The Knoxville Utilities Board will begin a program in July to install 400,000 smart meters across East Tennessee during the next four years.
The new meters contain communication devices to automatically notify KUB of any power outages, and will allow the company to track customers’ electric, water and gas usage remotely.
Some residents expressed concern about potential adverse health effects, citing harmful radio frequency signals – or RF signals.
"If this analog meter works fine, why don't we just keep it?" asked Rae Jones, who lives in North Knoxville.
Jones has hosted community meetings with other residents concerned about the new meters. Although the company maintains the RF levels are safe, she worries it’s still too early to tell.
"There's not hard and fast science that says that this is dangerous, but there's also not hard and fast science that says that this is not,” she said.
10News looked into those concerns and found that according to one research group, the Electric Power Research Institute, RF exposure from smart meters is 250 to 1,250 times less than that of a cell phone.
A 2013 study by the World Health Organization maintains no adverse health effects have been established with radio frequencies at the level admitted by smart meters.
Still, Jones worries it's too early to know the long-term effects. She also said there are privacy concerns with the constant transmission of energy usage data.
Senior Vice President Eddie Black said the meters transmit customer data over a private, secured network.
It's a $54 million project but in the long run, they're saving money by no longer sending out crews to read meters.
Customers should get a letter from KUB about 30 days before their meter is replaced.
Anyone can choose to opt out, but all customers still have to upgrade their meters from analog to digital.