A smart meter couldn't be installed because of an earth cable - why?

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I have to confess I've given up - I've spoken to electrician and gas business owners through my networking contacts - these are professional friends who all think this is a complete comedy that your employees or outsourced contractors are completely hamstrung by your own internal politics.

Whilst they are friends I won't ask them to work for free to fix an issue which your installers should be undertaking anyway. Frankly if you (OVO) have a smart meter which is bigger than any other suppliers meter (and it should be a standardised size anyway!!) then its your problem not mine. I'm over half way through my contract and frankly I'm not paying any more money for stuff to be done to fix a non-existent issue in my eyes. I'll simply just move to a different supplier to get a smart gas meter again.

From all this discussion there are three key learning points for you:

You need to (a) train your engineers to do the basics (b) insure them to do so and (c) change the meter so that its smaller so you match other suppliers sizes which will save you 80% of the aggro of having a larger meter when it comes to install time.
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Firstly @Geo I'd like to thank you for raising this Topic on the Forum in the first place.

I am continuing to have discussions with gas-fitters and electricians about the secondary issue of Equipotential Bonding. In my area of rural Devon, it seems that very few houses have installations that have been checked and certified for compliance.

I have yet to find anyone local to me who has had a Smart Meter installed, where the earth bonding was even raised as a issue. It wouldn't surprise me if more than half of these installations have been completed despite the earth-bonding regulations having not been complied with.

And yet, you would have expected the opposite... that the Smart Meter installation would be an opportunity to bring domestic properties up to the basic safety standards!

Returning to your primary point about the physical size of a meter:

I have never seen a gas meter as small as the one you showed in the photo at the start of this Topic.

There may well actually be a standard for a maximum size. I need to check this.

But if a previous installer has fitted a smaller than average meter, then of course this can create a problem when that meter needs to be changed at a later date.

What's required is a standard "envelope" of 3D space which should be left around a meter such that any exchange can be done effectively. This envelope would also incorporate the designated positions for the support bracket and connections of course.

Such a standard does already exist for the manufacture of external wall mounted meter-boxes (both flush- and surface-mounted designs).

This isn't just an OVO problem. It's industry-wide.
@Transparent The existing smart meter is a British Gas one.

The space around my meter is actually quite substantial despite the carpet needing a trim in the photos, which I've now done. The OVO meter is so large though that even in what I would call a moderate environment it can't be fitted apparently.

I understand the idea of regulations and the principal behind the earth bond but I fail to see why the engineers can't just move it, its just a simple wire with a fastening buckle, its not hugely substantial a task - they are qualified to install what is an electrical item to the gas mains so moving them them should form part of basic training and ergo the insurance if that's the real problem.

I'd have more sympathy if my issue involved re-piping the gas meter and soldering new parts to it - that's above and beyond a smart meter install but a five minute job moving a wire is frankly what I'd expect any self respecting engineer to be able to do. (and actually what my networking professional contacts say should have been done - they are all time served gas/electric engineers and work on large and small domestic and commercial properties I'm not kidding when I say they were extremely bemused by this thread.)
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This seems to be a handy excuse for OVO not meeting the government target for installing smart meters.

"Sorry, Guv the homes were not built properly".

Also, knowing these additional costs it is wrong for the smart meters to be advertised as "free".

A choice was made to not train or insure the smart meter installers to do all the electrical and gas work necessary to install the smart meters.

Have all the energy companies made this decision in this way or just OVO?

At the very least OVO should be issuing a spec or dwg for its customers to issue to their electrician so we are sure of fulfilling OVO self-imposed requirements.
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Thanks for raising this again @Solarpayz

As I now understand it, the issue isn't primarily about the state of the earth bonding connection adjacent to the gas meter. Rather, it is the unknown state of the rest of the earth bonding within the rest of the house.

The Meter Installer isn't qualified or authorised to check that the earth bonding system is adequately connected to the appropriate earth point. In fact, the Installer doesn't even carry the equipment required to perform such checks.

The earth bonding used in UK houses isn't uniform. Some houses must have their own earth stake, whilst those fed from a sub-station designed for PME should not have their own stake unless the DNO identifies that one is required.

Failure to implement the correct system can have serious consequences. If a stake is added to a PME installation, then a fault in the neutral feed can leave houses beyond that point with their own "earth" floating at 80v or above. This would cause electric shocks, and possibly fire.

I have visited a site where an Energy Supplier had subcontracted a Smart Meter installation to a company which had not instructed its engineers on this issue. He had installed a fresh earth wire to a new copper-clad stake outside the front door, which also lacked the required test-point at the top. In fact the reason there appeared to be insufficient earthing to the property was because of corrosion on the decades-old feed entering the property.

Local electricians working in an area know about these matters and have the right test-gear. They are also aware of when they need to notify the DNO for that region and request that they attend on-site to make good damaged feeds.

Where I do agree with you is that there should be an OVO-issued Notice at the time when a customer books a Smart Meter installation. This would provide adequate warning of the possible problem, and allow the householder time to get an electrician to do an earth-test. If, at that time, the inspection finds that the equipotential bond is not within the correct distance of the gas meter, then it can be moved.
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If my gas meter earthing is wrong for a smart meter then so are the 2,500 recently built homes on my estate.

Not only did the geniuses behind the smart meter initiative not agree a standard before they started work, they also failed to inform builders of their requirements.

It’s a mess.
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Please tell me more, @Solarpayz

I am about to write to my MP regarding a problem which has occurred due to the effect of the 2015 Deregulation Act on the way in which energy matters are specified for new-build homes. I need to know quickly if this is behind the issues you are now telling us about.

Firstly, I need to identify your LPA (Local Planning Authority). Your Forum Profile says you are in Kingsway. Which one? London or Cardiff?

Secondly, which of the national house-building companies have been involved in this estate of 2500-ish houses?

Thirdly, only the "Big-6" Energy Suppliers have the authorisation to install meters on large new developments. Do you happen to know which company was responsible for installation of the initial gas meters? (This will be the company that is the Supplier by default when a house is first occupied).

Fourth; For your particular house, are you the first owner?
If so, were you given
  • a 2-year guarantee by the house builder
  • a 10-year warranty, usually from NHBC
  • a Building Regulations Certificate
  • or something else?
The earth bonding for your gas meter is defined by the Wiring Regulations current at that time. It must comply with BS7671.

The Building Regulations (Part-P) state that such an installation may only be carried out by a qualified and competent professional. Thus it is the certified electrician who connects the earth bonding to the gas pipe, which must be within 600mm of the point of entry to the building.

None of this changes when a meter is changed, either replacing a faulty one or installing a new Smart Meter. There is no need for the companies involved in fitting Smart Meters to agree any new specification.

So, just what have they "got wrong" on your new estate?
Have they connected the bonding to the meter connection bends rather than to the entry point of the pipe into the building?

How sure are you that this is reflected across all other houses on the estate?

Could it not merely be the work of one less competent electrician?
Perhaps the one person worked on only a proportion of the homes.
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I bought into this estate early (2007) from John Laing Homes just before they were bought out by Taylor Wimpey.

I’m not sure if this is recent enough for your letter.

I've not checked closely the gas meters on the most recently built homes.

Please see the link for the other builders involved.

Gloucester City Council is the LPA for Kingsway Village.

My main concern now is to have OVO’s spec so my electrician is assured of meeting their requirements.
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Thanks @Solarpayz - you're right; the purchase date is far too early for the issues which have just surfaced. Even an NHBC warranty would now have expired.

There is no OVO Spec for meter positioning.

The relevant points are that the earth bonding should comply with the Wiring Regulations. In 2007 this would've been the 16th Edition. Thus the earth wire needs connecting to the bare metal of the gas pipe as close as can be achieved to the point of entry into the building, and certainly no more than 600mm from that point.

It's the home-owners responsibility to ensure that the electrical installation within their house remains safe and functional. So it's not just a matter of where the earth-bond connects to the gas incomer, but where the other end of that wire goes to!

I've had a second earth-stake installed about 8 years ago (I'm not on PME). The original one no longer provided an "adequate" earth because the ground had become drier and the resistance reading was too high. I also have two further earth points as part of the anti-surge protection for my off-grid renewable energy system.

I appreciate what's involved in an earth-bonding scheme, and I have mine re-checked whenever a certified electrician comes here, even if it's to do other unrelated work. The test takes less one minute.

It's a bit difficult to state anything more about your situation without seeing a photo of your present gas meter set-up. Are you able to post one here?
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Thanks @Transparent for the reg reference.

OVO told me the earth wire is on the wrong side of the meter box and should be moved back as far as poss as in:

”The electrician will have very strict rules about where he can move the earthing wire. However if you could ask him to move it as far back as possible that would be ideal. “

I'll post a photo tomorrow when we have daylight.

thanks again.
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Here is my gas meter box with its earth wire:

I would like like to know if it looks as if this complies and what needs to be done with the earth wire to accommodate the gas smart meter.

many thanks
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Thanks for pics @Solarpayz These help a lot.

So your gas meter is in an external semi-concealed box (like mine). I'm a little surprised to see that the exit pipe leaves the box in copper pipe rather than having a joint at the point where it passes through the plastic side wall.

Have a look at the photo of my gas meter here on this Topic, as it was a year ago.

You can clearly see that there is a joint at the exit point from the box. Anything inboard of that forms part of the meter connection pipework... and thus isn't a point where the earth wire should be attached.

The photo I've just mentioned clearly shows my earth-bonding point, about 100mm from where the pipe actually enters the building.

Now have a look at this photo of a SMETS2 meter installed in another semi-concealed box (not mine). It clearly shows the new arrangement of meter connection pipework, which I've marked with red arrows. The exit pipe to the right is a welded steel angle which terminates in the joint where the pipework leaves the box.

I think the correct place for your earth bonding is right next to the brick wall where the copper pipe finally enters the house. This means it will be attached using a banded connector which is weatherproof. I can't tell if your existing one is, but the blue colour of the tag suggests so.

I don't know if you are on a PME electric supply or whether you have your own earth stake. However, the house is 12 years old and soil conditions will have settled somewhat during that period. It wouldn't be a bad idea to request than a local electrician not only moves the gas bonding point, but also checks the earth resistance for your house.

This is, after all, a safety feature!
It is because smart meters use mobile technology to send us automatic meter readings that reflect the exact energy we use.