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The Day I Had A Smart Meter Installed

posted by  Eilidh | A week ago

By now you have probably heard a lot about smart meters – who hasn’t? ScottishPower are supporting the UK Government’s rollout of new generations meters and to date we have installed over 1 million. However, we know that some of you are reluctant to have your smart meters installed. We think this is because of some of the common myths surrounding the new technology.

 The  article was originally published on the BoilerGuide website and is a great example of some of the misconceptions surrounding smart. It’s also a great article on explaining what it’s really like to have smart meter installed from a customer’s view point. Enjoy!

The introduction of smart meters for your electricity and gas were announced way back in 2009. This revolutionary technology was supposed to be installed in every building with a meter by 2020 as detailed in the Conservative manifesto of 2015; that’s 32 million properties at a cost of around £11 billion (and counting).

At the time of writing, around 12 million meters have been installed so far, so not quite the revolution the government had hoped for but not insignificant. It’s well documented in the press that the roll out has had its issues. This has left many bill payers reluctant to have one installed.

Subsequently in 2017 the government (Conservative) changed its manifesto pledge of 2015 so that all customers will now be offered a Smart Meter by the end of 2020, but there’s no obligation to have one fitted. Well almost.

While we the great British public maintain our freedom of choice, the energy companies aren’t so lucky. The OFGEM issued license that gas and electricity companies need before they can service the market contain a standard condition. This condition obligates them to take all reasonable steps to ensure that a smart metering system is installed in each of the households and small non-domestic premises they supply, on or before 31 December 2020.

All reasonable steps isn’t defined but it would suggest, given the huge amounts invested in the Smart Meter program to date, that you’re going to have to say no a lot should you decline to join the smart energy revolution.

Not to be deterred by scare stories in the press or apparent backroom politics, when a member of the Boiler Guide team was offered a Smart meter by Scottish Power, of course they accepted. Any reluctance was put aside in the name of good consumer journalism.

Smart Meter Installation Day

Company installing the Smart Meter: Actavo (on behalf of Scottish Power)

Time required to install Gas and Electricity smart meters: 2 hours 30 minutes

Armed with a list of questions and camera (and a hope that on arrival we didn’t scare the installer off), the smart revolution in an East Midlands house began at 12.30pm.

Gary (a former self employed heating engineer) was punctual, very efficient and happy to chat through the two and a half hours the installation took. We liked Gary; he even asked if it was ok to trample on the plants. He dutifully showed his ID on arrival; if your installer doesn’t do this be sure to ask them for ID. The front of the card will confirm their registration and identity, the back of their ID will confirm their competence to work on gas.

 

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Pre-installation Advice:

Scottish Power provide a “How to prepare for your Smart Seter installation” video which basically tells you to clear any of your household items away from the meter so the engineer has easy access. Here’s the pre-install checklist you’ll be asked to do: https://www.youtube.com/embed/4FhjvNaX7iQ?rel=0&controls=0&showinfo=0

  • Ensure ALL electrical equipment is switched off and unplugged
  • Ensure ALL gas appliances are switched off
  • Ensure the central heating boiler timer and supply is switched to the off position
  • Keep fridges and freezer doors closed

Remember to reset any clocks or timers once the power has been restored.

What Type of Smart Meter Was Installed by Scottish Power?

The old electricity meter was replaced with an Elster AS300P which is the unit chosen by Scottish Power. 

You can download the technical specification of this meter here. 

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This meter communicates with the energy company via mobile sim card using the Global System for Mobile (GSM) so you need to be in an area with some mobile connectivity. Our installer checked the mobile signal prior to switching over. We presume if there was no mobile signal available the Smart Meter wouldn’t have been installed. Should your Smart meter lose signal your data won’t be lost; it will be stored and shared once the signal re-connects.

 

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The meters fitted by Scottish Power are first generation smart meters called a SMETS1 meter. This is what the majority of homes will have installed should you choose to switch to a smart meter prior to October 5th 2018. After that date energy companies are supposed to install a 2nd generation meter called a SMETS2. However, roll out could be as late as January 2019.

Potential Problems with 1st Generation SMETS1 smart meters:

  • If you switch suppliers after installing your Smart Meter, the new supplier might not be able to operate your meter in smart mode, so you’ll be back to meter reading.
  • If the meter that you have installed isn’t compliant with the Data Communications Company (DCC) communications system you might need to have an upgrade installed. This will most likely only affect meters that were installed in the early stages of 2016.

The good news is that the SMETS2 meters should do away with the issues above and the more recent SMETS1 meters can be upgraded remotely so you shouldn’t have to change meters.

The roll out of SMETS2 meters should also make switching suppliers quicker and add the flexibility to switch gas and electricity separately, though given the teething problems so far this may be some time away.

 

Smart Meter Installed – Now What?

 

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Once the meters have been swapped over, your installer (in our case Gary) will provide you with an In Home Display (IHD) unit; you should keep this in a visible place so you can see how much money you’re literally burning through each hour, day or month. Hopefully it will encourage you to turn off a few lights and be less frivolous with energy when you realise that each time you re-boil your kettle it’s costing you about 10p. Anyone a serial re-boiler for one cup of tea?

They provide a handy instruction pamphlet and video to talk you through how to use it. Ask your installer if you’re unsure about anything  https://www.youtube.com/embed/OJD_qIf_KEc?rel=0&controls=0&showinfo=0

 It’s worth noting that the display unit supplied by Scottish Power communicates with the Smart Meter via Wifi. The Wifi signal strength is quite poor and needs to be located as close as possible to your meter. In our case this was a side room which rarely gets used so the visual impact of what you’re spending is kind of lost. It also costs 20p a year to keep plugged in.

Once you’re familiar with the IHD unit then the installation process is done. Our installer did a final check of the boiler and gas hob to make sure they were working and we restored the power.

The entire install process was pretty painless and Gary was a credit to Scottish Power.

Will a Smart Meter Make a Difference?

We’ll update this article periodically to see if having a Smart Meter has changed our habits or lowered the bills. We imagine the impact of seeing how much money you’re spending on gas and electricity on a daily basis will probably wear off quite soon. That said there’s no more taking readings in the rain or snow which is definitely a bonus.

Scottish Power do provide you with some information on what our various devices cost to run:

  • Tumble Dryer for 1 hour: £0.21p
  • Mobile phone: 12 hour charge: £0.01p
  • Washing Machine, one wash at 40 degrees: £0.10p
  • Laptop 2 hours use:£0.01p
  • Dishwasher, one load at 65 degrees: £0.18p
  • Games Console, 2 hours play: £0.04p

Although meter reading is a pain and not having to do it is a bonus, that’s one of the minor reasons we’re being offered smart meters. Being able to switch easily and quickly is another but the main reason is to try and lower our usage of fossil fuels. Switching things off and turning things down may not have a massive impact on your bills, but these small changes aggregated across all UK homes should reduce our negative impact on the planet.

Originally published on the BoilerGuide website.

1 comment
posted by platespinner | A week ago

You were lucky to get a smart meter fitted!  I’ve asked for one and was given an appointment for four weeks later so someone  could talk to me about getting one. I don’t want talk I want a meter. What abysmal service!

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