Monday, June 20, 2011
Help Me Howard: FPL Smartmeter
Nearly two million Floridians have new smartmeters installed by Florida Power and Light. They are supposed to be much better than the old meters, but now we have two recent customers who suspect the meters caught on fire and ruined their homes. So is FPL responsible? It's why one FPL customer called Help me Howard with Patrick Fraser
WSVN -- For two and a half years, Laurie and her husband saved to get what they had always wanted.
Laurie Simon: "Finally, I got my gourmet kitchen with my new appliances and my beautiful granite."
A few weeks ago they added two high definition TV's and were finished.
Laurie Simon: "Loving them, loving them till May 3rd."
May 3rd the day the brand new smartmeter FPL had installed ruined everything.
Laurie Simon: "It caught fire and caused 574 volts of current to pass thru my house and fry my beautiful new kitchen."
The federal government gave FPL 200 million dollars to install smartmeters in Florida. They are considered to be more efficient, allowing a customer can go online and see how much electricity they are using at any hour of the day, but smartmeters are also controversial provoking protests in some states where they have caught fire and destroyed appliances.
In Cutler Bay a family had to flee their home Monday morning after it caught fire. They think their smartmeter may be to blame.
Laurie is certain her smartmeter ruined her house.
Laurie Simon: "Our oven convection combination, our refrigerator our cooktop. The range hood. The washer, dryer. The AC unit. Two laptops., two TVs and even my Mr. Coffee pot."
Sadly laurie could go on for awhile and when she stops its staggering.
Laurie Simon: "Our total is at $31,993 right now."
The night of the fire, Laurie first dialed 911 for fire then FPL.
It would be the first of many calls. As you can see she then kept a daily log of who she talked to at the power giant to try to get some help. 27 calls in a month by the time she talked to us, but no determination of whose to blame.
Laurie Simon: "It's been very difficult. It's been extremely difficult."
Alvaro pulled parts from another air conditioner to cool the house. FPL put in another smart meter.
Laurie Simon: "I will never look at this technology the same."
Not only is Laurie mad that FPL wont speed up their investigation, she is upset that they didnt do something before the fire because she had called the power company two days before the disaster to let them know her lights were flickering.
Laurie Simon: "Everything is fine on our end you should check with your electrician to determine if there is something wrong with your internal wiring."
But Laurie says they had re-wired their house before they installed their new appliances. Appliances that are now gone. Leaving their nerves frayed and their patience exhausted.
Laurie Simon: "I would like to see my home be made whole again. I'd like to see FPL replace the appliances and electronic that have been damaged by their excessive voltage."
Well Howard, when is the power company responsible if your smartmeter catches fire and destroys everything.
Howard Finkelstein: "Not very often because the Florida legislature has given FPL special protection by declaring that they do not have to pay for damage caused by their negligent mistakes. Only gross negligence and this is done to keep FPL's costs down so they can keep everyone's power bills from going up."
FPL then finished their investigation and told us, the incident was not in any way related to the installation of the smartmeter in February. That their investigation concluded it was cause by loose electrical connections within the customers meter can that could not have been caused by the installation of the smart meter.
Laurie says there was never a problem till FPL installed the smartmeter. But
FPL's wrote we are not liable for any damages in this situation.
Howard Finkelstein: "Lauries only option is to go to court and try to prove the FPL's behavior was reckless. It will be tough because smartmeters have caught fire, but the vast majority have not. Laurie will need a good lawyer and they will have to be lucky."
Luck Laurie is now looking for a lawyer to sue FPL because her smartmeter battle with the power company is not going well.
Laurie Simon: "I dont have a lot of faith in Florida Power and Light, but what can I do. Until we have windmill and solar technology all of us are unfortunately stuck with our power company."
Patrick Fraser: "Laurie has to be one of the most upbeat people I have ever met. Amazing considering her string of bad luck. For example, normally your homeowners insurance would pay for the damage, but her old policy had lapsed and the new homeowners insurance kicked in two days after the smartmeter caught fire. And by the way, even though we found many reports of smart meters catching fire in other states, an FPL spokesman told me that has not happened to the smartmeters they installed. Laurie begs to disagree."
"Short circuited and feeling powerless? Wanna surge of energy? Contact us, we will use our brain power to help you, yeah I know what you thinking, yes we do have outages once in awhile."
CONTACT HELP ME HOWARD: