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Why do my Economy 7 tariff times (shown on my 5 port S2 smart meter) not match my meter switch times since switching to OVO?


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I have recently switched to OVO Energy with an Economy 7 tariff.

Shortly before, I had a multi-rate smart meter installed by my previous supplier. The off-peak times were in two blocks: 22:30–00:30 and 02:30–07:30 (times GMT; and also ignore the random switching offset). For the period 00:30–02:30, the tariff returned to the day rate.

On transfer to OVO, it appears that the new tariff information sent to the meter has set the off-peak times to a single 7-hour block of 00:30–07:30 GMT (so currently an hour later due to BST).

However, while the tariff times have changed, the meter’s switching times have not. Thus at 22:30, the storage heater circuit is turned on, but the meter is still charging the more expensive rate. At 00:30, when the meter starts clocking the night rate, the storage heater is switched off. Then, finally, at 02:30, the storage heater circuit comes back on and the meter continues on the night rate until 07:30.

This is a problem for people with storage heaters because the intention is for these to use night rate electricity, as they use a large amount of energy cumulatively. However, with my scenario, they are being activated under the more expensive day rate. Over the course of a year, the additional cost racked up by this will be significant.

Is it possible for the smart meter to be sent updated tariff data to ensure that its off-peak times are aligned with the off-peak circuit activation times?

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Best answer by Tim_OVO 4 August 2022, 14:01

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Hey there @Darren_G !

Yup, this should be a pretty easy fix. It’s possible that the meter is still being migrated to OVO, however if it was already fully commissioned before then you shouldn’t need to wait.

I’d definitely recommend giving the Support Team a shout. They should be able to run a few SMETS Commands to fix this in under an hour as long as the meter has good comms.

If you still have trouble, feel free to let us know.

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This actually also sounds like a potential bug too somewhere, so if you’re happy to show us some snaps of your meter, we can double check what you’ve got just in case.

I’m going to flag this up with @Jess_OVO as well, just in case new members such as yourself with similar setups aren’t being handled properly. The forum is volunteer led and I can’t make changes to your account or meter from here as I’m only a forum volunteer. However, it might be possible to see if this can be prevented in the future.

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That is an interesting problem. Is your smart meter doing the switching - does it have 5 wires connected? I am asking because it is also possible that you still have the switching controller.

Assuming it is the meter, it is a configuration problem. “Smart” meters are not actually all that smart. They just report the electricity consumption back to OVO, and the tariff is applied by OVO, not by the smart meter.

What does your IHD say concerning the current rate? I think it should be able to distinguish between peak and off peak rate. 

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Yep, that too is another possible one. Smart meters that have five terminals on them are fully capable of doing all the switching as a built-in feature that should always match up with the tariff - but some suppliers have been known to install switching controllers alongside four terminal smart meters. The reliability of those controllers adapting to match the tariff is… Not perfect…

I think the external switching controllers were more common with certain SMETS1 meters and early SMETS2 meters from before five terminal models like the Aclara SGM1412-B were available.

When I had my smart meter replaced recently with Raichu, the tariff data was mostly correct in that the correct unit rate was downloaded, but the standing charges weren’t. OVO have confirmed that they’re able to fix that with a SMETS Command but it’s not too bad an issue for me since it doesn’t affect my bills in the meantime. Having the correct unit rate is more important - especially for multi-rate tariffs!

Userlevel 2

Hi, thank you for the swift replies. The photos below hopefully explain the problem more.

It is a five-port meter, so the switching is internal. HOWEVER the fifth port is not actually connected because, on the day of installation, the engineer couldn’t make it work properly. Instead, the old storage heater circuit has been made a 24hr circuit, fed off the main port via a second fuse; this is not a problem because I don't actually have storage heaters, so for me I now just have some useful additional sockets. But I wanted to raise the issue because it is more serious for those who do have storage heaters.

At 11:23 in the morning, all is as it should be with the day rate showing and the off-peak circuit switch (bottom right of display) open.
At 23:47 BST, the off-peak circuit has been activated, but the day rate is still showing.
At 01:37 BST, the meter has deactivated the secondary circuit (switch icon open), but the tariff rate has now switched to the lower night rate.
At the end of the night rate, the secondary circuit is still on and the lower rate is showing (presumably aligning at 03:36 BST, but I hadn’t stayed up to capture that one!)
The meter switches over to the day rate (and deactivates the circuit) at around 08:36 BST.

 

Userlevel 2

That is an interesting problem. Is your smart meter doing the switching - does it have 5 wires connected? I am asking because it is also possible that you still have the switching controller.

Assuming it is the meter, it is a configuration problem. “Smart” meters are not actually all that smart. They just report the electricity consumption back to OVO, and the tariff is applied by OVO, not by the smart meter.

What does your IHD say concerning the current rate? I think it should be able to distinguish between peak and off peak rate. 

The IHD does distinguish between the different rates in the “energy usage now” function, as the cost per hour reflects the rate in force.

It does NOT show separate cumulative totals for the two rates, only total kWh used and total cost per day/week/month.

It shows a countdown before each transition, with six blocks representing 10mins each counting down the hour before changeover, with a red upward arrow if the transition is from night rate to day rate, and a green downward arrow if the transition is from day right to night rate.

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No worries @Darren_G ! Thanks for sharing!

In that case, there’s two suggestions that I can offer here. The first one is of course to get your meter settings reconfigured to match what they should be on.

The other one… See if you can get the Support Team to send you a Chameleon IHD6-CAD-PPMID to go with your meter. It’s a much nicer IHD than the Chameleon IHD3 you’ve got there. :)

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Thank you @Blastoise186 . I will get on the case for my own meter, however as you have hinted, I think this is worth raising upwards, ultimately to ensure that industry standards address this. Hopefully OVO can sort it out for me in this instance, but others who switch might not realise that this has happened so it ought to become standard practice (if it isn’t already) for energy suppliers to ensure tariffs and switches are synchronised when they take on a new customer.

I’ve noticed a few other oddities I wonder if you have encountered before:

  1. You will see from the first photo that the IHD clock is not synchronised to the meter clock. I am surprised by this as I thought the IHD would only be told its time by the meter. Does this normally sort itself out?
  2. The meter clock was about 1min 04sec ahead of actual time when it was installed, and has gained a few more seconds since then. Are the clocks synchronised periodically? This might seem like a trivial gripe, but again if left unchecked then consumers could inadvertently use electricity on the wrong rate if it drifts significantly, especially as appliances become increasingly automated.
  3. The IHD assumes that the tariff transition times are the “ideal” times, e.g. 00:30 and 07:30 exactly; however I understand from elsewhere on this forum that all meters have a built-in random offset to ensure that the grid does not suddenly have a surge when all the storage heaters are turned on or off. Mine appears to switch at xx:36:53. I think the IHD ought to reflect this too, i.e. so that the countdown ends at the moment of switchover.
  4. The tariff rates showing on my meter for OVO include VAT I think; for my previous provider they did not. It doesn’t really matter (as long as the bills don’t apply VAT a second time!), but again this ought to be standardised really.

Finally, I’m really glad OVO has this forum, that issues like these can be shared and discussed and that you have been able to help so quickly. Other suppliers should take a leaf out of OVO’s book! Thank you.

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Interesting. Let me see what I can do for all four of these at once. Feel free to fire any more questions at me too! I’ve already asked for some extra help with the general stuff about meter config but I can't make changes to your meter. If you let the Support Team know about this thread and tell them that Blastoise186 helped you out, they’ll get right on the case. Trust me when I say that I’m well known over there! :rofl:

I’m gonna try to score a hat trick here and say that the first two are supposed to be automatically handled and kept in sync at all times. However, it can be forcibly reset by the supplier using SMETS Commands if something goes rogue. :)

And yup, the IHD relies on the meter as the time server, so fixing the clock on the meter automatically fixes the clock on the IHD.

I’m not sure if IHDs are capable of adapting with the offsets however. Might be a good feature though! Let me try and summon the Ancient Philosopher Timsonius (4th Century BC) on that one. He goes by the name @Tim_OVO these days though. No idea why… :stuck_out_tongue:

The VAT thing varies and it’s a complicated one. I’ve literally just checked this with the Kecleon Brothers and I can definitely say that since both Kecleon Green and Kecleon Purple show the rate without VAT - which matches up with what I get from Raichu. Then again, my Kecleon Brothers are both Chameleon IHD6-CAD-PPMID so maybe your IHD3 behaves a little differently? VAT is applied later and OVO very helpfully shows VAT as a separate line item on the bills to make it easy to see what goes where. You only pay VAT once after all! :wink:

And yup, I’m glad you like the place @Darren_G ! I’m known for bug blasting and basically smashing up everything. But I have… More than that at my disposal...

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Hi @Darren_G

 

Thanks for raising a really important issue, particularly affecting those switching with storage heaters.

 

@Blastoise186  and @MrPuds  have already given some great advice on the way a time-switch works on a 5 port Smart meter. As I’ve got a sneaky advantage I’ve been able to check your meter details on the national database and can see that it changed to the standard 00:30 - 7:30 off peak schedule when you joined us. I’m wondering whether this might have something to do with the way your 5th port was reconfigured when the smart meter was installed as usually the off-peak hours shouldn’t change when you switch. Please reach out to the Support Team to get this corrected.

 

Hope this helps:relaxed:

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And this is another Sekrit Weapon that we have. Muhahahahahaha! :rofl::stuck_out_tongue:

While forum volunteers such as myself are not OVO Employees, the Community Moderators are. So that means we kinda have the ability to call on them to do certain magic tricks where needed. As for how? Secret black magic...

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That is really strange. I think only OVO can tell you whether this is an individual problem (someone typed in the wrong data), or a systematic problem with their backend. But the fact that it did happen all would make me nervous. Time of use tariffs are still such a minefield. 

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I will be honest here. I’ve been starting to make use of some of my other secret weapons recently. And I totally agree that ToU is not a good idea YET. I personally think that before ToU gets rolled out globally across all suppliers, it’ll be crucial to make sure the infrastructure will handle it.

Anyway, from what I’m aware, there’s generally meant to be a standard config for things like various meter models, tariffs, Economy 7, S1/S1+/S2, IHDs and a bunch more so that the right ones can simply be chosen from the system, thrown into a “package” and deployed. This helps to reduce one-off errors and generally makes it easier to maintain stuff, as long as the standard configs are correct.

 

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Yes I’ve noticed that my meter is capable of monitoring four different rates. I presume this is future-proofing for highly-tailored tariffs to be rolled out in future.

Seems like a good idea, but everyone will need to be good at maths!

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Indeed. The ability to track up to four rates is a standard feature of most smart meters. However, not all smart meters are created equally.

As it just so happens, @Tim_OVO managed to get hold of a 100 page user manual (yep, seriously!) for the Aclara SGM1400 Series meters like your Aclara SGM1416-B and the Aclara SGM1411-B that I call Raichu.

He tried to send me a copy, but it’s too big to send! But then again… This Blastoise don’t need no 100 page user manual to figure out what Raichu can do. There’s even features like a Privacy PIN which you can set if you’re clever. Although setting that up apparently notifies OVO (not with a tamper alert though!) because one of the Support Team said they noticed it in the event log. Hehehe...

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I forgot to mention earlier, but we’re actually still trying to figure out what we can reveal about the more fancy features Raichu has publicly on the forum. I can tell you there’s quite a lot of them!

When I say “we”, it’s mainly Tim who’s doing that as I tend to just explore Raichu anyway without really asking anyone, while Tim is trying to make sense of the giant user manual. Hopefully there’ll be some useful info soon! Strictly speaking, I need permission from OVO to tell you some of the stuff I know about S2 Aclara meters. We’re working on it.

Just as a heads up though, please be careful about exploring too deep. Some suppliers booby trap almost the entire meter and set it up to trigger tamper alerts at basically the slightest interaction of any kind, others go overboard with the anti-tamper seals and some do both.

Although I’m working on finding out what the ground rules are with regards what I am (and am not!) allowed to do with Raichu, I cannot guarantee that you won’t trigger tamper alerts by pressing random buttons on your meters. You do so at your own risk as I cannot tell you whether and/or where they’re enabled or not...

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Yes I’ve noticed that my meter is capable of monitoring four different rates.

 

That seems reasonable to me. The world has moved on, and we basically see three different rate regions: low during the night, medium during the day, and high in the evening peak. Having the capability to add one more rate seems good planning. Now if we could make ToU tariffs more appealing, that would go a long way towards reducing the strain on the grid. But the industry is vertically segregated, and benefits for the grid do not easily filter through to us users. 

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The plus side is that at least firmware updates technically make changes like this possible - however there’s more… Complicated stuff to it.

Every smart meter has several different types of firmware components and different rules applied to each one. The Metrology Firmware for example has to be approved via some legally binding process and cannot be easily modified later, while all the other components can on the Meters, Comms Hubs and IHDs be updated and upgraded freely. There’s even some level of flexibility for supplier specific code/firmware too.

As far as I know, the four rate tracking comes under the Metrology Firmware. But I wish I had that 100 page user manual which Timsonius has acquired right about now….

Personally, I’m still not convinced about ToU though…

By the way @Darren_G , due to the fact I live in a flat and I’m just ever so slightly out of range for the HAN that Raichu has, I can’t run the Kecleon Brothers “properly” 24/7. However, I’ve been keeping an eye on the behaviours as I’ve only recently had Raichu installed less than a month ago (getting Kecleon Purple paired up after the engineer had paired Kecleon Green was a piece of cake though!). I’m also single-rate rather than multi-rate.

So far, I’m not seeing any evidence of time drift anywhere on my HAN. Everything seems to match up. The only issue in my case is that the standing charges weren’t downloaded correctly and therefore the wrong ones show up across my HAN. This is something OVO is happy to fix for me, once they fix a few other glitches - it’s only natural that a bug hunter like myself basically smashes up and crashes basically everything! :stuck_out_tongue:

Userlevel 7

Back with an update on this one.

 

Thanks for raising such an important issue, @Darren_G. I checked this to our Smart meter experts who have looked to correct the disparity on your account specifically. They’re also taking a look in to our processes in general to see if this was a one-off or something that needs to be corrected in our processes. So thank you for bringing this to our attention.

 

Let us know if you see the issue corrected.. 

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I’ve also been messing with Raichu and the Kecleon Brothers today, just a little bit. Honest guv!

I did actually catch a tiny bit of time drift between Kecleon Green and Kecleon Purple by a few seconds as one of them advanced to the next minute ahead of the other. However, it’s possible that this is within the acceptable tolerances for the spec anyway, since I’m only talking maybe 10 to 20 seconds or so. And to be fair, most IHDs poll the meter every 10 seconds.

Sure, I could bug report it, but I personally don’t think the drift that I’m seeing is sufficient to justify doing so. If it gets worse, I might consider it though.

In the meantime… I’m tempted to suggest something...

Userlevel 2

Back with an update on this one.

 

Thanks for raising such an important issue, @Darren_G. I checked this to our Smart meter experts who have looked to correct the disparity on your account specifically. They’re also taking a look in to our processes in general to see if this was a one-off or something that needs to be corrected in our processes. So thank you for bringing this to our attention.

 

Let us know if you see the issue corrected.. 

Thanks @Jess_OVO ; I hadn’t actually got round to contacting support yet (my work laptop blocks the chat function :unamused: ) - I’ll keep an eye on things and report back.

Userlevel 2

I did actually catch a tiny bit of time drift between Kecleon Green and Kecleon Purple by a few seconds as one of them advanced to the next minute ahead of the other. However, it’s possible that this is within the acceptable tolerances for the spec anyway, since I’m only talking maybe 10 to 20 seconds or so. And to be fair, most IHDs poll the meter every 10 seconds.

Sure, I could bug report it, but I personally don’t think the drift that I’m seeing is sufficient to justify doing so. If it gets worse, I might consider it though.

 

I agree, a few seconds here or there doesn’t really matter. I’m interested to see that clocks are synced every so often though: prior to having the smart meter installed, I had an old-style Economy 7 meter, and the clock had gained nearly an hour over the five-and-a-bit years it was in place. Successive suppliers claimed that the clock could not be reset.

I programme my heaters to make good use of night-rate electricity but was locked in a veeeeerrrryyy slow game of chase, needing to reprogramme them a few minutes earlier every so often. It also meant that my morning shower had to gradually be a little bit earlier each day in order to squeeze it into the cheap tariff: lie-ins literally cost me money :smile:

It’s a small thing now, but if we are to move to TOU tariffs, with appliances on timers perhaps synced to the national time signal (but not to the meter) then consumers need to have confidence that they are receiving the advertised unit rates when they think they are.

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Haha, I know what you mean there! I’m lucky in that I’m just on a regular single-rate tariff with nothing special or fancy going on. Even if Raichu and the Kecleon Brothers are slightly out of sync on their clocks, it doesn’t really have much impact for me outside of the fact that some of my usage data might not be perfect. But that’s not really too bad to be fair. But I also totally agree with you regarding ToU Tariffs. I’m also not particularly keen to go onto one without an absolute guarantee in the terms of the contract and in practice that Raichu and the Kecleon Brothers would be synchronised with a reliable Time Server at all times which maintains the correct time for the UK.

If that cannot be offered, I will definitely stay on a flat rate. :wink:

Yeeeeaaaahhhh… That’s the problem with traditional meters. The legacy RTS Meters were controlled remotely by a national system which was hooked up in such a way to prevent time drift issues - the Radio Timeswitches in those meters would never drift at all, provided the control signals were sent at the right times. However, not all meters had these as you probably know.

Just a heads up, this is a long comment and a little bit technical. I’ll try not to get too carried away though. :)

Smart Meters are able to get accurate time updates from a sort of Time Server using a protocol that’s similar to Network Time Protocol, or NTP for short. As long as the Time Server the meter pulls the time from is accurate at all times, the meter should be accurate as well - as long as the meter has good comms with your supplier and is able to regularly re-sync itself with the Time Server. You don’t need to do anything to trigger this as it’s designed to be automated. Most Time Servers use either another upstream Time Server to “calibrate” themselves against, or are hooked up to some other super accurate source such as an atomic clock. And even if the Time Server your meter verifies against happened to be slightly out at the time your meter checked in, if that Time Server recalibrates and corrects itself from an upstream source before your meter checks in again, your meter will also get the correction on the next check in. So at least there’s safeguards there!

Traditional meters with local timeswitches had absolutely no way to check or verify the correct time with any kind of external source at all. As a result, if the timeswitch was configured incorrectly at the point of install, it would be wrong until basically the end of time. Because many of them were also mechanical, wear and tear was a thing which also meant it was possible for them to get out of sync as they all got older - quite often actually getting a little slower too. It is pretty much impossible to fix these issues without having an engineer come out to recalibrate the timeswitch - assuming there’s anyone who still remembers (and has permission!) how to actually recalibrate them. And to be honest, if you’re going to keep calling out engineers to fix your timeswitch, you might as well just get the thing replaced. And if that’s gonna happen, you might as well save the hassle and get a smart meter.

I don’t know which Time Server is used to sync smart meters with, but I can definitely say that most radio controlled clocks in the UK pull the time from the Time Signals in RDS (Radio Data System) and I think the various transmission stations around the UK such as Droitwich Transmission Station - one of the three currently used for RTS Meters - are hooked up to an atomic clock at the National Physics Laboratory. Either that one or some other atomic clock somewhere in the UK. I heard it was Rugby once, but can’t remember for sure.

Meanwhile, most gadgets like PC’s, Smartphones, Tablets, Games Consoles, IoT, Wi-Fi Routers etc tend to use Network Time Servers or Internet Time Servers hosted all over the world. Loads of places host them and they’re all made available to use free of charge. There’s actually a few in the UK too!

Phew. This took a while to write!

Userlevel 2

OK so it appears to me that my Economy 7 times have now changed to a single 7-hour window, nominally 00:30 to 07:30 GMT.

However, I’m questioning whether this is the correct change, as two other suppliers say that the standard Economy 7 times for Region 19 (South East England) are 22:30 – 00:30 and 02:30 – 07:30 (what mine used to be).

See:
https://www.scottishpower.co.uk/energy-efficiency/energy-efficiency-toolkit/electric-heating
https://www.npower.com/faq/179 

The question therefore is: are the times decided by the DNOs or by the suppliers? If it’s the DNOs, have my E7 times been changed to the wrong ones?

One possible clue is that on my meter, next to the E7 activation switch symbol, it used to show “LC1” (see photos at the top of the thread). Now, however, while the switch symbol changes, “LC1” does not appear next to it when activated.

Meter showing E7 circuit activated. Switch deactivated a second or two after this.

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Hey, welcome back @Darren_G !

I can see what you mean there! I think however, that the exact timings of E7 can vary not only per DNO and MPAN Area, but also by supplier in some cases. As this may need some extra help from a certain friend of Tim’s, I’ll see if @Jess_OVO and @Tim_OVO can double check this one for you.

As for the meter config, my understanding is that OVO has a sort of “standardised config” that’s all pre-built to cover pretty much all known use cases including where Economy 7 is set on the tariff and should factor in any specific local stuff. It’s worth noting however that as long as you’re getting seven hours of cheaper Night Rates on E7, you shouldn’t have too many issues even if it’s one block of seven continuous hours rather than two smaller blocks. 00:30 to 07:30 does sound pretty standard though iirc.

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