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The Day I Had A Smart Meter Installed

posted by  Eilidh | 10 months 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.

15 comments
posted by platespinner | 10 months 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!

posted by ROGERC | 8 months ago

I hope yours works as it should.  Our 'smart' meter is 'stupid'and only reads electricity despite there being , I presume, a rather expensive 'smart' GAS meter installed at the samer time.  Despite numerous contacts on the subject, one ongoing at present,  Scottish Power have singularly failed to resolve the problem.  This means I still have estimated readings or have to provide them with meter readings.

posted by stevewoodward | 7 months ago

My inhouse display packed up and it is a nightmare trying to get a new one,  Scottish say Octavo will bring one out and Octavo say Scottish should do it...between them none of them are doing it, can I buy one and set it up with the meters myself?


posted by Whitemonk | 7 months ago

Big disappointment with SP's IHD.

I expected it to tell me how many watts I was consuming - it doesn't appear to do so.
Wifi communication useless in most of my flat - only useable when I stand in front of the meter which is outside my front door.

Re-installed my Current Cost clip-on device, which works all over my flat and tells me how many watts I'm using.

 

posted by tm1234 | 7 months ago

Who has the time to be at home for 2.5 hours during the week?! If I want to be able to afford to pay for my gas/electricity I need to work! Also, this 2.5 hours isn’t at a set time, it starts in a longer window of 4 hours... would love to get one but just not happening unless there is a better system for arranging the installation.

posted by Whitemonk | 7 months ago

Mine turned up at the beginning of the allotted time slot, but didn't phone ahead. And was a bit off about giving me the pre-arranged password.

Only did half the job too - didn't like my gas meter, so left it - just took a few photos - said SP will be in touch - nothing happened.

Haven't bothered using the display as it doesn't show current consumption in watts.

 

posted by STEPHENJOHN1974 | 6 months ago

You were lucky I waitied in all afternoon. No one came or phoned. I had checked the day before they werer coming. as the girl making the appointment was going to phone me straight back and did not.  I am not able to be here for afternoons or mornings with out a lot of bother.

At this moment in time I am thinking they know what they can do with the smart meter!!!

posted by stevewoodward | 6 months ago

Well they did turn up at the 4th appointment and fitted the new IHD, the guy who attended only lives in the next village! and said the problem seems to be SP and Octavo not talking to each other.....seems to be sorted

posted by Davc | 4 months ago

The IHD radio connection is actually not WiFi and nothing to do with your home broadband router. The IHD uses a different sort of weak radio signal. Also the IHD is only a display like a computer monitor, it does not take part in sending data so it can be switched off if it is not needed or not working correctly. A final comment, if you need to read the gas meter it will be necessary to press buttons to light up its little screen. An installing engineer should always show you how to take manual readings. 

posted by Ash175 | 4 months ago

Had an appointment for an engineer to fit smart meter today. The engineer never turned up and there was no warning that the engineer would not be showing up. Took time out from work for the appointment . Extremely disappointment and this is the second time I have been let down. No apology received yet

posted by Sc6365 | 3 months ago

Had two smart meters fitted on 6th March and still not working yet.   I've had numerous calls to SP to get a commissioning appointment and no one will take responsibility for doing this.  Spoke to someone in the Liverpool call centre called Matthew last Tuesday and he agreed it was bad service and would take ownership of the problem. He said he would ring me last Thursday and still waiting.....  I've lodged two complaints on the on line chat and have got absolutely nowhere.  If I behaved like this at work, I'd get sacked!!  Abysmal service.  I can't do my own meter readings on the new Smets2 and I have no way of knowing my consumption.  Caught between a rock and a hard place springs to mind..... 

posted by Davc | 3 months ago

@Sc6365 Sorry to hear the problem. You can read your smart meter in two ways. On the IHD display you can call up the meter readings. If that is not working look at the meters, the gas meter needs a button to be pressed, the electric meter should be displaying its reading on its screen.

posted by sc | 3 months ago

Had smart meter fitted 14th Feb.  Meters fitted but signal not working so no readings can be taken.  Numerous phone calls to no avail.  on phone now still waiting after half hour for someone to talk to!!!!  Wish I had read comments first.  Good luck everyone else.

posted by JMG | A month ago

I must confess that - although the installer did absolutely fine, the meter and IHD are a complete total and utter joke - and not a very funny one. Since install, it refuses to report anything sensible to the IHD; I can accept technology fails (as an electrical engineer myself) , what I cannot accept is SP saying they have no solution and can't even predict when there will be one. I have some sympathy with SP, they are not being well supported by their supplier (the meter and IHD manufacturers) who are churning out junk. If I were running such a contract (which I do daily) the supplier would be engaged to solve the issues, or they would be gone and unpaid for their work. I cannot undersdtand how SP are letting them away with it, SP are getting hauled over the coals by customers for an issue in their supply chain. 

posted by Davc | A month ago

Hello JMG, good comments, I would only add that it may not be the hardware causing problems, also  the software and firmware. SP have attempted a number of IHD upgrades but they seem to lead to yet more bad data. 

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