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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.

Adding my situation to this thread, I had a smart meter installation booked 3 months ago, but the engineer advised he couldn’t change the gas meter due to the earth clamp placement, it would need to be moved by an electrician, etc. Difficult to be totally sure if this was actually the case or just an excuse to get away with an easier job of just changing the electricity meter. The property was built in 2013 so would have thought it would be fairly up-to-date / standard in terms of allowing an easy meter change.

I’m quite keen to have a smart gas meter, but loathe to spend money getting the earth clamp sorted if not required, and not exactly sure how much it needs moving by.

Do OVO have a document/specification for the gas smart meters that would confirm how much space/free pipework is needed around the existing meter to allow the switch to take place?

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Hi @CrispyUK and welcome to the Forum.

Firstly, I started a Forum Topic in March ‘19 with copious information about the Installation of SMETS2 Meters. I recommend you have a look over there and pick up some of the background information.

 

Secondly I’ve researched a lot about the earth continuity bonding and I understand why OVO’s Installer has acted as you state. Earth bonding is part of the IET Wiring Regulations which fall under the remit of an electrician.

Have a read of this topic about Earth Bonding of gas pipes.

It’s still possible that your particular situation differs from those described there. So feel free to post a photo if you want further advice.

 

I’m going to ask one of the Moderators (@Tim_OVO or @Nancy_OVO) to move this Topic over to that existing one. That way we can keep all our “earthy” discussions in one place!

Hi @Transparent and thank you for the warm welcome :grinning:

Fully understand and respect that the earth bonding is outside of the remit of the OVO Installer and would require an electrician, no problem with this. However, as I’m sure you can appreciate, I don’t want to spend money on this without an official ‘spec’ as to where it should be moved to to enable the smart meter to be fitted, otherwise another OVO Installer could come out and report it’s still a problem, and so on…!

I’ll grab a photo in the daylight tomorrow and post it here, cheers.

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It’s more than an “official spec” that you require @CrispyUK .

The IET Regs state that the earth bond must be made to the gas pipe within 600mm of where it enters the property.

Equally, an installer may need to make soldered alterations to pipework in order to fit the Smart Meter. He/she may not do this if it compromises the earth bond, either because it’s physically in the way, or because it would be damaged by heat.

I have several solutions for this.

So upload a photo (or two) and let’s see what your situation is.

If it helps you to zoom/crop the photo, I can tell you that the horizontal distance on this Forum column is about 800 pixels. So there’s no point uploading something of much higher resolution!

As promised, please find a couple of photos attached of my current meter installation. Comparing these to your pictures in the thread you have helpfully linked @Transparent, it looks like it should have been a relatively easy switch, assuming Ovo are still fitting the same meter model. The mounting frame added to your box, appears to be an integral part of this box.

I’m not an expert but comparing the photos I cannot see that any soldered alterations would be needed on the ‘house’ side of the meter, it looks like the existing pipework would re-connect to the new meter as-is. The Ovo fabricated pipes indicated by purple arrows in your picture seem to be specifically solving the problem of limited headroom above the meter in your box, my box has a bit more height to it.

I could get the earth bond moved just outside the meter box, although it wouldn’t look as tidy and would be less protected from the elements, so I don’t want to go to the expense of doing this unless it’s required :money_mouth:

Any insight/thoughts would be appreciated, thanks!

Overview of gas meter box
 
Close-up of property side connection and earth bond

 

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Thanks for the photos @CrispyUK 

I think you are correct in your assumption that your meter box already acts as an effective mounting cradle.

However, there will certainly need to be fresh brass connections on the output of the new SMETS2 meter. There is also the possibility that the final nut will need to be outside the meter box itself. Mine is.

So for that reason, the existing earth connection will indeed have to be moved. Moreover it should be located such that the installer still has the option to cut the pipe just outside the box.

Personally I would use a small hacksaw or multi-tool to remove a part of the black plastic shroud and fit the earth-bond just above the 22mm 90º bend. The pipe will of course need to have paint and oxidisation removed at this point.

 

Relocating an earth connection is usually undertaken by a qualified electrician. The whole point is to ensure that it does indeed offer an effective earth, and that means taking measurements back to the earth-block inside your consumer unit and to an earth stake (if one exists).

And this is the main reason why Meter Installers aren’t permitted to move earth bonds. The only way to ensure it is effective is to undertake a full test of the other house earthing.

It is all too common for houses to have inadequate or incorrect earth arrangements. Typically someone may have fitted an earth stake, unaware that most houses are supplied from a PME sub-station. Qualified electricians know the required resistance readings and understand these rules. (DIY practicioners rarely do!)

Quite rightly, OVO aren’t prepared to have their Installers move an earth bond without knowing the integrity of what it’s actually connected to.

 

You could of course move the earth bond yourself. That would mean the Smart Meter could be installed.

But the question then remains… how do you know that it’s effective?!

It is, after all, a safety feature!

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