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Can I install a smart meter aerial myself? I'm having smart meter communication issues but need this for my Solar PV installation

  • 12 November 2021
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Hi, I had a Aclara Smets2 fitted in February 2021 and the OVO engineer informed me after fitting that there was no communication to the meter and it would therefore need an aerial before the smart function would work. Despite numerous attempts to get the communication aerial installed I continue to be told there are no engineers available to assist. Can I purchase an aerial and install this myself? Within the next 4-6 weeks I am having solar pv installed and need smart meter functionality. 

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Best answer by Tim_OVO 15 November 2021, 10:21

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Hey @Sean T , welcome!

Sorry to hear of the trouble. I’ve got some good and bad news for you.

First, the bad news. I’m afraid you can’t get hold of any aerials yourself, nor install one on your own. All Comms Hubs and Aerials for Smart Meters have to be supplied via approved channels - which are managed by DCC - and can only be installed by authorised engineers, such as those from OVO. You’d never be able to get one on your own legitimately and attempting to install anything on your meter/comms hub would trigger the anti-tamper. Which might also result in your supply disconnecting as a result. This type is a locally triggered disconnection and is intended to help curb energy theft, but you really don’t want to have to deal with that - especially having to get someone out to restore your supply manually.

If you’re not getting much luck with the regular Support Team and feel this needs looking into further, there is good news. Hopefully there should be engineers available sooner or later, but OVO’s Complaints Process can help to flag up cases like this. It might result in something being figured out a bit sooner than it would otherwise.

Hope this helps! We’re here if you need a hand with anything else.

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Hi Blastoise 186, thank you for your reply. I’ll give a complaints process a try. Thanks. 

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Ahh that’s a super long wait you’ve had, @Sean T - I don’t blame you for looking at other options to get these smart meters communicating. 

 

I’d agree with @Blastoise186 that our Support team (complaint or no complaint) is your best option. You’ll be added (if you’re not already) to a list so that an engineer will contact you when they’re nearby. However given how long you’ve had to wait, I’d recommend this gets checked. 

 

The good news is it’s not essential to have the smart meter communicating in order to have those solar panels and the Smart Export Guarantee (SEG):

 

“As long as you have a meter capable of measuring export readings (which could be an export meter rather than a smart meter) you’ll be able to apply. It’s worth speaking to your intended installer as they should be able to help with getting an export meter fitted alongside your solar panels.”

 

More info here:

 

 

I’m super keen to hear more from you whilst you get these panels fitted and how you find them once their installed. You might find this thread helpful as well:

 

 

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Hi Tim, that’s very helpful thank you. I’m going the whole hog and getting 2 Tesla batteries and an ashp as well as a 12kw array in order to get rid of the oil boiler. ROI isn’t my priority but hopefully I will have these commissioned before the current RHI ends. 

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No worries. Once you get Smart Meters installed, you’ll be all sorted for the future and it might be possible to link the export meter to the Comms Hub after the fact in some cases.

That sounds like a very overpowered setup you’re planning on there, I like overpowered and overengineered solutions. Just make sure not to blow any fuses with it!

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That’s too long to be awaiting an aerial @Sean T 

The Aerial and the Communications Hub to which it connects are the property of the Data Communications Company (DCC). They are supplied to OVO for installation.

The ones which can take an external aerial are type SKU2 and are required for only a few percent of properties. The more common SKU1 has no SMA port for an aerial lead.

SKU2 comms hub with transmitter inside the enclosure to the left

The decision as to which type of Comms Hub you require is taken by consulting the National Coverage Map prior to the job being given to the engineer.

I am therefore at a loss to understand how your installer could’ve arrived on site with an SKU2 but no aerial to connect to it! :thinking:

I suggest you follow the earlier advice from @Blastoise186 and use the Complaints Process.

 

As you’ve also now mentioned the imminent arrival of an Air Sourced Heat Pump, can I recommend that you read

and this tutorial about insulation too:

Please feel free to post relevant comments or questions on either of those topics.

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Wow @Sean T - Solar, ASHP, storage. You’re the second new forum member is as many days to tell me they’re getting a green-tech stack like this. 

 

As Transparent called out, we have lots of resources and members with first hand experience of this tech, ready for you to get help when needed. I may also reach out to you directly about getting something posted about your experience during (and after!) the installation. It’s good to get early adopters writing about this stuff so that we build up a log of first hand experiences ready for others to read. 

 

I hope you get this smart meter communication issue sorted quickly once you re-raise this with the Support team! 

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Another topic which @Sean T should be aware of before installation commences is the one where we are discussing the differences between grid-connected and off-grid storage/inverters.

 

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Hi, I feel that my hands are being tied at the moment waiting for my smart meter communication issues to be resolved. Once I have my Solar PV, Batteries and ASHP installed I want to change to a TOU tariff so I can take advantage of the batteries in the winter to ensure my ASHP costs are kept to a minimum by topping up via the cheaper overnight rate. Without my smart meter working this will not be possible and cause me to have higher energy costs as a consequence. Very Frustrating that my smart meter was installed by OVO with no functionality and no resolution to the issue for a period of 10 months!  My existing contract ends in January. If I switch to another supplier will they short the communication issue any quicker or do i continue to wait for OVO?

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Thanks for the update @Sean T 

As for wanting to switch to a ToU tariff - that’s currently not possible. :slight_frown:

a: Only Octopus has ever offered one, and they’ve suspended allowing new users to join at the moment due to the massive increases in the price of gas… which in turn is used to generate electricity.

b: OVO/Kaluza are well behind schedule in releasing their own ToU tariff. I have flagged this subject for discussion with a senior manager at an open video-forum call on 7th December. You can join the call and listen to the answer if you want!

 

Leaving OVO to move to an alternative Energy Supplier whilst you have a Smart Meter malfunctioning is fraught with potential problems.

The switch-process is handled entirely by the Receiving Supplier. However your meter records are accessed in order to verify their status and consumption history. Those records are held by the two national meter databases: ECOES for electricity and Xoserve for gas.

None of us can predict what might happen if those databases don’t contain the necessary details because of long-term technical issues. :confounded:

Your most certain route is to pursue the Complaints Procedure, which I assume you have now opened with OVO.

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Thank you. I don’t want to move away from OVO as I have been happy with the costs and service other than the smart meter issues. I have opened a complaints ticket but not heard back from anyone yet. I am starting to realise that despite the home technologies being available to move to a smarter and greener energy way of life, the national infrastructure is not yet there to support itself. How many more people would ditch their oil or gas boiler in preference to an ASHP or GSHP if their investment in a greener way of life could be guaranteed to be supported by the outside world. I currently use about 40Kwh per day without the ASHP. I need to look at off grid capabilities to nullify the reliance on an outdated infrastructure! 

P.S. thanks for all your help it is much appreciated. 

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You and I think similarly @Sean T 

The technology is not yet adequate to provide consumers with the tools to live in a smarter and greener way.

The ‘visionary’ who started the UK heading in the right direction was the Secretary of State for Energy in the coalition government, Sir Ed Davey. It was he who headed up that Department when the Smart Meter legislation was put before Parliament (2013) and the country’s strategy was changed to be Demand Side Response.

Yes, we now have the Smart Meters but almost all the available functionality is that which the Energy Suppliers find useful. The smart monitoring and control parts of the design, which customers need, are sitting there unused. :slight_frown:

You’re absolutely right to be considering off-grid capability for at least part of your domestic energy portfolio. @Tim_OVO and @Jess_OVO will be noting this because it is becoming an increasingly prevalent comment here on the Forum.

I hope you’ll take the opportunity to read through the discussion I mentioned above in which Dave Shorto and I are gradually exploring the way in which he can achieve this. That Topic is very ‘live’ and being modified as I introduce further concepts.

 

Let us know progress on your Complaint. OVO have 5 days in which to deliver their response.

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That’s very helpful thank you. Until now the energy companies have had the consumer over a barrel in that we need a supply of energy in one respect or another and their only concerns are their competitors - provide a value for money service and you are sure to get the customers provided your competitors do not provide better value for money. With the advent of storage batteries, solar pv, wind turbines and possibly small scale hydroelectric the consumer (i.e. me) is now thinking that we may not need to bend over that barrel quite so often. If it means I have to spend £40k+ but I am no longer at the mercy of the fluctuating costs of energy with the additional benefit of being zero net carbon, I’m in. I would rather work in harmony with an energy provider to keep my costs as low as possible, and I understand they must make a profit but I use around 14,600 kWh/year and 3,000 liters of oil. Once the ASHP is installed my electricity consumption is likely to be 20+ MWh/year so the benefit of producing my own green energy (with zero net carbon) becomes very attractive and the energy companies need to recognise that and encourage a symbiotic relationship with consumers. All industries change with time (I’m a Vet and the Veterinary Industry has changed massively in the past 15 years with most Veterinary Practices now being owned by corporate companies) and the energy industry will be no different. Octopus, and Tesla, have had some innovative ideas that financially make sense to the consumer but have not or cannot implement them. Once these come to fruition most energy companies will be forced to follow suit. Time to get ahead of the curve! 

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Leaving OVO to move to an alternative Energy Supplier whilst you have a Smart Meter malfunctioning is fraught with potential problems.

The switch-process is handled entirely by the Receiving Supplier. However your meter records are accessed in order to verify their status and consumption history. Those records are held by the two national meter databases: ECOES for electricity and Xoserve for gas.

None of us can predict what might happen if those databases don’t contain the necessary details because of long-term technical issues. :confounded:

Your most certain route is to pursue the Complaints Procedure, which I assume you have now opened with OVO.

 

Just wanted to step in here to clarify this one, @Sean T - As you’ve mentioned the possibility of switching suppliers with non-communicating smart meters, it’s worth pointing out that your meter details should be updated within 6 weeks of the installation date, regardless of whether we’ve been able to communicate with the meters. The main factor to consider when switching in this case would be that the opening meter readings would still need to be provided manually to the new supplier as they’ll be unable to receive these automatically.

 

 

Thank you. I don’t want to move away from OVO as I have been happy with the costs and service other than the smart meter issues. I have opened a complaints ticket but not heard back from anyone yet.

 

Sorry to hear that you’re still waiting on a response to your complaint, @Sean T - if this was raised more than 5 working days ago it would be worth getting in touch with the Support Team (or the dedicated complaints agent if your complaint has been escalated) to query the latest on this one. If we’re not able to resolve things internally within 8 weeks, you’re then able to take this to the Energy Ombudsman for independent review - hoping this helps get things resolved.

 

 

And at this point I think the Moderators will be suggesting we start moving this content into a new Topic entitled Off grid v grid connected.

That would be more likely to be found by others.

What do you think @Tim_OVO ? Have we diverged sufficiently away from discussing a Smart Meter aerial?

 

Great point here, @Transparent (Tim’s away so I’ll be manning the ship solo this week!) - There’s certainly been some deviation from the original topic title in some comments which I’ll move over to a dedicated thread now:

 

 

 

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As the new topic is now ‘live’ I’m just re-raising the profile of the SKU2 Smart Meter without an aerial.

Any response from OVO regarding the complaint yet @Sean T ?

Can I suggest you try to upload the raw meter-readings to your online portal at shorter intervals than 1-month. This will provide the Billing System with more data on which to plot your consumption trend during winter. That will avoid the software making incorrect assumptions and requiring the DD to be increased.

The usage-record is also useful if/when you switch Energy Suppliers. More frequent data gives greater confidence in the seasonal usage curves.

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