2019-04-18 Quebec engineer re. smeter fires

1)  From the industry:  One of the most detailed descriptions of how 5G is anticipated to work. Read about the beam forming, which is what experts warn will make these transmitters more powerful and dangerous than current ones. Please remember what other industry articles have acknowledged: the increase in speed and data is for the industry itself. Individuals won’t even notice the difference. This is all about what helps the industry expand while avoiding regulations or bothersome “rules” that require informing people living near these things.

(click on photos to enlarge)


Everything you need to know about 5G


“A fundamental change to 5G network infrastructure is to its antenna array. The idea is to have more antennas serving fewer clients. Installing more antennas per cell tower, combined with higher cell density, helps tremendously in improving wireless bandwidth. While initial 5G rollout will use existing cell towers, dedicated 5G network infrastructures will have a massively increased number of antenna elements per tower – each of them separately controllable – within each antenna….

In addition to higher data rate, 5G is designed to connect to vastly more devices – many times, more, in fact. They range from vehicles, wearables, sensors, and many more smart devices that haven’t been invented yet. The current networking infrastructures simply don’t have the capacity to accommodate the influx of connections.

 The solution to this problem is a no-brainer: just add more towers. The large towers will be accompanied by thousands of smaller, densely packed smaller towers to create smaller cell sites. These small cells only stretch a few hundred feet, but through doing so, workloads can be balanced across more access points, enabling higher data rate, lower latency, and stronger signals.”



2)   There is ongoing discussion about installing a CREST transmitter on a pole in Ganges, Salt Spring Island according to a member near a hospital and close to an elder care home. CREST antennae emit 700 Mhz signals that reach for kilometers. 


And once a tower/monopole is erected, more transmitters could be co-located on it if the owner approves, without consultation with or notification to the public or local government.  The member believes that further discussion — and perhaps final approval —  will occur at the April 30 meeting of the Islands Trust Area Planning Council.  Granted, these transmitters would help first responders, but the transmitters should not be located near vulnerable populations (or near any residences or schools for that matter).


“The Royal Canadian Salt Spring Legion Branch has given approval to move forward with the Capital Region Emergency Service Telecommunications Inc. (CREST) on a partnership project that would see an upgrade to existing public safety communications services for Salt Spring Island. An agreement in principle allows CREST to commence a consultation process with the community.”






3) Below is an excellent letter from an Engineer in Quebec who is challenging smeters on the basis of safety – they are fire hazards.


Written by a Professional Engineer in Quebec, sent to provincial ministers.

Dear Sir / Madam,

Please persuade M. Legault to force Hydro-Québec to recall its dangerous plastic electricity meters.

To make them safe again, these meters should be upgraded by simply connecting temperature sensors to their built-in circuit breakers. That must be done before someone in Quebec gets hurt or is killed.

Otherwise law suits and class action law suits may negate the financial returns of the $1,200 million Remote Meter Reading Project and lead to further increases in electricity rates.

Yours truly,

(Thomas) Tobber  (name given with permission)

= = =


Every year there are dozens of electricity meter fires in Québec that are fully preventable. Unnecessary fires are sufficient proof that the meters are dangerous. Any one of these meter fires could set a house on fire and kill someone. And the plastic meter fires are really dangerous, as you can see by watching only 30 seconds of https://youtu.be/Ah3nNo89-NU?t=130

The reason this is a cover-up is that such dangerous meter fires are avoidable and can be prevented with smart circuit breakers. Hydro-Québec has not told us that these circuit breakers are already built into the meters and only need to be activated by a smart temperature sensor. Every electrical device plugged into our house wiring is protected by two circuit breakers. Only the flammable plug-in electricity meters are still unprotected by a circuit breaker.

1.0   Our ‘next generation’ electricity meters are made mostly of plastic and can burn very well. The standard mechanical meters are made mainly of metal and do not burn. That is proof that the new meters are much more dangerous than the old ones. And this is clearly not acceptable to the 3.9 million Hydro-Québec customers on whose combustible wood-frame homes they are installed. It is therefore necessary to protect these houses with intelligent circuit breakers.

2.0   Not only can plastic meters burn, but they can emit toxic and explosive gases when they overheat. The gases can easily be drawn into the house via the wire conduit from the meter to the main switch. The toxic gases can destroy brain cells and thus cause a permanent reduction in brain function. Intelligent circuit breakers are able to prevent the overheating of the plastic and the emission of gases.

3.0   Hydro-Québec has repeatedly refused to tell us how many of their ‘next generation’ plastic meters have burned due to arcing at the meter plug. Is Hydro-Québec concerned that we will find out how serious the fire danger really is?

4.0   The company allegedly rushes to fire scenes to remove the burned meters before the forensic fire investigators can examine them. That is against our criminal laws. It is also evidence that Hydro-Québec understands that their unsafe meters are the real cause of the fires.

5.0   It is alleged that the company then tells the fire departments that the fires were caused by the customer’s meter base rather than by the Hydro-Québec meter. That is a lie because the fires are really caused by the lack of a smart circuit breaker. But the fire chiefs have no choice other than to believe HydroQuébec who may be deliberately manipulating the fire statistics.

6.0  It is also alleged that when there is an insurance claim for fire damages caused by a burning electricity meter, Hydro-Québec pays back the insurance company for its payment to the customer. If true, that is evidence that both Hydro-Québec and the insurance company know that the meter was at fault and caused the fire.


It goes without saying that the Québec government does not want 4 million incendiary meters installed on the several trillion dollars of combustible real estate in the province.

Hydro-Québec is given the responsibility to self-approve its meters for fire safety and the government has mandated that Hydro-Québec must do whatever is reasonably necessary to ensure that its meters do not cause fires.

Obviously the self-approval must be a formal, systematic, thorough, and very competently carried out process that guarantees the customers that their meters will not electrocute them, or asphyxiate them, or set their homes on fire.

The self-approval is technically very demanding and must be carried out and certified by engineers. Without a signed and sealed safety approval document for the meter/meter-base system there is no assurance that the meter installations are safe. This critically important engineering document is missing.

Fires in a meter housings are avoidable using inexpensive 30 year old technology. With a thermally activated circuit breaker that cuts off the electricity when it detects an abnormal temperature increase there will be no overheating and no fire.

Last month there was a terrible fire in Halifax in which seven children were burned alive. All it takes is one burning meter to set one house on fire for a similar tragedy to happen in Québec. If we have even a single unnecessary/avoidable fire like that in Québec caused by unsafe plastic ‘next generation’ meters then those responsible must be held to account and severely punished. To an engineer, a fire victim is a sentient, unique and irreplaceable human being and not just a $50,000 out-of-court settlement with a bulletproof confidentiality agreement.

(Thomas) Tobber,  P. Eng.

= = =


An electricity meter is plugged into a meter base that is mounted on the outside wall of a house in much the same way that the plug of a lamp is plugged into a wall socket inside the house. The plugs and sockets in both cases are very similar in shape, but the prongs of the 200 amp meter plug have to be bigger than the prongs of the 15 amp lamp plug.

Much like the lamp plug and socket, the prongs of the meter are pushed into metal jaws inside the meter socket. After that, during the 20 – 30 year life of the meter, there must be sufficient contact pressure to hold the metal of the prong against the metal of the jaw so that electricity can easily flow through the contact area.

Sometimes, due to deformed jaws caused by inept Hydro-Québec meter installers, there is no contact pressure and instead there may be a very small gap (0.4 mm or less) between the inserted meter prong and its jaw. In that case, an electric arc may jump across that air gap from the prong of the meter to the jaw of the meter socket. Both the prong on the meter (owned by Hydro-Québec) and the jaw in the socket (owned by the customer) are absolutely necessary for the arc to form, so it is completely false for Hydro-Québec to claim that it is the customers’ socket that causes the arc.

In actual fact, it is Hydro-Québec’s meter that causes the arc. The reason is that the plain sheet metal prongs of the meter were never designed to prevent the formation of an air gap from those prongs to the jaws of the socket. And if there is even a tiny air gap, an electric arc can form.

An electric arc produces very destructive, ultra-high temperatures. Both the prong of the meter and the jaw of the socket are heated by the arc between them and both get extremely hot (>1000 deg. C). If there is any plastic in contact with the extension of the meter prong into the meter, the very high temperatures of the prong extension may cause it to burst into flames which can then ignite the rest of the plastic meter and subsequently set the house on fire.

Each of the jaws of the meter socket compresses the surfaces of the mating meter prong on two sides – so the jaws are a redundant design that makes doubly sure there is adequate contact pressure. The prongs of the meters, by contrast, are cheap pieces of plated sheet metal. They do absolutely nothing to ensure there is adequate contact with the socket jaw surfaces and that there is no gap. Once it was realized that arcing at the meter prongs was a continuing problem, Hydro-Québec should have redesigned those hopelessly simplistic meter prongs to make them proactively close the gap.

These prongs should expand into the jaws of the socket so that even if there are defects such as metal fatigue or deformed sockets, the mating surfaces will always have adequate contact pressure and no gap. Moreover we’ve known how to design expanding prongs for over 100 years because the ubiquitous banana plugs have them (banana plugs are still used extensively in laboratories because they make such reliable connections.)

There are other ways to eliminate the arcing problem. One solution is to bolt the meters directly onto the meter bases. Smart meters can be calibrated in place and so there is no need to repeatedly unplug them, take them back to the shop, and then plug them back in (thus wearing out the sockets). But the best way is to measure the temperature of the meter prongs and to shut off the electric current with a circuit breaker when there is a rapid temperature increase due to arcing.

By far the worst way is to dishonestly demonize the customer-owned sockets by calling them “Hot Sockets”. This just places the blame for fires caused by arcing at the meter plug on the shoulders of the technically innocent customers. And that will not prevent future fires.


Sharon Noble, Director, Coalition to Stop Smart Meters 

“Any one who has the power to make you believe absurdities has the power to make you commit injustices.”    Voltaire