The sun is setting on RTS meters
As you may know, some big changes are coming which affect old electric meters that use Radio Teleswitches. Here’s some helpful FAQs about what’s happening.
What is the Radio Teleswitch System?
The Radio Teleswitch System (or RTS for short) is a system that was created to help with the control and management of electricity meters that had special tariffs such as Economy 7 prior to the existence of smart meters. It has a few features that are seen in smart meters today, such as remotely switching between Day or Night rates and automatically turning heating/hot water on or off, but does not have the ability to collect meter readings.
As a fun fact: The same signals and frequencies also get used for the BBC Radio 4 longwave service, and the three transmitters have enough power to blast the signals across the entire country at once.
What is a Radio Teleswitch Meter?
These are legacy meter types that may be known as Radio Teleswitch Meters (RTS Meter) or Dynamically Teleswitched Meter (DTS Meter), however they both work in a similar way. Alongside the electricity meter itself, a Radio Teleswitch device would also be installed and it’s this device which picks up the RTS signals and controls the time switching features on the meter.
So are they smart meters?
Well… Sort of… But not quite. The signal was only ever one-way and had no way for meters to send any kind of replies, while current smart meters can do two-way links. But you could say that they were a really early form of smart meter!
What are DTS/RTS Meters used for and why would I have one?
These meters were mainly used for special tariffs such as Economy 7/Economy 10, HeatWise, WarmWise, Total Heat Total Control and Weathercall. The purpose was to allow entire groups of meters to be switched in one go based on the appropriate tariffs. It also had the ability to be used for certain emergency scenarios as well. They were not used for single-rate tariffs.
What kind of tariffs were these meters installed for?
OVO has never offered or supported any legacy RTS/DTS Tariffs, but other suppliers have done so in the past. A full list is hard to locate, but here’s a few examples of known tariffs:
- Economy 7 (only if a smart meter isn’t installed)
- Economy 10 (only if a smart meter isn’t installed)
- Total Heat Total Control
- Storage Heat Control
- White Meter
- Comfort Plus
- Comfort Plus Control
- Twin Heat
These tariffs sound like good deals, so why doesn’t OVO offer them?
Well… Here’s the thing… They’re all legacy tariffs and RTS/DTS Meters are all legacy meter types which are no longer installed. On top of that, the RTS service is actually shutting down by the end of December 2023 and this would make it impossible to provide such tariffs without smart meters being used. Most of them are also not exactly great value for money either…
It’s also worth noting that almost all such tariffs are closed to new customers (except Economy 7 which is definitely not going away!) and the suppliers which previously installed RTS/DTS Meters are ending support for them soon anyway.
These meters are also on life support at this point, since the BBC has been trying to shutdown the BBC Radio 4 Longwave service since 2014!
I’ve got an RTS/DTS Meter at the moment and it’s working fine. So what’s the problem?
All of these meters are legacy types which are no longer installed by any supplier today. The shutdown of the RTS service would mean that the teleswitching features would completely stop working, which could leave your electricity meter jammed on the last rate it was on before the signal died, prevent your heating/hot water from turning on properly or leave the heating/hot water jammed on 24/7. In addition, many of these legacy meters are reaching end of life and the certifications are about to expire due to age. When this happens, suppliers are required to replace the meter as part of the terms of their licenses.
And I’m not sure I’d want to turn my flat into a block of ice!
But I don’t want a smart meter and I’ve already made it clear that I wanted to opt-out! Can I have a non-smart meter instead? And why is my supplier not respecting my request?
I’m really sorry to say that this probably won’t be an option. Stocks of traditional non-smart meters have all but dried up and when any electric or gas meter reaches end of life, it has to be replaced. This applies equally to all smart and non-smart meters alike.
Due to the rules that suppliers have to follow, suppliers are only allowed to “override and bypass” a smart meter opt-out request in specific circumstances. They cannot bypass just because they want to try and meet targets or boost their stats. However, attempting to force an upgrade due to a meter fault, for safety reasons, end of life meters, expired certifications or for accuracy reasons are considered valid cases to bypass opt-outs.
Opting out mainly tells suppliers to avoid prompting you to upgrade to smart meters without a very good and valid reason and it is part of your consumer rights. Making sure that your meters are safe and your billing is correct can be a valid reason to bypass opt-outs, but they have to justify doing so.
Why is my supplier telling me I need to get a smart meter upgrade, even though I’ve told them I’m not interested and have opted-out and my RTS/DTS Meter is working fine?
Most likely it’s for a reason similar to the above. Opt-outs can be bypassed with a valid reason and the fact that the RTS service is shutting down can be considered a valid reason to bypass this. Your supplier is most likely acting in your best interests and they’ve also got no choice in these circumstances. If you don’t get a legacy DTS/RTS Meter upgraded, the meter will stop working properly once the RTS service has been shut down.
Energy suppliers have a duty of care towards their customers and this also covers making sure any appliances or equipment that is controlled by an energy meter in some way are able to operate as intended. If you’ve got an RTS/DTS Meter and your supplier didn't make arrangements for an upgrade, they could be seen as acting negligently when your house turns into a block of ice during a cold spell because the heating didn’t come on.
Please be advised that this isn’t happening due to any targets or incentives that suppliers get for upgrading to smart meters. The RTS shutdown really is a genuine problem that has had suppliers worried for several years and they’re scrambling to try and solve it before it becomes any more of a nightmare!
I’m no longer with the supplier that originally gave me the meter and I don’t have that kind of tariff anymore. What can I do?
The good news is that your current supplier will be happy to sort you out and they’ll be in touch at some point. While OVO never did offer legacy tariffs or meters that relied on RTS/DTS, other suppliers did so back in the day. All suppliers have a duty of care to help customers migrate over to smart meters, and this includes OVO. Your current supplier will know if you’re affected and they’ll be best placed to assist.
What will happen if I don’t get my meter replaced/upgraded?
Impending doom is sure to follow and there’ll be no way to escape your fate! And you really don’t want to be trapped in a temple of doom with a 500 stone boulder chasing after you…
What will actually happen is that your meter will stop working properly and it may mess up your bills pretty badly. If your heating and hot water are also controlled via RTS, it’s very likely that your house will turn into The North Pole or Sahara Desert… Not sure which one I’d prefer myself to be honest…
Hold up! I’ve got Economy 7 and I’m with OVO?! What do I do?
Firstly, please don’t panic, OVO has considered this possibility. Economy 7 tariffs are fully supported by all suppliers which provide them, including OVO and there’s no plans to change that. If you’ve got a smart meter in Economy 7 mode, you’re good to go and the RTS shutdown won’t affect you.
However, if you are on Economy 7 or Economy 10 with any supplier and don’t have a smart meter, now might be a good time to consider getting a meter upgrade.
I’ve got one of these legacy meters, but I moved to a single-rate tariff. Does this still affect me?
Kind of. The good news is that it won’t hit you as hard, but you would still be affected to a degree. I’d recommend upgrading to a smart meter anyway to make sure your current meter doesn’t come back to haunt you later. Given that the meter is probably reaching end of life anyway and the certification is probably going to expire soon, my advice would be to say that you are affected.
As a bonus, ripping out that old meter might even let you get rid of that second MPAN (Meter Point Administration Number) and drop your bills a bit, since you’d only pay one Standing Charge in the future. There’s no benefit to having two MPANs in these circumstances anyway and keeping it as-is will just burn a bigger hole in your wallet.
What will happen to my tariff?
Good question! Your tariff will be set free into the wild where it can relax and enjoy the luxury of retirement, safely looked after by the best hospitality in the jungle… Meanwhile, a Dungeoneer will cast some magic that summons a much younger and more modern tariff to take its place, just for you.
Spellcasting! R E F R E S H
Or I wish I could say that! The exact answer will depend on your circumstances. If you’re on Economy 7 for example, you can probably just get a smart meter upgrade and continue to enjoy Economy 7/Economy 10 as you do now, since it’s fully supported by all smart meters. Likewise, if you’re on a single-rate tariff, it’s a very simple case of swapping out the meter.
However, if you’re on one of the other legacy tariffs… Yeah… That’s probably going to cause you some problems . I strongly recommend talking to your supplier about your options, or consider switching to a new supplier - you can sometimes get better deals by switching anyway.
Just a heads up though. Once you switch away from a legacy tariff, you won’t be able to get it back. Please make sure to choose your options carefully. Or as Treguard used to say…
The only way is onwards… There is no turning back.
I heard that upgrading to a smart meter is a nightmare and really expensive? Help!
This is a tricky one and I will admit that an FAQ like this can’t cover all possible cases. But we’d love to offer advice though! Feel free to post on this forum and we’ll see what we can do. You don’t need to be an OVO member to ask for help here (plus we’re friendly and don’t bite. We promise!).
I’ve got another question that’s not covered? I’m still confused and need more help! Where can I go?
Right here! These forums are the perfect place for getting help and advice like this, and we’d be more than happy to help you out. Feel free to create a new topic on the forums or reply to an existing one that’s similar and we’ll swoop into action.