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Smart Meter Coatings: Failure Isn’t an Option

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Mallory McGuinness | March 31, 2021

Smart meters enable consumers and utility companies to better control, monitor, and conserve energy usage as a key smart grid component. These once simple analog devices are now complex composites of electronics that incorporate metrology, microprocessor control, and wireless technologies. Due to their ability to save money with advanced functionality, the smart meter market witnessed a shipment of approximately 136.45 million units globally in 2020 and is estimated to reach 198.53 million units by 2026.

Sensors and connected components facilitate robust functions such as PCB temperature sensing, switchable operating modes, and tamper detection. They may include thermistors, AMR (anisotropic magnetoresistance) sensors, reed sensors, hall sensors, and shock sensors, electronics that allow for cost-effective energy solutions.

View our webinar on how to improve industrial electronic performance in harsh service environments.

Rethink Smart Meter Repair

While they offer powerful functionality, these electronic components are prone to failure in outside environments when not adequately protected. Excessive moisture, electrical loads, storm damage, and environmental contaminants may cause a reduction in the smart meter product lifespan goal of 15 years.

Smart meter enclosure protection can fall short. The poor conditions of connections and components result from wear and tear, age, and tampering, which cause meter box problems. Rain and heat may also damage components, causing them to loosen or corrode.

Meanwhile, extended lifetime performance is a critical consideration for smart meter product design teams. Repairs, including truck rolls and parts, can cost at a minimum $300 per meter, and smart meter failures can run as much as 3% per annum. With over 775 million meters installed annually, this means that 38 million meters may need service per year.

Field failures result in warranty claims, unnecessary logistics, failure analysis costs, and brand damage. And although smart meters are intended to last 15 years, research indicates that current trends could dip below this requirement.

With a 3% yearly smart meter failure rate, it is concerning that each additional device connecting the meter to the smart grid also has a failure rate. A network is only as strong as its weakest link, but determining which devices are in jeopardy is difficult, if not impossible. The volume of repairs that may potentially be required necessitates a different strategy – don’t make as many repairs.

View our webinar to see if it’s time to rethink enclosures

Prevent Failure With Corrosion Resistant Smart Meter Coatings

To cut costs associated with field failures, product design teams must select the most reliable electronic protection. This decision may require rethinking using enclosures as the only method. HZO’s thin-film conformal coatings save money, reducing smart meter failure rates with corrosion-resistant material properties, thermal management, dielectric consideration, and environmental protection. The coatings are applied to printed circuit boards (PCBs), sensors, and circuitry, providing a reliable barrier to environmental contaminants and water ingress that can last for decades.

HZO addresses the following challenges for smart meter components:

Power System

Installation errors and poor electrical connections can cause meter disruptions. HZO coatings properly seal cables, wiring, and connections during SMT and FATP, eliminating corrosion-related replacement costs.

Microcontroller

Environmental challenges can stress the operational integrity of the integrated circuits. Protective coatings for smart meters minimize the effects corrosion, moisture, dust, and other contaminants have on ICs, PCBAs, and sub-assemblies, reducing smart meter field failure rates.

Communication Interface

When improperly protected, communication interface components can cause signal interference that can interrupt data transmission and integrity. Design teams can protect communication modules from environmental hazards with smart meter coatings, lowering warranty claims on metered products.

Device Enclosure

Expensive housings add to the cost, bulk, and weight of a smart meter. However, it is possible to eliminate mechanical seals protecting at a board, battery, or meter level with coatings, saving costs on the bill of material while improving device protection.

Download our Guardian Series Parylene Datasheet

To cut costs associated with field failures, product design teams must select the most reliable electronic protection. This decision may require rethinking using enclosures as the only method.

Contact Us

At HZO, we are dedicated to earning your loyalty with technical prowess, exceptional quality assurance, cost-cutting automation, and a variety of convenient, high-quality coating solutions. Our team of dedicated engineers will work with you to identify your critical challenges and tailor a solution for your business. As we work together, evaluating your needs and our protection capabilities, you will achieve smart meter reliability that will extend your product’s life and reduce failures. Contact us for a consultation.

Expensive housings add to the cost, bulk, and weight of a smart meter.

Mallory McGuinness

Mallory is an electronics protection evangelist who writes content for HZO. In her free time she is reading non-fiction, and hanging out with her beta fish, King Awesome.

Ryan MooreRyan Moore

Ryan is a 9-year veteran to the world of protecting electronics from harsh environments and a lover of all things technology.

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