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Can you fit a 6 port / terminal smart meter?

  • 21 November 2020
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Userlevel 1

Hello, 

I understand that the 5-terminal smart meters can replace the old radio teleswitch meters that switch one load i.e. just heating, however I know of some old RTS meters (as my friend has one up in the north of Scotland) that have separate load switching for heating and separate load switching for water both are switched at different times and record usage separately for billing, so effectively I think this would be a 6-terminal meter or multiple smart meters, mpans etc.
 

Can a 5-terminal smart meter accommodate this scenario, if not are there other such smart meters that can? I think they are really worried  they’d be left behind on the smart meter revolution!

 

Thanks

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Best answer by Transparent 24 November 2020, 20:46

Updated 23/02/21 More info on RTS here.

Wow… this is a massive subject!

I’m afraid I don’t have time to write the length of article to do justice to your question @Smartinfo but I can at least provide a foretaste of what the future holds. Hopefully that will enable you to reach a more informed decision on what to do.

 

There are no 6-terminal Smart Meters approved for use in the UK. Nor are there likely to be.

The 5-terminal meters (two live output ports) are really an interim solution to permit installation in houses that already have a tariff such as Economy-7 connected to heavy-current loads.

Multi-terminal meters do little to combat Climate Change, and have very limited potential to increase the use of renewable energy sources. As such we shouldn’t expect to see much effort expended on further development in this direction.

 

The Government strategy is called Demand Side Response. It was laid down in law during the Coalition Government in 2013 when Sir Ed Davey was Minister for Energy. The Smart Meters we are now seeing deployed have emerged from those regulations and they form the backbone on which future energy-related technology must be established.

All SMETS2 meters have a minimum 5 channels of Auxiliary Load Control Switches (ALCS). These channels allow domestic devices to be switched on/off using commands sent through the secure/encrypted network operated by the Data Communications Company (DCC).

BEIS public information leaflet on ALCS control

 

Smart Meters operate on the basis of half-hour (HH) time-frames. They also contain an inbuilt random-number-based time-shift. This ensures that ALCS commands are enacted over a period around the set-time. That avoids the problem of having  all of those Electric Vehicles which have been programmed to commence charging at midnight, then doing so simultaneously and crashing the National Grid!

The downside of the National Smart Meter Network is that it only operates according to the 48 HH time-slots each day.

So if it were known that there might be a surplus of renewable energy from the Avonmouth wind-turbines at 4:20am, there is no command system to delay charging EVs in the Bristol area until the energy supply and demand could be measured.

 

It’s worthwhile looking at the range of domestic devices which could be connected to a smart control system:

 

In many cases the customer won’t mind when their suite of smart devices are actually taking power. Those with a heat-pump would be quite happy to have it operating at low cost on a sunny afternoon instead of during the more expensive early-evening peak a short while later. After all, the energy can be stored and used throughout the evening anyway.

This is the direction which Kaluza are taking with their Flex Platform. At present they have side-stepped the HH timing constraints of ALCS and are instead transferring commands and data across the internet.

The forthcoming Trials with Heat Pumps, and Storage Batteries with solar input are being used to inform the software how it should function so as to make best use of the available electricity generation. At the moment it trades electricity demand and supply only on a National Grid basis. But there’s no reason why it couldn’t be extended to include inputs from regional renewable energy resources.

 

Yes I realise that I’ve strayed substantially from the original question about 5-terminal meters.

But I make no apologies for trying to show where we’re going in future. Only when we lift our heads and see the horizon, can we begin to appreciate how we should tackle the short-term obstacles that currently surround us.

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Userlevel 7
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Hi there @Smartinfo ,

That’s a good question actually! We’re currently working on answering something similar in another thread over at 

It’s a seriously complicated question that I’ve escalated to OVO last night as it’s a pretty rare setup. If you’d like, I’ll make sure to give you a heads up if I hear anything. :)

Userlevel 7
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In actual fact, if you’re OK with this, I’ll probably ask a moderator to move your comment over to the other thread to keep them together. I won’t ask for that without you knowing though and if it does get moved, I’ll make sure you know where to find it

Userlevel 1

Thanks for the quick response, yes that would be great thanks. 

Userlevel 7
Badge +3

You’re welcome. :)

I’ll put that request in now for you. Your comments should stay in the correct order after they’re moved over, so you won’t need to worry about the flow of the other thread being disrupted. We love getting interesting questions like these, so hopefully the advice works for you as well.

Userlevel 7

Great question, @Smartinfo, great shout to move it to its own topic, @Blastoise186 (= done). 

 

From our end I know that we only offer standard 4 port smart meters, or 5th port smart meters, at least that’s the current offering as of November 2020.

 

The question I have is if your friend in Scotland could settle for a 5 port meter. They would both clock on the one ‘off peak’ register, connected to the same port. They would lose the separate register per appliance, but with the smart meter being able to provide lots of usage data online, probably as good an idea of costs, and the option of smart heating technologies linked to the meter. 

 

Let’s see what collective info we can gather, and go from there. Calling in the big guns on this one @Transparent aka the Howitzer (a word I managed to get in Scrabble the other day, everyone was very impressed)... 

 

Are 6 port meters common? Are they future proof?

Userlevel 7
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Hehehe, nice score Tim! But I’d have been even more impressed if you’d managed to pull of Oxyphenbutazone. Instant game winner if you ever get extremely lucky!

Anyway, one of the big concerns I’m seeing with these old DTS/RTS meters is that I think many of them are getting pretty old these days. I’ve also heard reports that the longwave radio at broadcast from Droitwich Transmitting Station which controls them might not be around for much longer, as the specific equipment is wearing out and the legacy RTS service is reportedly nearing End of Life.

It’s a really tough position here as well. On one hand, the legacy RTS service is nearing the end of its days, but on the other there’s not much choice in terms of suitable smart meters right now which can cater for those use cases.

Userlevel 4
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You could always use a timer instead for now. Most tariffs use fixed time windows anyway. 

The future is a properly smart home, with many devices responding in different ways to the electricity tariff. 

Userlevel 7
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Yeah, that I can agree with.

Most thermostats and water heater controls these days should have some way to control what times they run and they don’t have to be “smart” for that to work. It’s probably also less fiddly to do that as well, since you don’t have to create a cable spaghetti to get that to work. :wink:

Userlevel 1

Thanks for the responses. 
Your correct about lack of choice, and as mentioned above I’ve been told the RTS BBC Radio 4 broadcast is coming to an end in March 2023, and as I’m apparently in a electricity network load controlled area I need to keep the separate heating and water switching, and of course it is a good tariff that registers separately. So if the RTS is ending, I’m in a load controlled area and there are no meter replacements like for like, or near, that’s not a good place to be in. Can OVO not retro fit a 3 phase smart meter in a domestic property that can switch multiple load and also register separately? Bit of a long shot. 
 

Another option maybe for two meters to be installed with multiple MPANs, one for general load and heating switching and one for water switching.

I don’t suppose there is much demand for this setup!,

Userlevel 7
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Welcome back @Smartinfo ,

Well, I do have some good news here. It is possible to migrate to a Three Phase Supply and Three Phase Meter with OVO, provided you’re OK with not having a Smart Meter for the time being as there’s no Three-Phase Smart Meters ready to go yet. If you’re cool with that, then there’s a fair chance of making it work and you could always upgrade to a Three Phase Smart Meter once they’re ready to go.

I wouldn’t personally recommend having two meters with two MPANs though, not many suppliers can support that setup and you’d end up paying two Standing Charges, so it’s not great value.

And yeah, the setup you have is somewhat rare because it’s only used in a few places. The best I can think of would be either going with a suitable Single-Phase Smart Meter configured in Economy 7/Economy 10 mode that can control your heating/hot water, a non-smart Three Phase Meter in Economy 7/Economy 10 mode or one of those two types paired up with a simple timer that fires up and shuts down your heating/hot water at the right times.

The only other thing I can come up with, is taking up one of those meter types and upgrading your heating to a smart heating solution. OVO is currently doing one with Dimplex Quantum that’s managed by the Kaluza platform, but others might exist as well.

@Tim_OVO @Transparent have you got any thoughts on this?

Userlevel 7
Badge +4

Updated 23/02/21 More info on RTS here.

Wow… this is a massive subject!

I’m afraid I don’t have time to write the length of article to do justice to your question @Smartinfo but I can at least provide a foretaste of what the future holds. Hopefully that will enable you to reach a more informed decision on what to do.

 

There are no 6-terminal Smart Meters approved for use in the UK. Nor are there likely to be.

The 5-terminal meters (two live output ports) are really an interim solution to permit installation in houses that already have a tariff such as Economy-7 connected to heavy-current loads.

Multi-terminal meters do little to combat Climate Change, and have very limited potential to increase the use of renewable energy sources. As such we shouldn’t expect to see much effort expended on further development in this direction.

 

The Government strategy is called Demand Side Response. It was laid down in law during the Coalition Government in 2013 when Sir Ed Davey was Minister for Energy. The Smart Meters we are now seeing deployed have emerged from those regulations and they form the backbone on which future energy-related technology must be established.

All SMETS2 meters have a minimum 5 channels of Auxiliary Load Control Switches (ALCS). These channels allow domestic devices to be switched on/off using commands sent through the secure/encrypted network operated by the Data Communications Company (DCC).

BEIS public information leaflet on ALCS control

 

Smart Meters operate on the basis of half-hour (HH) time-frames. They also contain an inbuilt random-number-based time-shift. This ensures that ALCS commands are enacted over a period around the set-time. That avoids the problem of having  all of those Electric Vehicles which have been programmed to commence charging at midnight, then doing so simultaneously and crashing the National Grid!

The downside of the National Smart Meter Network is that it only operates according to the 48 HH time-slots each day.

So if it were known that there might be a surplus of renewable energy from the Avonmouth wind-turbines at 4:20am, there is no command system to delay charging EVs in the Bristol area until the energy supply and demand could be measured.

 

It’s worthwhile looking at the range of domestic devices which could be connected to a smart control system:

 

In many cases the customer won’t mind when their suite of smart devices are actually taking power. Those with a heat-pump would be quite happy to have it operating at low cost on a sunny afternoon instead of during the more expensive early-evening peak a short while later. After all, the energy can be stored and used throughout the evening anyway.

This is the direction which Kaluza are taking with their Flex Platform. At present they have side-stepped the HH timing constraints of ALCS and are instead transferring commands and data across the internet.

The forthcoming Trials with Heat Pumps, and Storage Batteries with solar input are being used to inform the software how it should function so as to make best use of the available electricity generation. At the moment it trades electricity demand and supply only on a National Grid basis. But there’s no reason why it couldn’t be extended to include inputs from regional renewable energy resources.

 

Yes I realise that I’ve strayed substantially from the original question about 5-terminal meters.

But I make no apologies for trying to show where we’re going in future. Only when we lift our heads and see the horizon, can we begin to appreciate how we should tackle the short-term obstacles that currently surround us.

Userlevel 7
Badge +3

Woah! The wild @Transparent  strikes again! :laughing: I think that post alone deserves its own thread. Thanks for your thoughts! :wink:

So by the sounds of things, a 5-Port Single Phase Smart Meter might work for this use case if it’s on Economy 7/Economy 10 mode? The sticky problem is that three years sounds like a long time, but it really isn’t at all. And if either of those final two valves at Droitwich Transmitting Station goes bang before then, your current setup will be toast…

I ultimately get the feeling that this would be the only realistic option if you want to migrate away from a two meter/three register Legacy RTS Meter setup. The good news however, is that if you’ve already got some kind of meter installed, I think OVO’s engineers can work on your supply to replace it with a new smart meter, since OVO is able to carry out work on existing supplies (they just can’t create brand new ones right now).

If your friend is OK with both the heating and hot water being hooked up to the meter using the cheap rate under Economy 7/Economy 10 and is happy to find a way for either the smart meter or an external timer to flip the switches for them, I think that would work.

 

This could be a complicated switch however, which might not be easy to do via the website and I’m not sure live chat would work either.

@Smartinfo If your friend would like to go ahead with the switch to OVO, I’d recommend doing it directly over the phone, for which the details are over here. If you let the agent know that you spoke to us on the forums and help them to locate this thread, they should be able to read through everything we’ve discussed here and get up to speed more easily.

But if you need any more advice, we’ll definitely be happy to help too. I hope this thread is useful to you.

Userlevel 7

@Smartinfo I’m sure you agree that we can make @Transparent’s most recent comment the ‘best answer’ to this. 

 

:trophy:

Userlevel 1

@Blastoise186 and @Transparent amazing response and suggestions. Thank you so much, that really has helped me understand the best approach going forward and I can confidently offer my friend the best advice.  Seems like for now moving the heat/water to the same switch and go onto a 5-terminal smart meter is the best route for now, I’ll use these comments and support my friend when contacting OVO. Thanks all.

Userlevel 7
Badge +3

You’re most definitely welcome. We’re glad to be of assistance :sunglasses:

If you or your friend ever need any more help, please feel free to drop by the forums anytime, we’ll be glad to help you out again. Trust me, I can say with full confidence that Transparent is a legend when it comes to figuring out the complicated details!

Good luck with the upgrade and please keep us posted with progress! We’d love to hear from you guys with how you manage to upgrade.

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