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Don't Waste Your Money: Home smart meters cause controversy

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(Toledo News Now) - If you don't have a smart meter in your home, you probably will soon. These digital electric meters are going in everywhere, but not without controversy. Some utility companies are starting to play hardball with homeowners who don't want one.

Smart meters are the wave of the future. Utility companies across the country are now installing millions of these digital, computer-controlled electric meters in homes. For the most part, the rollout is going well, except for some cases, where homeowners are saying no to installation.

Generator Now Her Only Power

Sharon Kinder-Geiger starts every day by starting her gas generator. She needs it because she has no electric power. Her lights are out and her electric meter has stopped spinning, but this is not due to a storm, or failing to pay her bill. It's because this self-employed photographer has refused to allow a new smart meter in her home.

Result: A lineman pulled up and disconnected her from the grid.

Some Homeowners Say "No"

"I have a right to choose what goes on in my home. I want a safe home for my child. I want a healthy environment for her," said Kinder-Geiger.

Kinder-Geiger has read reports claiming smart meters' radio waves can cause health problems. So she would rather use a fireplace, candles, and a generator in the home she shares with her daughter.

Some Places Allow Opting Out

Several states, including California, Michigan, Maryland, Nevada, Vermont and Maine have passed laws allowing customers to opt out of smart meters, usually by paying a small monthly fee.

In Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana, along with most other states, you cannot opt out.

But in Texas, which also has no opt-out law, armed homeowners have turned away installers with guns.

Duke Defends Meters
 
Utility companies insist there are no health issues with smart meters, and that they are not used to monitor people's electric use.

"Think of it as if you are going into a Starbucks, or going into somewhere with WiFi, like an airport, or a baby monitor, or garage-door opener. Wireless technology is all around us," explained Sally Thelen, an electric company spokeswoman.

Will Not Give Up

Kinder-Geiger, though, is looking into buying solar panels, saying she's not giving up her fight.

"Losing my freedom is a bummer, that would be a bummer for me. Losing my power, that's an inconvenience. I will not stand down on this," said Kinder-Geiger.

Sharon Kinder-Geiger Has Given Up...Temporarily

She now says she will accept a new smart meter from Duke Energy, for roughly a month, until she has time to have solar panels installed in her home. She says at that point, she will ask Duke to disconnect it, and go "off the grid," due to her health concerns about the meters.

She says living off a generator and candles was too difficult, and too dangerous.

So in states where there is no opt-out law, utility companies are finding themselves in standoffs with homeowners who are refusing the meters. In those cases, the utility companies can pull the plug anytime. 

While Ohio does not have a law allowing you to opt out of a smart meter, so far the only electric company in the state disconnecting homeowners is Duke Energy in the Cincinnati area. There are no reports of this happening in northwest Ohio.

As always, don't waste your money.

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