Are Smart Meters a Good Idea? | More Radiation Than Ever Courses through the Environment

Smart meters are devices that keep track of home power, gas, and water usage. However, in contrast with traditional meters, smart meters use wireless technology to transmit their data back to utility companies. With radiation already coming from so many other sources at unprecedented levels, are we creating a health hazard for ourselves?

Over the years, we have been sequentially adding layers of RF (radio frequency) technology. It all started with radar in WWII, followed by AM and FM radio, then TV, cell phones and towers, and Wi-Fi. We are now adding smart meters, each with multiple transmitters, along with numerous transmitting devices in our homes. In addition are copious networks transmitting data back and forth. According to estimates, the total level of RF radiation in our environment will be a trillion times greater than it was 100 years ago.

Smart Meters are Coming

By the end of 2013, Alliant Energy plans to install 1.1 million electric smart meters and 400,000 gas smart meters in Wisconsin, Iowa, and Minnesota. As of December, Dubuque is the only city in Iowa where smart meters have been installed as a pilot project.

Smart electric meters in each home will be connected to at least two different wireless networks, the Home Area Network (HAN) and the Neighborhood Area Network (NAN). Within the home, the furnace, lights, and major appliances will transmit their power usage to the smart meter via the wireless HAN.

Smart meters will allow homeowners to monitor their power consumption. They will also transmit information on home power usage through the NAN, the wireless neighborhood network, to a central neighborhood transmitter.

This transmitter will then send information from the entire neighborhood to the utility company, along a separate mesh of wireless area networks (WAN). Through the same networks, the utility company will transmit information back to smart meters in individual homes.

Evolution of Smart Meters

First-generation smart meters, which appeared about 2005, transmitted information back to the utility companies monthly. The second generation transmitted daily or hourly. Third generation smart meters can send information from homes back to the utility company on demand to extract detailed information on power usage of individual homes. They can also turn down power in homes to prevent impending power outages.

Radiation from Smart Meters

Single family units can have one to three transmitters, depending on their position in the NAN. Multiple family dwellings such as apartments can have a bank of several dozen meters, each with their own transmitters. 

Living beside these meters constitutes a major health issue, especially for those who are electromagnetically sensitive. The industry has been distributing a flawed graph indicating radiation from smart meter technology is hundreds of times less than radiation from cell phones. In actuality, smart meter radiation is hundreds of times greater than cell phone radiation.

Environmental Impact

Smart meters send out beacon signals every minute or less to the network, confirming they are functioning properly. The effect of the radiation from these electromagnetic bursts on the human physiology has been compared to hammering electromagnetic spikes into the body. The cumulative effect of these beacon signals is expected to be the largest health concern.

You can check to make sure your smart meter does not contain three transmitters by locating the FCC ID number printed on the meter and looking up the unit online at

You also need to check locations of your neighbors’ smart meters, which could be transmitting into your house. 

How will the blanket of RF radiation affect animal life, plants, or even the weather? The environmental impact of all this radiation is unknown. 

Privacy Issues

Smart meters are like stethoscopes into our homes. They allow utility companies to gather detailed information about home power use, such as what appliances we have, when we use them, when we are home, when we are asleep, and when we are away. 

Many people are concerned about utility companies having access to such personal information. The companies could use this information themselves or sell it for commercial use. Also, anyone hacking into the system could extract this information for illegal uses.

Can You Protect Your Home?

Materials for shielding out RF radiation are available, although they’re expensive and require experts with specialized equipment. Further, even if you successfully shield your meter, you could be receiving radiation from neighboring meters.

Opting out of smart meters and installing traditional meters is another option. However, utility companies have been making it expensive for individual homes to do so.

Community Solutions are the Best

A better option would be for whole neighborhoods or communities to opt out of smart meter technology. An entire community has greater clout. With the amount of money already spent on smart meter technology, fiberoptic links could have been installed to every home and within homes, without wireless communication.

Another option is to go off the grid entirely, which a growing number of sustainable communities are already doing. Abundance Eco-Village outside Fairfield ( and rural Decorah are two of the growing number of off-the-grid communities generating their own wind and solar power.

This information was distilled from a presentation given on October 17 by electrical engineer and building biologist Tom Wilson to students in the MUM Sustainable Living Program. For more information, see Also see the author’s website: