New Smart Meter, now things are odd

writersblockFebruary 14, 2012

FPL changed out our electrical meters to smart meters last week. At first everything seemed normal, but then a couple of days ago my iPad began repeatedly restarting when plugged into the usual wall socket, where it's lived since I got it with no problems till now. It behaves normally when plugged into a computer or a UPS, though. My ipod does the same thing now. Both restart constantly in any wall outlet, which would seem to indicate some kind of surging or pulsing in the power.

Clearly, something has become a bit wonky since the new meter went in. This place was build in 1979, so the wiring is old, no question. I don't notice any particularly odd behavior yet for lamps or other appliances, but I'm afraid that some sort of problem is beginning.

Any suggestions as to what to check for?

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Oh, I should say that I've eliminated the possibility of a problem with the wall wart or the usb cable--it's definitely something about the power itself they don't like now.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2012 at 12:20PM
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You think 1979 is old?

If you had said 1879, I would have agreed.

And I would still be looking at the 'wall wart'. This thing should be producing DC power, probably 5 volts. What does the label state?

IIRC, If you charge an iPod or iPad from the USB port of a PC, you are getting 5vDC from the PC. Apple supplies a little cubic charger with a USB port and cable. Mine is 100v-240vAC 50/60Hz input to 5vDC 1amp output.

I would be looking at this charger. Replacing the meter might have 'zapped' it.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2012 at 3:22PM
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I have the same problem with three different chargers and USB cables, so I really don't think that's the problem. The same chargers and cables all work without this happening when plugged into the UPS.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2012 at 3:36PM
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Forgot to say these are all Apple branded ones, of varying ages and degrees of use, including the one I only use when traveling so it's hardly been used at all.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2012 at 3:37PM
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How does the ipod/ipad act when charging off your computer?

    Bookmark   February 14, 2012 at 5:24PM
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An iPad generally won't charge off a computer unless you have a have a high power USB port. You're tried different outlets in your home, not just the ones you've always used?

I'd think a good test of the hardware would be take the iPad to another location and see if the problem can be replicated. If not and especially because they seem to charge fine through the UPS, there's something amiss. A call to your electric utility might be in order.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2012 at 10:37PM
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Ron Natalie

An iPAD will charge off the computer, albeit very slowly. It will charge moderately slowly on a 5W charger (such as the iPhone) but really wants a 10W one to charge quickly.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2012 at 8:11AM
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Thanks for the replies, everone. Ronnatalie is right--you can charge your ipad from the computer. It just takes longer.

The ipod does the exact same thing: constant restarting. I took the ipad to work with me last night and it behaved normally there.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2012 at 12:11PM
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Is your utility doing PowerLine stuff? By 'PowerLine' I mean IP over power lines?

I don't really know how it works, but there might be a high frequency component freaking out your charger.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2012 at 7:42PM
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Assuming you did your tests as described, it does appear reasonable to suspect that this could be related to the installation of the smart meter.

Without getting into all the debate about smart meters, and only looking at the possible way the meter could affect something connected to your wiring, there are really just two possibilities.

One, could be noise on the wiring caused by something like a poor connection in the meter base from oxidation on the socket contacts, which may just require it to be reseated. Do you have any flickering in your home lighting?

Two, would be if, as weedmeister suggested, the power company is using PLC - power line carrier/communication - for the link.

The are a number of communication options available that are being deployed often depending on geography, the number of meters, and the utility wiring infrastructure.

The most common are RF wireless access point, RF relay network, RF mesh network. They all typically transmit in the 900-925MHz range and would not be a source of your problem.

There is however PLC which is used in some areas. The data is modulated on an analog carrier between 10-500kHz over the power lines and could, although highly unusual, possibly be the cause of your problem.

You said the problem does not occur on your UPS power but if is not an "always-on" UPS, the most it could be doing is using it's EMI filter to remove any interference.

Your next step would probably be to call the utility company, but first you may wish to find out the type of communication method used by the smart meter to the utility in case it could be PLC related.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2012 at 9:47PM
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Thank you, weedmeister and yosemitebill. Could it be that the meter is set for what they call their on-call service (that cycles down when demand is high) although I don't participate in it?

The reason I ask is this: the meter was installed about a week ago. The first several days no problem. Then the ipad began restarting in the very early morning during a cold snap (the highest demand time for power in FL where most people use reverse cycle AC for heating). For the first two days it only happened beginning in the early am (I got out of bed and went down and unplugged it so I don't know how long it would have continued, but it wasn't doing it at midday). The coldest day it was continual, all day long, but only in this house. As of yesterday, when the temps moderated, it stopped doing it during the day, but begain again in the early evening (another time when demand rises).

    Bookmark   February 16, 2012 at 9:55AM
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Oh, forgot to say that my own heat was never on during the time this happened, if that matters at all.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2012 at 9:58AM
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The meter itself does not shut off the power for this service. Rather, you have to have a separate device installed, basically a radio-controlled relay. From the looks of their website, they do HVAC, water heater and pool pumps. But I will say that the meter may act as a relay of the radio signal. The meters I've worked with used the WiFi band (2.4Ghz) and low power (10mw) for this.

I think they would be far less likely to reduce heat loads than cooling loads.

I'm doubtful this would be causing your issues.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2012 at 2:52PM
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Thanks, weedmeister. It sure is a puzzlement.

    Bookmark   February 16, 2012 at 7:35PM
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Was in the news lately somewhere I saw. Smart meters Creating havoc with home electonics.
Wireless & the lv switching transformer they use both causing many people problems.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2012 at 11:11AM
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Thank you for that, mikie. I googled around and found many articles about things like this--very discouraging. At least in most places people had the option to opt out of the new meters, but not around here. :(

    Bookmark   February 21, 2012 at 10:32PM
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This is not one of my power suppliers.

Here is a link that might be useful: Announcement

    Bookmark   February 25, 2012 at 11:56AM
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Yeah, Randolph came up more than any other utility when I was googling around for problems with smart meters.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2012 at 6:29PM
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