Radio Frequency and BC Hydro's Smart Meters
Understanding Radio Frequency and BC Hydro's Smart Meters
Safety is our top priority for BC Hydro and is an important focus of the Smart Metering Program. That's why we have reviewed the scientific research related to radio frequency based technology. After decades of research, there are no demonstrable health or environmental effects from exposure to low level radio frequency signals. Here are the facts about smart meters and their low level radio frequency:
Smart meters are active for an average of less than one minute per day.
Residential smart meters are active for a total average of less than one minute per day, which includes the relay of information that may be required for data transmission and coordination between meters. Planetworks Consulting, a North Vancouver engineering firm, has conducted independent testing confirming that BC Hydro's new meters communicate for about 1.4 seconds per day. In fact, the exposure to radio frequency from a smart meter – over its entire 20-year life span – is equal to a single 30 minute cell phone call.
Smart meters communicate using very low power signals.
Unlike other wireless infrastructure, smart meters use very low power signals – about one watt. This is less than 2 microwatts per square centimetre (μW/cm2) when standing adjacent to the meter. A microwatt is one millionth of a watt.
BC Hydro's smart meter signals are far lower than some of the strictest thresholds in the world.
Europe has some of the world’s strictest radiofrequency regulations. Switzerland, for example, has a precautionary limit of 4.5 μW/cm2 for highly sensitive areas like schools and hospitals. In comparison, BC Hydro smart meter signals – at the same distance of 20 centimetres (8 inches) – are less than 2 μW/cm2.
Existing meter boxes act like a reflective shield.
Existing meter boxes, the socket where smart meters are installed, act like a shield that directs smart meter radio frequency signals away from the home.
Radio frequency signal strength drop quickly with distance.
Smart meters are installed outside and the power density reduces exponentially with distance. Three meters (10 feet) from the smart meter, the radio frequency signal drops to less than 0.001 per cent (0.005 μW/cm2) of the Health Canada exposure limits.
In high-density residential complexes, like apartment buildings, the meters communicate with each other using collaborative network technology. Due to the closeness of meters within the meter bank, the cumulative effect peaks at just two times the power density of a single meter. This is equal to spending four minutes in an area with wireless internet over one year.
Like smart meters, collectors use lower power, infrequent, short signals.
Collectors, which receive data from smart meters and send it to BC Hydro, are mounted on existing utility poles 5.5 to 7.5 metres (18 to 24 feet) off the ground and are inactive 99 per cent of the time. The collector also uses extremely low power – about one watt.
B.C.'s health authorities confirm that smart meters pose no known health risk or reason for concern
Dr. Patricia Daly and Dr. John Blatherwick, the current and previous Chief Medical Health Officers for Vancouver Coastal Health, confirm there is no known health risk and no reason for concern over radio frequency from normal cell phone usage. BC Hydro's new meters operate at significantly lower radio transmit power than cell phones and communicate much less frequently. You can read Provincial Health Officer Dr. Perry Kendall's statements about cell phone use and radio frequency on the B.C. Centre for Disease Control website.
B.C. Centre for Disease Control
- Health and Your Environment: Smart Meters
- Measurement of Radio Frequency (RF) Emissions from BC Hydro Smart Meters and an Associated Collector [PDF, 117 KB]
Edison Electric Institute (EEI), Association of Edison Illuminating Companies (AEIC), Utilities Telecom Council (UTC)
- A Discussion of Smart Meters and RF Exposure Issues [PDF, 601 KB]
Environmental Defense Fund
- Canadian Table of Frequency Allocations [PDF, 1.4 MB]
Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE)
- IEEE Standard for Safety Levels with Respect to Human Exposure to Radio Frequency Electromagnetic Fields, 3 kHz to 300 GHz (C95.1-2005)
International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP)
- Exposure to high frequency electromagnetic fields, biological effects and health consequences (100 kHz-300 GHz) - 2009 [PDF, 2.9 MB]
Planetworks Consulting Corporation – Safety Code 6 Report
- Summary Slides of Planetworks Reports [PDF, 1.8 MB]
- Single Smart Meter [PDF, 10.1 MB]
- Bank of 10 Smart Meters [PDF, 10.6 MB]
- Bank of 40 Smart Meters [PDF, 14.04 MB]
- Statement of the Chief Medical Health Officer: Health Concerns About Cellular Phone Transmission Antennae and Base Stations [PDF, 1.1 MB]