Paying to Not Have Smart Meter - WSVN-TV - 7NEWS Miami Ft. Lauderdale News, Weather, Deco

Paying to Not Have Smart Meter

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A smart meter A smart meter
Elizabeth Chalker Elizabeth Chalker

Do you have a smart meter on the side of your house? Many people love them, but others are afraid of them and don't want them, and now FPL is telling customers, if you don't let us install the new smart meters, we are going to charge you more each month on your power bill. Can they do that? It's why people across South Florida are calling Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

WSVN -- Florida Power and Light loves the smart meters, which allow a customer to see how much electricity they are using at any time of the day and electronically sends that same information to the power company. But in South Florida, some people blame them for causing fires in their homes.

Woman: "It caught fire and fried my beautiful new kitchen."

Some customers believe that the radio frequency sent from the smart meters is dangerous to their health, and across the country groups have tried to block them from being installed on their homes. Others like Elizabeth Chalker are terrified of the electronic signals the smart meters send out.

Elizabeth Chalker: "Genetic deficiencies with immune system dysfunction. It's a lot of stuff to deal with."

Elizabeth is so sensitive to light, she had to wear sunglasses during our interview, and when a smart meter was installed at her home, she got worse.

Elizabeth Chalker: "The migraines were getting worse, the neurological twitching stuff like that, the insomnia, the bone pain that I have was getting a lot worse."

Elizabeth finally got FPL to replace the smart meter with the older meter.

Elizabeth Chalker: "And those added symptoms that I was having have dissipated."

Elizabeth felt better. Then she got this letter in the mail.

Elizabeth Chalker: "If we choose to have a standard meter that's not a smart meter, that they're going to charge a $95 enrollment fee and an extra $13 a month."

Many people who got that letter requiring them to pay a $95 fee plus $13 a month to not have a smart meter have contacted Help Me Howard in e-mails and phone calls.

Caller: "And I don't think it's fair."

Elizabeth called FPL, explaining the smart meter made her illness worse.

Elizabeth Chalker: "My options are to leave the standard meter I have right now and pay a penalty for protecting my health, or to put the thing that was negatively affecting my health back on my house and knowingly just hurt my health."

Well, Howard, we've all heard of being charged extra for a new product, but can a public utility charge extra for not accepting the newer device?

Howard Finkelstein: "You don't have to allow the utility to attach one to your home, but the Florida Public Service Commission has temporarily ruled that if a customer refuses the smart meter, they have to pay not only an opt out fee, but a monthly fee to offset what FPL says is the additional cost of the old-style meters."

Before cost, let's address safety. FPL says studies have shown the radio frequency that comes from a smart meter is safe.

David McDermitt, FPL: "And they use the same frequency as any number of household equipment or household devices that you use, including a cordless phone, a cell phone."

As for why they charge more to people who don't want to keep the old meter, FPL says, because it costs them more.

David McDermitt: "We now have to retain a group of meter readers that have to cover our 27,000-square-mile service area on a monthly basis, to go out manually read the meters, manually record and report that information to our billing system."

But Howard says, if you don't want to pay more to keep an old meter, you still have a chance.

Howard Finkelstein: "The Public Service Commission is going to conduct hearings in the next few months to determine whether they should finalize the plan to force customers to pay extra if they don't want a smart meter. If you don't, and don't want to pay a monthly fee, call the Public Service Commission and lodge a complaint."

Are the smart meters completely safe? Elizabeth says, do your own research.

Elizabeth Chalker: "Educate yourself and don't just go on by what FPL and somebody says. Look at both sides."

Most people trust smart meters; some don't. If you don't and want the Public Service Commission to block FPL from charging more to not use them, or you want to find out more about smart meters, the link to do both is at the end of this Help Me Howard.

Purchased a problem that has you feeling powerless? Want us to take charge? Contact us. We don't meter our smartness, but we will do our best to shine a light on a solution.

With this Help Me Howard, I'm Patrick Fraser, 7News

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Public Service Complaint Form
http://www.psc.state.fl.us/consumers/complaints/index2.aspx

FPL information about smart meters
http://www.fpl.com/energysmart/pdf/facts_about_smart_meters.pdf

http://www.fpl.com/energysmart/pdf/rf.pdf

CONTACT HELP ME HOWARD:

E-mail: helpmehoward@wsvn.com (please include your contact phone number when e-mailing)
Reporter: Patrick Fraser at pfraser@wsvn.com
Miami-Dade: 305-953-WSVN
Broward: 954-761-WSVN

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