By Karen Billing
Rancho Santa Fe’s Holly Manion still has an analog meter on her home, despite SDG&E’s switchover to smart meters about a year and a half ago.
“I won’t allow them to put a smart meter on my house,” said Manion, who has a note posted in a plastic baggie to keep it safe from weather that reads “No Smart Meter, Do not Install.”
For those who already have smart meters and are concerned about radio frequency (RF) radiation, Manion has created a Smart Meter Shield to absorb, block and redirect the radiation that comes from the meters.
SDG&E’s smart meters are digital readers that allow for two-way communication between the user and SDG&E. The meters record information daily and then it is sent to a data center for billing and customer service.
It is SDG&E’s hope that the meters will help save customers energy and money, and SDG&E states on its website that no adverse short- or long-term health effects have been shown to occur from the radio frequency signals produced by smart meters.
According to SDG&E, the technology and products used comply with U.S. Federal Communications Commission’s guidelines for human exposure to RF energy. The meters operate in two ranges of frequencies: 900 megahertz (slightly above those used by cellular telephone carriers) and 2.4 gigahertz (where WiFi and many cordless phones operate).
“These bands include the same FCC-approved frequencies that have been used for many years in other devices, such as baby monitors, remote-controlled toys and medical monitors,” SDG&E said.
Manion cites the work of Kerry Crofton, the author of “Wireless Radiation Rescue,” who visited Rancho Santa Fe in January. Crofton contends that there is a question of whether federal guidelines are up to date — the guidelines were last updated in 1997 and with the many advances in technology since then, the standards could be inaccurate. Additionally, federal guidelines were based on a 200-pound male, not taking into account the effect on children and only tested short-term exposure and thermal effects, according to Crofton.
Unlike a cell phone network, the smart meters have no centralized antenna—every meter in the network connects with one another in a “mesh network.”
“My real concern is the amount of RF radiation combines when all other smart meters are communicating,” Manion said, calling it “RF smog.” “Not only is your meter carrying information from your house but also others around you, more are radiating from your meter.”
While research is still evolving about the effects of RF radiation, Manion goes completely wired over wireless—she uses dial-up Internet, uses her cell phone sparingly and on speaker away from her body, unplugs electronics when not in use, and has taken efforts in her home to block radiation’s effects.
Exposure to RF radiation can cause several health problems depending on the exposure type and duration, including sleep disorders, heart irregularities, lack of energy and headaches, according to Crofton.
In May 2011, the World Health Organization declared that RF radiation could be a “possible human carcinogen,” the same class used for engine exhaust, lead and DDT.
“When a smart meter is on your house and radiating, constantly pulsing, that’s really hurting us,” Manion said. “Would you sit in your living room if a car drove up to your window and was running exhaust fumes into your home all the time?”
Manion’s shield comes in three parts: A focusing unit, a ring that goes around the glass part of the meter, a directional unit made of an aluminum composite that goes over the whole meter and redirects and absorbs radiation, and a grounding plane that sends radiation away from the source and into the ground.
Once placed on the smart meter, the Smart Meter Shield does not prevent SDG&E employees from working on it—everything is attached with Velcro.
“I tried to find a solution that works for everyone,” Manion said,
Manion did extensive testing with a RF engineer doing tests with a spectrum analyzer, tested for 24 hours and several times afterward.
“The test showed that it is really reducing the pulsing radiation, in some cases by 70 percent up to 90 percent decreasing the power of radiation going into your home,” Manion said.
Since setting up her website, Manion has received orders from around the country for her Smart Meter Shield.
“We’re not set up for mass production yet because everything has to be hand-made,” Manion said, who has also been customizing her shields to the different sizes of meters used in different states.
While Manion worries how long her “no smart meter” note will work, in November the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) granted an application filed by the Utility Consumers’ Action Network to direct SDG&E to file a smart meter opt-out proposal for customers.
A similar smart meter opt-out proposal by PG&E is being reviewed by the CPUC—customers will be able to opt out but it will cost them more money.
To learn more about the Smart Meter Shield, visit