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On site work and meter exchanges - DIY tutorial series

  • 28 September 2020
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On site work and meter exchanges  - DIY tutorial series
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On site work - your guide

 

This article has three sections:

  • General issues - issues with smart meter communication or height that could cause a job or appointment to not go ahead.

  • Electricity technical information - cabling or devices that may be found on site and any issues these would cause for an engineer

  • Gas technical information - pipework or structures that may be found on site and any issues these would cause for an engineer

 

If you need to book in an engineer appointment with OVO, see this guide to confirm costs. 

 

If you’re not sure who is needed to do the job, see this guide on who owns what. 

 

General issues - Broken meter box


The meter box is normally installed by the DNO/transporter following either the installation of a new supply or alteration of an existing one. Once the work is completed the meter box is classified as being the responsibility of the property owner.

Most engineers will not install a meter in a meter box that is missing a door or is not secure or in good repair. Regarding gas supplies: Under paras 3 and 5 of Schedule 2B, the Gas Code of the Gas Act 1986, the consumer is responsible for taking ‘proper care of the meter’ and ensuring the gas meter is adequately housed either within a building comprised in the premises or ….‘in a separate meter house or other accommodation outside a building comprised in the premises which is approved by the transporter…'

Some DNOs/transporters can provide (at a cost) a service to maintain the member's meter box.

General issues - Far apart


Why does this cause an abort?


If your gas and electricity meters are 10 meters or more apart from one another, it is unlikely the HAN signal will stretch this far and this would lead to a non communicative gas meter. See this topic for more info on what this means for your SMETS2 appointment. 

How do we resolve this?

  • For S1 meters, we might be able to send a relay in the post. Reach out to our Support team and be ready to confirm if: the meters are in meter boxes/cupboards; whether you in a house/flat; and the distance between the meters. 
  • For S2, we currently have no way to boost the signal between the meters. You can choose to move the meters closer to one another via your Gas Transporter or their DNO. Reach out to them directly for advice on this.


General issues - Meter(s) higher than 6 foot

 

Why does this cause an abort?


The current meter is really high on the wall - this is a safety issue for the engineer.  
 
How do we resolve this?


We are unable to resolve this unless the customer can have the meter moved down by the DNO or transporter. Reach out to them directly for advice on this.

General issues - Poor signal


Why does this cause an abort?


If you have no phone signal anywhere near your electricity meter, we won’t do the exchange, as the meter wouldn’t have smart functionality.

How do we resolve this?


If the meter has been installed and has no communication, then there might be further steps we could do to solve the issue. See this topic on a meter health check for Secure smart meters, and this topic on a meter health check for Aclara or Honeywell smart meters.

Electricity technical information - Armored cables


What are they?

Armored or SWA (steel wire armored) cables are often used in blocks of flats, sometimes around a red link. If they need to be installed, the owner of the building (or 'Building Network Operator' (BNO)) would be responsible for doing this and it can be expensive. 


Electricity technical information - Concentric cables


What are they?


These are older style cables that have a live, neutral and earth within them. Sometimes our engineers may come across these during install.

Can we work on these?


Yes - BUT we cannot exchange these into your consumer unit. This means we would either:

  • Install an isolator and ask you to get an electrician to upgrade the remaining cabling

OR

  • Attend the job at the same time as the electrician.


Electricity technical information - Leaking bitumen


What is it?


Bitumen is a liquid which can be found in the mains service cable and cut out within a property. Sometimes when an issue arises on these equipment, bitumen may leak.

What should we do?

  • If you find leaking bitumen and it is hot, please call your Distribution Network Operator (DNO) as soon as possible to report this, as it is deemed dangerous. If an engineer is on site and notices leaking hot bitumen, then they will call the DNO on your behalf. The DNO should be attending within 4 hours to rectify the issue and make it safe.
  • If you find previously leaked bitumen and it is now cold, then this still needs to be reported to the DNO but it is not deemed to be immediately dangerous. Likewise, if an engineer is on site and finds this, they should be able to continue with their work (meter exchange, meter maintenance) and then report it via their job notes to us, who will then forward onto the DNO. This will be categorised as a 'C02' network action code and the DNO have 6 months to attend the property to investigate and resolve.


Electricity technical information - Looped neutral

 

What are they?


A looped neutral is similar to a shared neutral but it is when you have two or more meters next to each other in a property. Instead of being wired up to individual neutral blocks, the neutral is wired in series from meter to meter so they all share the same neutral and it is wired from meter to meter.

 


Can we work on these?


No. Unfortunately in these circumstances there isn't anything we can do as every property connected to the neutral will need to be de-energised, it also requires the consent from each meter supplier for the work to go ahead. If you requires a meter exchange, we recommend you contact the DNO as they may be able to separate the neutrals, though this would be a complex job. 

 

Electricity technical information - PME - Protective Multiple Earthing


What is PME?


PME is a type of earthing from the cutout to the electric meter. It is generally installed as standard at the vast majority of new electricity connections. Some older supplies do not have it and may need to get it installed. See @Transparent’s comment below for more info. 

Who is responsible for the PME?

  • Supplier - As the supply we can only check to see if a PME connection is still live
  • DNO - Only the DNO can install or remove a PME system, so if you need to have PME installed/removed, please contact your DNO directly


Electricity technical information - Pyro cables

 

What are they?


A type of electrical cable made from copper conductors inside a copper sheath, insulated by powder. They were used as they were very fire retardant.

Where can they be found on the metering system?

  • Between the cutout to the meter
  • Between terminals 4 and 5 on the meter
  • After the meter

 

What will happen if I have pyro cables?

  1. Engineer attends a job and finds pyro cables on site
  2. Engineer must then call a Senior Meter Technician (SMT) for advice and take photos, and aborts the job - this is because the cables are easily broken, and could leave you off supply
  3. We will arrange for an SMT to carry out a site survey and the exchange


Electricity technical information - RCD - Residual Current Device

 

What are they?


A life-saving device which is designed to prevent you from getting a fatal electric shock if you touch something live, such as a bare wire. It can also provide some protection against electrical fires. They are found on the consumer unit and should be present in all new builds after July 2015.

Who can install them?


An electrician can install these if they are required as they are fitted within the consumer unit (fuse box).


Electricity technical information​​​​​​​ - Red link

 

What are they?


A red link is often installed in blocks of flats with a communal cutout supply. It allows the supply to be de-energised without affecting any other supplies. In practice, it acts as another cutout.

 

If a red link is present…


A job should not be aborted because red link is already installed at the property. The engineer should be able to work on it without issues.

 

The maintenance of a red link is the responsibility of the Building Network Operator BNO (an organisation that owns the electricity distribution with a multiple occupancy building).
 

If a red Link needs to be installed?


We would advise you to contact the owner of the building (or 'Building Network Operator' (BNO)) to organise for a qualified electrician to have this installed.

When would a red link need to be installed?​​​​​​​


In blocks of flats were the Bemco main fuses sit in the basement and there is no local means of isolation to work on the meter safely.

Can it be used to solve shared cutout issues?​​​​​​​
 

We’re afraid that’s a NO.

Electricity technical information​​​​​​​ - Shared fuse / Shared neutral


What are they?


A shared fuse/neutral is when either the fuse or the neutral block is shared between two or more supplies. In order to safely install a meter we need to de-energise the property - this requires us to remove the fuse and neutral block to the associated property.

Can we work on these?


Yes - BUT we will need you and your neighbour (or who shares the fuse/neutral with) to give permission to de-energise both properties. We will also require access to the associated property to run some safety checks after re-energising the property, meaning both you and your neighbour need to be present during the job.

Electricity technical information​​​​​​​ - Storage heaters / underfloor heating


Why does this cause an abort?


In order to work properly, night storage heaters and underfloor heating require a 5-port meter. The 5th port/terminal controls when these appliances turn on. Otherwise, these appliances would either be constantly on or constantly off.

How do we resolve this?


If a job was aborted due to these being present, you can re-book the appointment but make sure to add to the notes that a 5-port meter is required.

 

See @Transparent’s excellent guide on domestic heating, part 1 is here


Gas technical information - Double flexi/anaconda pipes


What are they?


Normally, gas meters have a flexi inlet pipe and a solid outlet pipe - see the image below:

 

 

On some supplies, the solid outlet will be replaced by a flexi outlet, meaning there is 'double flexi' pipework. Double flexi should only be present on semi-concealed meter set-ups where there are space restrictions (they are unsafe on wall-mounted set-ups). 


Gas technical information - Electrical earth bonding


What is it?

​​​​​​​
Electrical earth bonding (or cross bonding) is required to stop you or the installer from getting an electric shock from the gas pipework. This is something that all properties should have, however older ones may not. The bonding attaches the earth cable to the outlet pipework (see bonding clamp below).
 



Why is it aborted?


We are not allowed to move or alter the earth bonding. Therefore if we need to complete alterations on the pipework, we are obstructed by the earth bonding. This usually happens either on a semi concealed exchange, or if there is lead pipework that needs to be exchanged. If this is the case these jobs can’t go ahead.

What advice if this happens?


You would need to organise for an electrician to relocate the electrical earth bonding. The earth bonding needs to be within either 600 mm of the meter outlet, or in the case of an external gas meter it can be within 600 mm of where the pipework enters the property. Once this has been done, you can contact us to re-book the job.

What should we not do?


We should not exchange/install new pipework and leave the cross bonding unattached. If this is the case, please contact us ASAP. 

Gas technical information - Purging a gas supply


When does a gas system need to be purged?


If an engineer interrupts the gas supply (when exchanging a meter) engineer would need to purge the system.

What is the process on site?

  1. Turn off the gas supply
  2. Remove the old meter
  3. Install a new meter
  4. Purge gas supply
  5. Relight appliance.

 

​​​​Why does a system need to be purged?


Between steps 2 & 3 above, air enters the gas supply system, which would mean the appliances won't relight. Therefore we must purge the gas supply - this is the action of releasing gas into the system, which forces removal of air. Once the air is fully removed, we are able to relight the appliances and have all of the member's appliances back in use

Gas technical information - Semi-concealed gas meter


​​​​Why does this cause an abort?


The engineer will require specialised kit to make sure that the meter is fitted correctly.

How do we resolve this?

 

  • If it wasn’t specified that the meter is semi-concealed when booking the appointment, we can re-book the appointment but will need to make sure to add to the notes that the meter is semi-concealed
  • If it was previously recorded, please send us meter photos to see if there is an issue with space or an unusual ECV (sometimes replacing the ECV in semi-concealed boxes can be difficult due to the space). Send it via email to: hello@ovoenergy.com. 

 

That’s it for our very long and very technical guide about on site work - have we missed anything? Let us know via a comment below...


1 reply

Userlevel 7
Badge +2

I’m not entirely happy with the inclusion of this sentence in the section about PME

Some older supplies do not have it and may need to get it installed.

The underlying reason that PME is supplied by the DNO is because the earth is provided by the design of the substation transformer.

That’s why properties with PME should not also have their own earth stake. Any earth-stakes within an area supplied from a PME substation are installed solely by the DNO, who are aware of the issues concerning a “neutral fault”.

A substation operating with PME feeds will be marked as such, as will any poles carrying overhead wires.

Attrib: Bob Harvey

 

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