Upgrading old electricity meter to a smart one

Beatlefan
Beatlefan Posts: 892
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We have an old electricity meter which I think must be around 20+ years old. Before the pandemic the energy company used to read it from time to time, and we'd enter readings online in between - or they'd produce an estimated bill. During, and since the pandemic lockdown, we’ve been entering regular readings onto Scottish Power’s online portal ourselves. No-one has been to read the meter for at least three years.

When we checked our usage recently, we realised that the reading one of the dials on the meter hadn't changed for at least a year. I called Scottish Power and told them about this before Christmas. They hadn't noticed it either, but said it's a sign that the old meter is on its last legs and needs replacing. They have offered us a new smart meter in its stead and given us a date to install it.

The dial that is currently still working seems to be recording usage at the night rate. The day rate dial seems to be the one that's static. Although the customer service guy at Scottish Power thought it might have been the other way round.

In any case, the number of units that the dial is increasing by, does seem to match our usage in terms of how many units it costs to run an oven, etc. We've tracked our usage after cooking, using the washing machine, etc, for example.

The customer service guy at Scottish Power said that if we had underpaid because of the faulty meter, they wouldn't come after us for any money, because I would be quite within my rights to ask them to prove it, which they wouldn’t be able to do. He added that a faulty meter was their responsibility anyway. He said I could request them to produce an estimated bill to take account of the faulty dial over the past year, but that may or may not work in my favour.

He said the best thing to do was to replace the meter and have a smart meter installed. We’re worried though because of all the bad press they have had, and the problems people have experienced. We don’t want to suddenly have much higher bills if they provide false readings. The guy at Scottish Power said many of those problems were because the meters had problems connecting with the energy company’s IT systems (wifi/broadband issue??). And we do live in a rural area. He said that I would still be able to take manual readings myself and enter them onto their online portal. I’m not sure if that’s true or not as I’ve never had a smart meter before.

What does everyone think? Should we go ahead and let them install a smart meter or can we ask for a standard meter to replace our current one instead? Or should we move to another provider?

Many thanks for any advice!

PS: After the extremely high energy bills that everyone endured over the last couple of years, Scottish Power did suddenly drop our monthly direct debit to a much, much lower rate in the autumn, although they now want to put that up by much more than 5% later this month – even though we’re having the smart meter installed before then. You would have thought they would have waited, as a smart meter would presumably give them a far more accurate reading on which to base a direct debit payment. However, I suspect that’s two parts of the business not talking to each other… We are still in credit by around £175.



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Comments

  • Reed_Richards
    Reed_Richards Posts: 3,985
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    edited 5 January at 9:59PM
    So you have a very old meter that is providing false readings and you are worried about replacing it with a brand new meter because it might provide false readings?  Whilst meters do occasionally go wrong (you can find a few posts here from other people with a faulty meter if you look back far enough) it isn't the brand new ones that are prone to do this.

    Sometimes smart meters fail to communicate, if you are in Scotland they do this by a dedicated wireless network.  If that happens you would have to read the meter yourself and supply readings, exactly as you are doing at present and exactly as you were told.

    The only reason I can think of for not wanting a smart meter is that it might not support your current electricity tariff.  You don't mention what that is, except that there is a day rate and a night rate.  The only scenario where you might possibly get an older meter is if you are on some legacy tariff that won't work with a smart meter.  But that would be a very rare thing if it happened.  I doubt if you would be able to move to a new provider until your meter problem is resolved. 

            
    Reed
  • QrizB
    QrizB Posts: 13,634
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    Could we have a photo of your meter, please?
    It sounds as though you have a dual-rate meter (which doesn't mean you have a dual-rate tariff, although you very well might) and the meter has got stuck on one rate, rather than switching between them. This could be a fault with the meter or with an associated timeswitch.
    They will almost certainly replace it with a smart meter. Smart meters work well for most people and there are over 30 million of them currently in use; they're more common now than non-smart meters. If there are problems with the meter communicating its data you can read the meter much as you do your current one.
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  • Archerychick
    Archerychick Posts: 186
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    Not sure I follow the uncertainty of having a smart meter fitted? The biggest risk I guess for you is that you may well have been underpaying for energy usage due to your faulty meter, so you could end up with a surprise.  You can see the meter reading on the smart meters but because they automatically transmit the readings you won’t need to do that, but if you wanted you could check them for accuracy. Like the other comment, you’re likely to only have an issue where you have network issues but again you’d just take a meter reading.


  • JSHarris
    JSHarris Posts: 374
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    edited 5 January at 10:28PM
    If you're in an area where there is good connectivity, or close enough to neighbours for the mesh to work, then having a smart meter is a no-brainer.  There have been 5 terminal smart meters available for several years now, so there's no problem with them handling things like storage heating or off-peak water heating, on Economy 7.  A smart meter on Economy 7 is no different to a dumb meter, with the exception that the switch on and off times will randomly vary by up to 1,799 seconds, to better spread the switching load from storage heating etc.

    The north of the country (from the Midlands up) has a generally better smart meter system, run via a lower frequency (hence better penetration and terrain following) network provided by Arquiva.  The South of England relies on LTE mobile connectivity though, so if you live in a "not spot" then you may not be able to have a smart meter (I am in this unfortunate position).  In general, smart meter connectivity in older properties, with meters located in basements or under stairs in the centre of the house, tends to be more problematic in terms of connectivity than newer properties with meters in external plastic cabinets set into the wall.  Roughly 10% of homes cannot easily get smart meters to connect, mostly older homes and those in rural areas.

  • MikeJXE
    MikeJXE Posts: 3,025
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    QrizB said:
    Could we have a photo of your meter, please?
    It sounds as though you have a dual-rate meter (which doesn't mean you have a dual-rate tariff, although you very well might) and the meter has got stuck on one rate, rather than switching between them. This could be a fault with the meter or with an associated timeswitch.
    They will almost certainly replace it with a smart meter. Smart meters work well for most people and there are over 30 million of them currently in use; they're more common now than non-smart meters. If there are problems with the meter communicating its data you can read the meter much as you do your current one.
    Yes smart meters are more common than dumb meters 57% v 43%

    What they don't tell you is 12% of smart meters are dumb
  • Spoonie_Turtle
    Spoonie_Turtle Posts: 8,149
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    edited 6 January at 3:22AM
    JSHarris said:
    If you're in an area where there is good connectivity, or close enough to neighbours for the mesh to work, then having a smart meter is a no-brainer.  There have been 5 terminal smart meters available for several years now, so there's no problem with them handling things like storage heating or off-peak water heating, on Economy 7.  A smart meter on Economy 7 is no different to a dumb meter, with the exception that the switch on and off times will randomly vary by up to 1,799 seconds, to better spread the switching load from storage heating etc.

    The north of the country (from the Midlands up) has a generally better smart meter system, run via a lower frequency (hence better penetration and terrain following) network provided by Arquiva.  The South of England relies on LTE mobile connectivity though, so if you live in a "not spot" then you may not be able to have a smart meter (I am in this unfortunate position).  In general, smart meter connectivity in older properties, with meters located in basements or under stairs in the centre of the house, tends to be more problematic in terms of connectivity than newer properties with meters in external plastic cabinets set into the wall.  Roughly 10% of homes cannot easily get smart meters to connect, mostly older homes and those in rural areas.

    Just as a reassuring experience, our meter is under the stairs, in a 1940s house with brick walls.  It connected within minutes of being fitted and has, as far as I can tell, stayed connected ever since.  And this is the same house where we need a wifi extender upstairs to be able to use that!  We're in central-ish England but definitely in the south as far as meter connectivity is concerned.

    It would be good for the OP to tell us what type of tariff they're on though, to be advised accordingly.  If it's a specialist heating one (other than Economy 7), that could complicate things.
  • MultiFuelBurner
    MultiFuelBurner Posts: 2,756
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    edited 6 January at 6:42AM
    Hi @Beatlefan

    In simpler terms the fitting of a smart meter means no change at all if you don't want it to be.

    Have you read the MSE article 

    https://www.moneysavingexpert.com/utilities/smart-meters/

    You are obviously a fan of MSE from your longevity here so have a read of that article and perhaps come back with any questions you might have?
    "I can lead you to the money saving well but cannot make you drink from it"

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  • Keep_pedalling
    Keep_pedalling Posts: 16,187
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    You don’t actually have a choice, your meter has to be changed as the current one is faulty rather than on the way out and they don’t need your permission to change it. As others have said getting a SM is nothing to be concerned about.

    I am not sure if what the customer advisor has told you about not being able to bill you on an estimated basis for the non functioning meter, I am sure others on here who have have faulty meters have still been charged from estimates from historical usage. 

    Surely you noticed some time ago that you were not being billed for your night rate, especially if you are using it for heating.
  • Cashmygiro
    Cashmygiro Posts: 101
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    Leccy companies will try anything to get you to switch to a smart meter. There is probably nothing wrong with your current meter and the 2nd rate is probably not used hence why the dial doesn't move.
  • TheElectricCow
    TheElectricCow Posts: 441
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    edited 6 January at 9:54AM
    Leccy companies will try anything to get you to switch to a smart meter. There is probably nothing wrong with your current meter and the 2nd rate is probably not used hence why the dial doesn't move.
    I really don’t think a dual rate meter that has started only recording on one rate can be described as having nothing wrong with it. Or are you suggesting that someone came along one day and just “turned off” the second dial on this 20 year old analogue meter without the bill payer’s knowledge?
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