ComEd plans to begin smart meter installation next month in Lake Zurich

  • Com Ed's vice president of smart grid technology, Mike McMahan, makes a presentation at Monday's Lake Zurich village board meeting. ComEd next month will start installing smart meters in Lake Zurich that'll eliminate the need for employees to record electric use at homes.

    Com Ed's vice president of smart grid technology, Mike McMahan, makes a presentation at Monday's Lake Zurich village board meeting. ComEd next month will start installing smart meters in Lake Zurich that'll eliminate the need for employees to record electric use at homes. Bob Susnjara | Staff Photographer

  • James Dudek, external affairs manager for ComEd's north region, appears before the Lake Zurich village board Monday night. ComEd next month will start installing smart meters in Lake Zurich that'll eliminate the need for employees to record electric use at homes.

    James Dudek, external affairs manager for ComEd's north region, appears before the Lake Zurich village board Monday night. ComEd next month will start installing smart meters in Lake Zurich that'll eliminate the need for employees to record electric use at homes. Bob Susnjara | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 1/6/2015 4:54 PM

Electric-meter readers soon will be sidelined in Lake Zurich.

Installation of ComEd's so-called smart meters will start next month in Lake Zurich, which is among the smattering of suburbs receiving the technology early this year. Proponents say the meters make the electric system more reliable and cost-efficient, but opponents have raised health and security questions.

 

"It's a virtual elimination of estimated bills," said ComEd's vice president of smart grid and technology, Mike McMahan, who provided an overview of what residents should expect from the initiative during a Lake Zurich village board meeting Monday evening.

With the new digital devices, electricity-usage information is fed directly to ComEd six times daily and can be tracked by customers. In addition, a meter reader doesn't have to visit a home to calculate electricity usage.

James Dudek, external affairs manager for ComEd's north region, said the company is "excited" to bring the smart meters to Lake Zurich.

About 10 days before the installation date, ComEd will send automated telephone calls alerting residents about the coming meters. A contractor working for ComEd, wearing a blue identification badge, will knock on a resident's door before installation to answer any questions.

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"If they're not home," McMahan said, "he'll go ahead and replace the meter and then he leaves a door hanger on the door saying that, 'Congratulations, you've got a smart meter.'"

Responding to a query from Lake Zurich Trustee Jeffrey Halen, McMahan said the meters have been a source of concern about possible data breaches and health hazards.

Addressing the perceived health concerns voiced by activists, such as the Naperville Smart Meter Awareness Group, McMahon said two small radios in the device are as powerful as a garage-door opener or baby monitor. He said the meters typically are outside a home and don't run more than five minutes per day.

"I don't want to marginalize these people's concerns about it," McMahan said, "but there is simply no peer-reviewed data that's scientific that would support that type of (health) concern. We think with proper education, we could help folks get over that."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

On the issue of security, McMahon said the smart meters are designed to prevent hackers from getting the data.

About 833,000 smart meters are projected for installation by ComEd in the Chicago area this year. McMahan said anyone who refuses the smart meter will be billed $21.53 per month for an employee to read the electricity usage at a home.

Mount Prospect and Arlington Heights are among other suburbs announced to be in line for ComEd's smart meters.

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