My gas meter is displaying "valve open fail" - what should I do?

  • 29 September 2018
  • 13 replies

I have an old smart meter, I have had no gas to any appliances since Friday evening and the meter is displaying open valve fail. It sounds like a battery fail. How can i get an emergency repair? Can't get through to OVO helpline until Monday??


Best answer by Nancy_OVO 2 October 2018, 14:22

Hi @Jimmy76ab,

In this scenario I'd say the best thing to do is call the team on 0330 303 5063 as soon as you can. We're open from 8am to 6pm on weekdays.

Can you let me know if you've managed to get this sorted now?


Updated 26/02/2020

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13 replies

Userlevel 6

Hi @Jimmy76ab,

In this scenario I'd say the best thing to do is call the team on 0330 303 5063 as soon as you can. We're open from 8am to 6pm on weekdays.

Can you let me know if you've managed to get this sorted now?


Updated 26/02/2020

Yes, customer service on monday was very helpful and engineer arrived within 2 hours. But not happy that there was no emergency helpline over the weekend. my family managed but if there was a baby or disabled adult innthe house it would have been grim.
Userlevel 6
We appreciate your honest feedback, @Jimmy76ab. I'll make sure this is passed on. Glad everything's sorted now.
Hi Nancy,

Can I ask, does the valve close if the battery goes flat on a gas smart meter? Also is there any warning locally or remotely of a low battery?
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Yes @geeeezer , both Smart Electricity and Smart Gas meters are required to "fail safe" in the event of the control electronics ceasing to operate. That means - no energy flows.

There should be a low-battery beep issued by a gas meter. See this discussed here.

I'm unsure if this warning is also transmitted to your In-Home Display. I don't (yet) have one.

If you had no warning, then it may be more than just a flat battery. They are designed to last 10 years.

I agree that there needs to be some sort of 7-day emergency call-out for this issue. There are a substantial number of elderly and vulnerable consumers who would not be able to survive without gas or electricity over a weekend. I'm surprised that such a requirement isn't built in to the Ofgem Regulations.

What's OVO's stance on this @Nancy_OVO ?

If the Energy Suppliers aren't providing 7-day cover for their PSR customers as a basic minimum, then it's the sort of issue I'd be raising with my MP. I don't know who yours is, but mine is excellent at demanding such stuff gets sorted out by the relevant officials.

And if it needs a change of law, then so be it. That's what MPs are for!
Many thanks for your reply. Is it Ofgem that requires this fail safe mode?
In fact it is actually unlawful under Ofgem regulations to cut pensioners and other vulnerable people , utilities from 1st October to 31st March. The big six have signed up to protect a much bigger group of vulnerable people and all year round. The fail safe mode would directly undermine this legislation with indiscriminate disconnection of gas supply’s at any time, in fact more often on colder winter days as batteries are much more likely to fail with a temperature drop.
I am currently in dialog with Ofgem on this matter but they have stated the gas supply remains on in the event of a battery failure. This is very interesting news and I also will be very interested to see OVO’s official response.

Ofgem Legislation :
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I agree with what you write, @geeeezer.

We may have stumbled upon an anomaly in the SMETS protocols.

From a technical viewpoint, I can't see how a gas meter can keep the valve open in the event of a battery failure. By definition, there is no power to open it, nor control circuit to issue the "open valve" command.

Nor do I believe that the valve is "normally open" unless it gets powered shut. This would give rise to widespread theft of gas!

By the way, I'm aware that @Jimmy76ab 's original message was probably not a flat battery... because otherwise there would've been no power to tell him that the valve-open command had failed!

But the general point remains the same... we're agreed that there must be a regulatory and practical system in place which prevents customers being left without energy over a weekend, particularly if they're on the PSR! I can think of several ways to achieve this, depending on the reason for the failure.

I'm still thinking of writing to my MP. He's a renewable-energy enthusiast, and will quickly grasp the implications of a Smart Meter failure. Should I wait 'til you've heard anything from Ofgem?
A smart meter uses a latching solenoid valve or a motorized valve as a valve that required power to stay open would drain the battery very fast. As such an affirmative instruction is required to change the state of the valve from open to closed. This is a deliberate action to cut the gas supply and not caused by a fault. Power is not required to keep the valve in a particular state.
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I agree with your statement from a technical viewpoint. I have several such mechanisms in my own house, such as the valves or my underfloor heating.

However, if the battery fails whilst the valve is open, I'd still expect the valve to close rather than stay in its last position. From a safety viewpoint, there has to be mechanism which allows the valve to stay open whilst consuming minimal power.
Any comments from OVO at all?
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Well someone @ OVO has been reading here because I got a "Like" from @Tim_OVO on my message from last weekend.

Have you heard anything more from Ofgem yet, @geeeezer ?

I'm standing by to write to my MP, but he's just a tad embroiled with something called a Brexit Debate at the moment!
Userlevel 5
@geeeezer If the battery dies for a Pay monthly customer then nothing should happen as the valve would be open. If the battery is low, then we get alarms for this on our internal system. We then monitor these and add them to a list if we need too. 🙂
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Ah, this is extremely useful info, @Lucy_OVO .

Today I've been at a National Energy Action seminar about Smart Meters where this issue was discussed.

So, firstly I'm pleased to see that a Smart Gas Meter will stay "live" if the battery fails and it's a Pay Monthly Account.

Secondly, this is the first I've learned that the Energy Supplier receives an alarm/warning if the battery is low. I can't see this specifically in the list of SMETS Commands, so I assume it's within the Status Message "Communications Hub Status Update ? Fault Return".

Some users on this Forum are reporting a catastrophic battery-failure, with no alarm warning. Is this because
  • they weren't within audible range of the gas meter, (but it did beep)?
  • it doesn't get reported on the IHD?
  • a sudden battery failure can't be communicated due to no power?

3 I still have concerns about customers with a PAYG account.

I'm going to suggest that this group is more likely to include those in fuel-poverty, and those on the Priority Services Register. So I am doubly concerned that they could be left without gas over a weekend.

Are you able to say how OVO might address such a scenario please @Lucy_OVO ?

National Energy Action are setting up a network of local-community Energy Champions. So if OVO themselves don't (yet) have an answer, then there are other options to explore. Can we please keep this discussion positive whilst we discuss solutions?