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A Chilliwack man whose computer was fried by a power surge while having a BC Hydro smart meter installed says hydro customers should be warned to unplug any electronics or turn their breakers off on the day of their meter changeover.

Sven Tornlov said he thinks the smart meters are a good idea that will save the province money. But he says he’s now faced with a steep bill to replace his computer after its motherboard died.

Tornlov was home last Thursday when a Corix Utilities worker appeared and said she was turning the power off in two minutes. Tornlov said pamphlets mailed to his house warn users to turn off all electronics. But he says there is no mention that they still may be at risk in case of a power surge.

“In their literature and the way they talk is it just sounds like it’s just plug and play,” said Tornlov.

BC Hydro’s website says that when it comes time for a smart meter to be installed, “The installer will knock on your door and if you are home they will notify you of the exchange and give you time to shutdown and unplug any equipment, such as your computer.”

But Tornlov said he was never told to unplug his computer.

“They don’t say anything verbally,” he said.

And the letter mailed to residents’ houses gives no such advice. Tornlov said that immediately after the meter was installed, the lights in his house began flickering and his computer didn’t reboot. When he took the computer to a repair shop, he said a worker told him “during this time, when they’re doing all this stuff, it will be increased business for me.”

Tornlov said he called BC Hydro to see if they would compensate him, but said he was told that the public utility doesn’t guarantee continual power, that it would not have caused a power surge, and that even if it did, he should have called a line for those with “special electronics.”

But Tornlov said there is nothing about his computer that would make him consider it “special” in 2011.

“You think the common courtesy would be at the door to remind you at that point in time,” he said. “I’m an accountant, I’m not an electrician, so why am I the guy who has to come up with the idea: ‘Wow, if I had flipped my breaker, there would have been no chance of a problem.'”

But Cindy Verschoor, BC Hydro’s manager of communications for smart meters, said the installation of a smart meter should not cause a power surge.

“It’s like unplugging a plug,” she said. “It doesn’t result in a power surge or anything like that on a regular residential home.”

She speculated that faulty or old wiring could be to blame for any problems surrounding the installation of the smart meters.

“Like any piece of equipment, the wiring in your home can erode over time and we have no way of knowing the condition of your wiring when we exchange your meter, and that’s why we just let customers know they might want to turn things off just in case. But the reality is that it’s not because we’re exchanging the meter. It’s just an extra precaution.”

Verschoor also said that residents are told to unplug their computers to ensure that anything they are working on is not lost when the power goes out. She said that people do not, actually, have to unplug their computers, but just turn them off.

Take Back Your Power

The award-winning documentary Take Back Your Power uncovers the shocking story behind why hundreds of local governments are standing against the multi-billion dollar rollout of ‘smart’ utility meters. What you’ll discover will surprise, unsettle and ultimately empower you. Watch Take Back Your Power 2017 free on YouTube here.

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