by David Sheldon
We have long recommended on this website that people protect their original analog meters. Doing so has always seemed so much better a choice than trying to get rid of a smart meter once one has been installed. Getting rid of a smart meter is much harder than protecting your original analog meter. If you need to get a smart meter removed we recommend you contact us through michiganstopsmartmeters.com or contact smartmetereducationnetwork at gmail dot com.
At first we recommended putting a padlock through the loop and posting a sign of refusal next to the meter. That worked for quite a while. Then we heard reports that installers were cutting off the padlocks or cutting through the loops. So, for more than a year now, we have been advocating meter guarding devices and specifically one type that is made and sold by John Tatar, which we have dubbed the ‘Tatar guard’. We understand that over 500 of these devices have been installed. Many homeowners have enjoyed the benefit of keeping off a smart meter, or at least delaying an installation for a year now. These guards bought time for folks and have, moreover, given many the courage to stand their ground against DTE bullies.
We have recommended that the Tatar guard be secured with a short shackle type of lock pictured at left below, rather than a standard padlock.
But DTE has changed its tactics. They are now sending out installers with instructions to defeat Tatar guards where possible. Of the 500+ guards installed, we have heard reports that at least 5 and possibly as many as 10 of them have been defeated – either by cutting the shackle of the lock (above left) with a grinder or by prying the device away from the house. There are reasons to think that the unprotected short shackle lock and the manner of attachment to the house constitute the weakest links. The above shackle can be protected by surrounding the exposed portion of it with steel nuts or washers, so that there is no space for an installer to use a bolt cutter. Another solution would be to use a hidden shackle lock such as pictured at right.
It is also likely that DTE’s new tactics will escalate because the utility will be emboldened by the February 19th ruling of the Michigan Court of Appeals. We will be putting up an analysis of that decision within the next day or two. That ruling (which can still be appealed) upheld MPSC’s approval of DTE’s so called “opt-out” plan, though it did not dispose of all issues related to the legality of DTE’s “opt-out” meter nor state that DTE had a right to force smart meter installations. Some of those issues still remain for us to challenge in the circuit courts.
We have asked John Tatar to consider improving his product going forward and to also consider retrofitting existing installations for a reasonable cost based charge. Specifically we have urged him to (1) add a heavy gauge steel mounting plate that would slide behind the meter housing and to secure the guard to that mounting plate, and (2) to insure that each guard is installed with either a hidden shackle lock or a protected short shackle lock. Some of the existing installations may require retrofitting to accommodate either of these solutions.
Some modification of John’s original design would surely be needed in order to accommodate the hidden shackle lock. The hole for the lock shackle would have to be in a projecting piece. A possible solution is shown here:
We doubt that any guard that could be made, sold and installed for a price most can afford is going to provide absolute protection against a determined installer. The whole point is to make it hard enough for an installer that he will walk away. Or make it so that the installer cannot remove the guard without damaging the meter housing or the house. We believe that the addition of the above improvements to the guard would likely make the difference between a guard that can be defeated by cutting the lock shackle with a portable grinder in under 5 minutes or by prying off the house in less than 30 minutes to a guard that is more trouble than most installers will tackle.
While John has agreed to consider making such changes, he has made no commitment to do so as yet. Unless or until he does so, we cannot continue to recommend his guard. In the meanwhile those of you wanting to protect your meters may have to consider the more expensive custom made guard cage offered by acstolen in Florida, make one yourself, or have a metal shop make one for you.
We would also welcome hearing from anyone in southeast Michigan who has an idea for a guard. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org