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Smart Meters and Radio Frequency (RF)

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Why do we have smart meters in Toronto?

In 2006, legislation was passed and regulations were enacted to facilitate the “Smart Metering Initiative”, a set of policies designed to ensure that Ontario electricity consumers were provided with smart meters, and to implement Time-of-Use (TOU) billing for residential and small business customers. Through these legislative initiatives, Toronto Hydro was expressly authorized to install smart meters for its customers, in order to support and advance the Smart Metering Initiative. Smart meters are used to measure hourly electricity use for the purpose of implementing Time-of-Use (TOU) rates. Smart meters assist customers by providing access to hourly energy consumption information which can then be used to help manage energy usage and costs. In addition, smart meters help utilities more effectively manage power outages and reliability issues.

Click here to learn about how smart meters work.

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 How do smart meters communicate?

Smart meters register hourly electricity usage and communicate the data wirelessly to a nearby collector where it is then transferred to Toronto Hydro’s billing system. The wireless communication is similar to other common household devices, such as Wi-Fi routers, cell phones, and baby monitors. All of these wireless devices contain low-power radios that emit radio frequency (RF) energy when transmitting data. 

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How often do smart meters communicate?

Toronto Hydro smart meters may communicate for three different purposes: data transmission, network synchronization, or network maintenance. Laboratory and field testing confirm that the number of transmissions can range from 4-13 times per hour.

Contact rfinquiries@torontohydro.com to request copies of the RF field studies.

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What is radio frequency (RF) and how is it measured?

RF energy is one form of electromagnetic energy that is a component of the electromagnetic spectrum, which covers microwaves, visible light and X-rays, as well as many more kinds of energy emissions. RF energy, sometimes called “RF emissions,” “RF waves” or “RF fields,” is generated when a source current, such as a transmitter, is fed to an antenna. This current excites electrons within the antenna and the energy moves outward in the form of an electromagnetic wave.

RF energy in the electromagnetic wave has electric and magnetic components. Its strength can be described by each component. The units “volts per metre” (V/m) and “amperes per metre” (A/m) are used to express the “electric” and “magnetic” field strength components respectively. Another common way to describe the RF energy strength is by power density or the power per unit area, e.g. “watts per squared metre” (W/m2). Source: Industry Canada.

Learn more about how RF is calculated.

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How are RF emissions regulated, and what are the current standards?

Radio Frequency is regulated Federally by Health Canada and locally by the City of Toronto. Health Canada has developed a guideline called Safety Code 6 (2009). This standard takes into account the power density and the frequency of the emission, as well as how often these emissions occur over a given time interval, or the “duty cycle”. The City of Toronto has adopted a much more stringent standard which is governed by the City’s “Prudent Avoidance Policy on Siting Telecommunications Towers and Antennas”. This policy reduces the exposure limit of RF fields to 100 times below the Safety Code 6 limits in areas that are readily accessible to the public. Toronto Hydro’s smart meters comply with the RF emission standard contained in the City of Toronto’s Prudent Avoidance Policy. Further, based on independently verified testing, Toronto Hydro’s smart meter RF emissions are less than 1% of the of the City of Toronto’s RF tolerance - one of the strictest exposure limits in the world.  .

Visit the Health Canada website for their review and recommendations on RF and/or the World Health Organization. Their website has a number of international studies and resources.

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Are there health risks associated with this type of communication?

Exposure to RF energy at levels below the regulatory limits is considered to be safe. These limits are based on the lowest exposure level at which the potential harmful effects to humans could occur. Safety factors are then incorporated to arrive at recommended exposure levels for protection of the general public. For further information relating to RF health risks please visit: Health Canada.

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For more information, or to receive a copy of Toronto Hydro's full study results, contact rfinquiries@torontohydro.com