KCP&L: No safety issue with smart meters

Metro fires have sparked concerns
Posted at 1:25 PM, Nov 18, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-18 23:48:02-05

The scorch marks are still clearly visible on the outside of Kathryn Roberts's home around her electrical meter box.

In August 2015, Roberts was in her kitchen on the other side of the meter box wall.

"There was smoke through the outlet right there and I yelled at my son to come outside and see what was happening," she said.

"There were flames coming out and up and around two or three feet and just starting to melt all over the box," said Thomas Nielson, Roberts's son.

Like residents all over the metro, Kansas City Power & Light had put in a new smart meter at Roberts's home.

She said after a new smart meter was put in the first time, a crew came back out because the meter was running hot and not providing information.

So the crew put in a second new smart meter.

Two weeks later, the meter caught fire and a crew replaced the meter a third time.

"The guy came out and put this one in and said there's like a bad batch and that they'd had to replace several of them," Roberts said.

"We do not believe, in fact we know, we don't have a safety issue with our meters," said KCP&L Vice President Chuck Caisley.

As Caisley first told us in August when the 41 Action News Investigators began looking at this issue, out of the roughly 700,000 new meters installed in the metro in the last couple of years, there's been only a handful of incidents.

He said like Roberts's home, if there's an issue, it's typically a connection problem.

"We don't have any case where there was an issue where we can say the meter started the fire," Caisley said.

But the 41 Action News Investigators did find one case where KCP&L isn't sure what happened.

When the 41 Action News Investigators spoke to Brooke and Mike Mansell, a series of extension cords was running to their home.

In June, Brooke and Mike were outside at 11:30 at night, later than they're normally up, enjoying their new deck.

They heard some electrical noises and found they were coming from their newly installed smart meter.

"We saw that it was on fire and it was actually contained within it," Brooke Mansell said. "It looked just like a big glow box." 

Smart meter that caught fire

Pictures the couple shared with the 41 Action News Investigators show the aftermath of that fire.

The blaze melted the meter and shot up the building before the Raytown Fire Department put it out.

That department's report states the fire was caused by a short circuit to the meter.

A KCP&L spokeswoman acknowledged the meter was involved in the fire. But she said expert analysis would need to determine if wiring or a meter component caused the fire.

Caisley said meter installers can do everything right and there can still be issues.

"Because electricity travels across such small gaps, there can be problems that just aren't detectable upon inspection," he said.

"We're very fortunate that we just happened to be up and out here because if not, it would've been a total loss," Brooke Mansell said.

"I have children and pets that easily could've been killed," said Roberts. "Our property would've been completely damaged had we not been here." 

Caisley said if you're concerned about a bad meter connection, visually inspect it, but don't touch it.

He said if there's any sign of melting, burning, exposed wiring or damage to the meter box to call KCP&L for service.

Also the upkeep of the meter box is the homeowner's responsibility.

As a result, KCP&L won't pay for painting over the scorch marks on Roberts's home.



Andy Alcock can be reached at

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