Trusted local news leader for Prescott area communities since 1882
Thu, April 18

Smart meters not likely to be dangerous

My last column was about energy-efficient buildings, and the mounting evidence of concerns with these buildings. I received quite a few emails on that column. Some were thanking me for information they had not heard anywhere else; some told me I should not be so cynical.

I will admit that I am cynical. I'm 50 (OK, 50-plus). I remember hearing that our (mankind's) new technology is destroying the planet, and that we are facing a new ice age. For those of you under 40, I am not making this up. This was a big concern in the '70s. The cause was supposed to be auto exhaust and aerosols. Almost everything was in a spray can back then - deodorant, hairspray, household cleaners, air fresheners, etc. In public schools, we were told how we were destroying the planet by using deodorant in a can.

So for decades I stopped using deodorant and bought parkas every time they were on sale. And now we're concerned about global warming. I was debating this with one of my less cynical friends, and told him there is evidence the planet is on another of her cooling cycles. His reply: Global warming can cause cool weather. He knew this was true, but could not explain how destroying the ionosphere and letting more evil sun rays in could also cause cooling. I offered my friend a good deal on some parkas, but he declined.

Of course, the alarmists have that covered now. Since Mother Earth doesn't always accommodate their fears about a pending ice age or global warming, they now use the term "climate change." They're pretty safe, because the climate changes in every place I've ever lived, and they can always say, "See, we told you so."

And what about sweetener? First sugar was bad for me, and I had to use the pink stuff. Then the pink stuff was bad, and I had to use the blue stuff. Then the blue stuff may not be good, and we used the yellow stuff. Now everything artificial is bad so I need to use sugar again.

Now there's some controversy about the new APS (Arizona Public Service) electric meters. These meters send out a "radio" signal, so they don't require a meter-reader to read the meter every month. As usual, there are people that don't like the new technology.

Some people claim that this is Uncle Sam invading our privacy, even though it's not Uncle Sam but Cousin APS. With the new meter, APS can tell if you're using unusual amounts of electricity, and when. So if you're running grow lights all night for a marijuana farm, or using lots of power for that time machine you've been working on, APS will know something unusual is happening. I'm not doing anything like that, so I'm not too concerned that APS will know about my power usage.

Others claim that there are health effects from the transmissions from the meters. I know these people mean well, but I take this with a grain of salt. I mean, just walk down the street and look at all the transmissions you're wading through. Four out of five of the closest people are talking on cellphones. Two out of five of the closest buildings have satellite TV antennas. Half the nearby cars have GPS or manufacturer monitoring systems installed. There are automatic doors at nearby businesses. There must be some FM and AM radios signals migrating through your muscles. There are police radios, walkie-talkies, baby monitors, and cordless phones. And how many times have I used my truck remote door un-locker - I must be getting cancer in that thumb by now.

I happened to be home when APS came up my driveway to install the new meters. They said I could decline it, and even told me that some people are concerned about the health risks. I said, "Put 'em in." Now APS will not have to come up my driveway and make my dogs bark once a month. I consider that a bigger invasion of privacy than APS knowing that I set my thermostat a couple degrees higher last month.

One of my biker buddies told me that APS came up his driveway, too, and he told them not to install the new meter. I asked why, because he doesn't seem the type to worry about one more radio transmission traveling through his living room. He had the only good reason I've heard for keeping the old meter. He likes flirting with the cute gal who reads his meter.

Now there may be something to the health concerns from these meters. Only long-term studies can determine this. I've heard these meters have been in use for some time in other cities and countries. I'm sure if there was any correlation between the use of these meters and children being born with three arms, someone would have let us know by now. I think some people may not like the new meters simply because they don't like change.

Speaking of change, there are some changes coming to the Courier. My next column will appear in the Courier's new pull-out real estate section, which will publish on the first and third Saturday of each month beginning Jan. 21. I am not too cynical about this change. The pull-out section will have lots of new information. However, the cover will only be half as large and you may not see my smiling face on it. (Actually, for the last couple years it's only half my smiling face. I never asked why they cut off the top and bottom of my photo, but it never bothered me since they actually cropped out most of the gray hair.) But you will find my smiling half-face inside.

Randy West owns Professional Building Consultants in Prescott. He is state-certified and has performed more than 6,000 home inspections in the Prescott area. West serves on the Home Inspector Rules and Standards Committee for the Arizona Board of Technical Registration. Contact him at


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