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NEMA Releases Statement Concerning Meter Socket Lifespan and Inspections


3/13/2013 9:35 AM

As the result of the rapid expansion of Smart Grid and advanced meter infrastructure, many utilities around the country are replacing existing electricity meters with new solid-state smart meters and two-way communication devices. These new systems offer significant new benefits to the consumer and utility (electricity service provider). For the first time, these new meters will allow the consumers to adjust their electricity use in response to the price of electricity that varies throughout the day.

New smart meters are often installed in pre-existing meter sockets. Meter sockets are expected to operate safely for many years. However, the safe operating life of the meter socket may be reduced by many factors including (but not limited to) excessive moisture, environmental contaminants, frequent changing of meters, excessive electrical load (overload or short circuit), vandalism, ground settling, and storm damage.

As utilities move to two-way communications for meters and remote meter reading, the opportunity for periodic and repetitive visual inspection of meter sockets is expected to decline radically. The interval between site visits by utility personnel could be as much as 100 times as long as the current monthly opportunity for inspection. Only the utility has the opportunity to inspect the socket due to the utility seal. For this reason, the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) strongly recommends that all existing meter sockets be thoroughly inspected when electrical meters are installed. Inspection criteria should include (but not be limited to) indications of excessive heating, corrosion, loose connections or components, deformed socket jaws or damaged clips, broken components, failed insulation, damage due to ground settling or vandalism, or any exposed live parts. Although rare, fire is one possible consequence of these meter socket conditions.

If any damage is discovered, the meter socket should be replaced with a new meter socket that meets current specifications by a qualified electrician prior to the installation of the new meter.

For more information, visit NEMA’s “Smart Meter Facts” page on its website.

NEMA is the association of electrical equipment and medical imaging manufacturers, founded in 1926 and headquartered in Arlington, Virginia. Its member companies manufacture a diverse set of products including power transmission and distribution equipment, lighting systems, factory automation and control systems, and medical diagnostic imaging systems. Worldwide annual sales of NEMA-scope products exceed $120 billion.

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