Fire-prone meter boxes causing concern
Thursday 3 Jun 2010 5:07 p.m.
By Hamish Clark
Front line firefighters are concerned about the number of household power meter boxes that are bursting into flames.
There have been 67 callouts in Christchurch to electrical malfunctions so far this year, and new smart meters have been involved in three in the last five days.
Graham Hobbs considers himself lucky. He was woken at 4:30am to find his smart meter on fire.
"I lifted this up it was still glowing and smoking, and slammed it shut to try and seal it off."
The following night Kelvin Dixon, who lives nearby, suffered a similar fate.
"I pulled into my drive way and found my meter box on fire great amounts of smoke."
Mr Dixon is a registered electrician and says the contactor that sits beneath the smart meter caught fire and melted.
"I have suspicions that maybe the installation the terminals weren't tightened enough."
"It was very dangerous," says station officer Murray Jamieson. "The whole thing burnt out completely, last night's one was a melt down and it was significantly dangerous."
In the last five months there have been 67 call outs in Canterbury to malfunctions involving power boxes, and 422 throughout the country, slightly down for the same period last year.
"We find at this time of year - colder weather and wetter conditions - a lot more switchboard fires do occur," says Dan Coward.
Hundreds of thousands of smart meters are being installed across the country. In Christchurch, Meridian Energy says all their contracted smart meter installers are qualified.
"We are very confident that the equipment fits with the industry standard and our processes are robust, and we do our very best to mitigate any safety issues we can," says Claire Shaw.
The fire service says if you have any concerns about your power boxes to contact your local electrical authority and make sure you have working smoke alarms to warn you early if a fire does start.