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Radio Frequency

Understanding Radio Frequency and BC Hydro's electricity meters

Just like your FM radio, television and cell phone, our electricity meters communicate using radio signals.

Safety is our top priority. We've reviewed the scientific research on wireless technology. After decades of studies, health authorities have confirmed that there are no demonstrable health effects from exposure to low-level radio frequency signals.

Our meters have been independently tested, and the results showed they operate at levels far below those our health authorities say are safe. We'll continue to make sure that our technology operates well within Health Canada's Safety Code 6, whether it reviews the limit or if we change how our meters communicate.

Here are the facts about our meters:

Our electricity meters communicate for just minutes a day.

Our meters communicate for a total of three minutes per day, which includes relaying your electricity-use information and the coordination signals between our meters.

Our electricity meters communicate using low-power signals.

Unlike other wireless technology, our meters use low power signals - about one watt. If you are 20 cm away from the meter, the radio signal exposure is less than 0.5% of Canadian exposure limits (Safety Code 6, 2015).

Radio signal strength drops quickly with distance.

Radio signal strength decreases exponentially with distance. So, at twice the distance from a meter, the signal level is reduced to just a quarter of the original level. This means that if you're 40 cm from the meter, the radio signal exposure drops to much less than 0.5% of Canadian exposure limits.

In a meter bank, the maximum signal strength is the equivalent of two meters.

In apartment buildings our meters are banked together. They work collaboratively to communicate, and because they're so close to each other the strength of the radio signals peaks at just two times the power of a single meter.

Our network devices also use short, infrequent, low-power signals.

Our metering network uses repeaters to transmit signals across gaps. Our repeaters use he same radio module as our smart meters, and are active for minutes a day.

Collectors are devices that gather information from a number of smart meters, and send it back to us. Our collectors use low power signals – about one watt, are inactive about 95% of the time, and are installed on our poles about 5.5 to 7.5 m (18 to 24 feet) off the ground.

Your meter socket directs radio waves away from your property.

Your metal meter socket directs our meter's signals away from your home, and solid materials like the meter socket and wood or stucco of your walls weaken radio waves.

Additional resources

For more information the safety of wireless technology, you can also review:

B.C. Centre for Disease Control

Electrical Power Research Institute (EPRI)

Health Canada

World Health Organization