both AFCIs and Smart Meter installations are on the rise, so it might become more of a problem in the future.

At some point, the meter manufacturers will figure out how to isolate the RF signal from the house's electrical system.

In the meantime, it's an easy fix to just reinstall a mechanical meter.

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Yes. It's a minor problem, at least so far. Both AFCIs and Smart Meter installations are on the rise, so it might become more of a problem in the future.

At some point, the meter manufacturers will figure out how to isolate the RF signal from the house's electrical system.

In the meantime, it's an easy fix to just reinstall a mechanical meter.

The AFCI breaker should be shielded from RF by the panel enclosure. So I'm guessing it's the cable from the panel to the outlets which may be picking up the radio signal? This is something they should have been aware of from the start, but maybe needs some refinement.

Household wiring makes a very good radio antenna. I have a couple of vintage FM radios, (insert pic, Zenith C845) that use the power cord for an FM antenna.

This must be a baffling problem sometimes, nuisance tripping for no apparent reason. Both Smart meters and AFCI's are pretty new to us up here. Thanks for the heads up.

A possible cure would be to shunt the RF to ground thru a capacitor on the AFCI breaker connection. Bit of a hassle, and just one more source of future grief.

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This pic of someone else's Zenith C845 shows the clamp on the cord which attaches to a screw on the back if you want to use the power cord antenna. The best sounding table radios ever made, circa 1959.

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The AFCI breaker should be shielded from RF by the panel enclosure. So I'm guessing it's the cable from the panel to the outlets which may be picking up the radio signal? This is something they should have been aware of from the start, but maybe needs some refinement.

Household wiring makes a very good radio antenna. I have a couple of vintage FM radios, (insert pic, Zenith C845) that use the power cord for an FM antenna.

This must be a baffling problem sometimes, nuisance tripping for no apparent reason. Both Smart meters and AFCI's are pretty new to us up here. Thanks for the heads up.

A possible cure would be to shunt the RF to ground thru a capacitor on the AFCI breaker connection. Bit of a hassle, and just one more source of future grief.

The AFCI's are in a metal enclosure so my guess that the RF isn't being radiated, it's conducted. I've never heard of this problem previously. My stab at a response would be to coordinate the engineering of the smart meters with AFCIs to first anticipate/quantify the issue then alter designs to prevent the issue.

John, what would happen if that capacitor were to fail? Pooof! [;)]

Marc

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I said "A possible cure would be to shunt the RF to ground thru a capacitor on the AFCI breaker connection"

Marc said "John, what would happen if that capacitor were to fail? Pooof!"

You are right, Marc. It should not be done, and it was just an idea but a ceramic or metal film 400 V cap wouldn't short.

What if the AFCI were to fail? Poof!

What if a cap in your stereo were to fail? The stereo goes poof to the dump. [:)]

I've seen where audiophile idjits install caps on all the breakers to reduce static, and I would call for them to be removed, come to think of it.

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Smart Meters are a very emotional issue in this part of the world. PG&E (our local utility, and an acronym for "Pigs, Greed & Extortion") has not exactly been forthcoming about why these things are so necessary. The idea that they will enable real-time monitoring of power consumption to more efficiently manage the grid is nonsense. First off, most substations don't have automatic tap-switching to regulate current flow on the line. Next, even if they did implement automatic tap-switching, the only data they need could come from one device at the end of each line, not a smart meter on everyone's house. PG&E is the company that brought us the San Bruno gas explosion, among numerous other tragedies, and pretty much behaves like the poster child for corporate irresponsibility.

What most folks are freaked out about here is the potential health issues from yet another radio transmitter, one close to the frequency range of cell phones, short wave, etc. PG&E strong-armed their way past any open discussion of the issue, branding anyone that failed to trust them as a kook. When they started installing smart meters in Marin County, citizens would form human barriers and blockade their trucks from entering rural property (they started in the western part of the county). As a result, the first meters were put in literally at the point of a gun.

Every governmental jurisdiction in Marin County issued a moratorium on installing more smart meters, and PG&E responded by saying they were not subject to local laws. My local state congressman (Jared Huffman) put in some legislation requiring PG&E to hold off and allow more studies and to allow folks to opt out. After Huffman's legislation was introduced (and before it was passed), they offered to allow us to opt out for a $300 opt-out fee, a $30 a month meter-reading fee, and a $300 end fee. They said this was necessary to recover their investment in Smart Meters. That plan too was quashed thanks to public outrage (the one thing PG&E is still capable of generating). In the meantime, PG&E spent $65 million on a statewide ballot initiative to prevent local groups from forming energy cooperatives, such as the Marin Energy Authority, which will be replacing many of PG&E?s functions in our area. PG&E's initiative lost at the polls, despite outspending the opponents by a drastic margin.

In case anyone is curious, here is a white paper from the company that manufactures the smart meters that PG&E uses:

http://www.silverspringnet.com/pdfs/Sil ... -Final.pdf

They claim these things work much better on an unlicensed spectrum. Why am I not reassured?

So back to the point. I called up PG&E a few months ago and asked them if they knew anything about smart meters interfering with AFCIs. To my surprise, they said yes, and that they had "2 kinds of smart meters, including one that didn't interfere with AFCIs." I asked them what I would have to do to assure that I got that type, and they said they didn't know and would call back. They never did.

As part of my participation in the local IAEI chapter, I interact with PG&E's representative pretty routinely. He knows NOTHING about smart meters and AFCIs. He also didn't know there were two kinds of smart meters. The same is unfortunately true for some of the other smaller municipal-owned utilities in our area. Maybe there really aren't two kinds, and it is just something that PG&E's flacks have been trained to say to people like me.

Bottom line, I don't know if these will cause a problem with AFCIs. There are many reports of the first ones causing nuisance tripping in houses in San Jose. My hunch is that the problem is going to be found on the older branch-feeder AFCIs, since they seem so inferior in other regards to the newer "combination" AFCIs, but who knows? The only thing of which I am certain is that PG&E is not telling us the truth on multiple levels.

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