Wednesday, 22 January 2020

Mr Drew Gets a Smart Meter

I have watched the painful rolling-out of smart meters with derision.  It's an awful example of bad programme design: why would anyone want to entrust it to energy suppliers, rather than the network operators, which is infinitely more logical?  Inane.

However, I've nothing against accurate readings (of anything, really); and the potential benefits are great.  And I've nothing against the electricity company knowing in real-time what my consumption is: those who think it'll be used to coordinate burglaries on seemingly-unoccupied homes are forgetting that their bank / credit-card provider, and even more so their mobile phone network, generally know exactly where they are at all times, and a great deal about what they are actually doing (maybe, indeed, absolutely everything about what they are doing) - also in realtime. (If you are fool enough to entrust any of your data whatsoever to ScamEnergy, well, that's your business.) 

I must admit I was surprised at the complete lack of outrage when it was revealed that some health authorities are using smartmeter data on a user-identified basis to diagnose early-stage dementia (which apparently they can, via abnormal & random energy-use patterns at all hours) - but there we go: it's always hard to know what's going to upset people and what isn't.

Anyway.  Finally, a well-known energy supplier, obviously under the cosh from Ofgem for delinquency in meeting its smartmeter installation targets, offered us £50 to have a smartmeter: and we said Yes.

Well.  What a damp squib.  Installation was 100% trouble-free; and matey warned us the gas reading would only come through onto the neat little display after "a bit of a delay" -  but it's just so insensitive, in all respects.  The gas reading does indeed suffer a 5-10 minute delay before registering on the display, after either switching on an appliance or switching off (WTF is going on?), and even the electricity reading can lag by 30 seconds - though not always, mind.  

And in terms of the actual, "quantified" readings given (analogue), it's literally a blunt instrument, and grossly so.  My prior understanding was that a skilled smartmeter reader could learn to interpret the difference between the signature read-outs of (say) a kettle vs an electric iron.  Well, maybe back at Big6Co HQ they've got some reading that's finely enough tuned for such differentiation, but our pathetic little SMETS-2 certainly doesn't offer any such refinement.  (BTW, gazing at a modern water meter is infinitely more rewarding in terms of sensitivity to what you're using - you can literally detect a dripping tap.)

This is pretty reprehensible and I want my money back!  Oh yes, I forgot ... they're paying me ...

ND

22 comments:

Matt said...

Welcome to a future of load limiting when the green bondoogles don't provide enough power:

"Load limiting (Elec only): Capability to switch supply off"

from https://www.ofgem.gov.uk/sites/default/files/docs/2014/04/decc_smart_metering_slide.pdf

Hovis said...

Bought for £50 ND I would have hoped you'd have a higher price.

Michael said...

We're not allowed a smartmeter because we're on Economy 7 and that apparently needs an additional electric wire...

Anyone know a proper electrician?

Sobers said...

I wouldn't have a smart meter for £500. Letting the Green Blob get control of your electricity supply for £50 is making selling your birthright for a mess of pottage look like a good deal.

dearieme said...

Oooooh, we're on Economy 7. Does that mean we can switch supplier without having to have one of these?

Talking of things "Smart" are there yet figures to prove that Smart Motorways are a bloody stupid idea, or are we still dependent on intuition and anecdote?

Michael said...

Dearieme, that would be an ecumenical question!

All suppliers are equal, but some will cheat you more than others! You and I own the 'grid', but these little pests just get in the bloody way, after creaming off the 'green' subsidies, and failing to pass them on to consumers!

Actually, my supplier this year insists on the readings it started with, and continues to ask me to continue with them each month! What do I care? It's because they're losing hundreds of splonders each year because the mains clock is knackered, and shows the cheaper rate readings as the lion's share, while the expensive day stuff is minimal!

A smart meter would change all that...

Michael said...

ps - Nick, you know me as Scrobs, and we've often had a few laughs here and there, this is yet another one!

pps - Whatever happened to Blue Eyes?

Anonymous said...

"Load limiting (Elec only): Capability to switch supply off"

Technically they always had that ability, but using it would knock out a whole block.

Now they can selectively reduce or stop supply to individual dwellings.

China's social credit system: Hello.

Nick Drew said...

Good question, Scroblene

(He would probably say: I grew up)

Nick Drew said...

Anon: you should read up on last August's power cuts - they can't (yet) do very much at all when it comes to it

I assure you your phone can be taken out with infinitely more ease

(and most people's water can be taken out by a vandal in the street)

E-K said...

I think I pissed him off, Michael. And one or two others.

I only come to places like this to keep me out of trouble in real life.

I was meant to be a rock star. (In my wardrobe)

E-K said...

The 'smart' thing to do is get rid of your kids and the lodger. We've found that since.

Don't need any meter to tell you that and even if you did have one you'd just spend all your time arguing while not saving any electricity anyway.

Dave Ward said...

A Smart" electricity meter is nothing more than a current clamp meter with remote readout, and you can buy such devices for about £25. The problem (as you've found) is that they only show the TOTAL consumption, and it's very difficult to isolate a specific device. I've achieved considerable reductions to my bill with a plug-in monitor (mine came from the now defunct Maplin, but others can be had for around a tenner). This soon showed the old fridge to be the worst culprit, and a replacement now uses some 40% less. You can't (easily) check fixed lights, but as they have ratings marked on them it only needs a few moments with a calculator to work out what they use. If you've some time to spare, Nick Hunn has written over 40 posts about Smart Meters, from an IT perspective. And NO! - I won't be having one any time soon...

http://www.nickhunn.com/category/smartenergy/

andrew said...

My gas bill was 220 pcm in oct 18.
In feb 19 had a gas engineer in as oven stopped working.
He made a few comments that I translated from authentic somerset gibberish to be "blah blah death trap blah blah explosion". He replaced the (1950s) burner for a new (german) one.
My gas bill was 80 pcm in oct 19.

The moral is, you don't need a smart meter to save money.

Raedwald said...

I have a 2.7m stick in the wood barn. Every August I buy 8m3 of 13% moisture red beech which has to last until about Easter the following year. I take stick readings monthly, and adjust consumption accordingly. This winter I'm currently running in credit. It's an analogue system I'm afraid, but pretty much immune to Russian cut-offs, power failures or government planned outages.

The only risk is that someone may hack my system and shorten my stick.

Nick Drew said...

@ someone may hack my system and shorten my stick

That deserves a witty riposte, Mr R

(Kev may be the man for it ...)

Timbo614 said...

You are all worrying about the wrong thing...
The smart meters have two modes: apparent power and real power. Guess which one we pay based on right now (smartmeter-less) and the one smart meters are capable of. Then name which one is the most expensive for the customer...

It doesn't affect everything but it seriously affects others like TVs computers, plug in chargers, etc. All related to "Power Factor".

Raedwald: you need a Totally Analogue Pole Environment monitoring system, often simply referred to as TAPE measure.

E-K said...

Nick.

I find it's best to keep a log book for such things. Then you'll know if someone's been at your power supply.

Anonymous said...

Almost ended up doing some coding for those things, but the tech was from the Jurassic.

They're dumb and crap, badly thought out and mostly useless. The security isn't all that either.

Give it another couple of years and you'll have actual smart ones, using something like Azure Sphere, that'll do actual analysis of home use and without a kill switch. You'll pay for those, but they also won't phone back to the supplier without your say-so.

We can't have one - too much distance between the gas and leccy meters, plus the gas meter would need moving - it's positioning a work of something other than genius, but one I'm grateful for.

Dave Ward said...

"All related to "Power Factor"

Indeed Timbo, and something my plug-in meter also displays. There is a huge variation, particularly with things like low-energy bulbs, and it's not always the cheap makes that are worst! And virtually every Switch Mode PSU I've checked gets progressively worse as the load it's supplying drops. Then there are the Start-Up-Surge appliances like the fridge & freezer. An old fashioned mechanical meter will barely record these short term increases as there is too much inertia involved - but a Clamp Meter based "Smart" meter can...

Michael said...

But Raeders, a pile of beech comprising 8 cube of actual burnable wood also contains an economic variance between the moisture-laden timber and the interstitial air pockets!

When you collect your winter wood, do you stack it in accordance with EU guidelines, (see EU Regulation 897, addendum 6a - piles and their uses) or in a haphazard fashion so loved by wood-stackers in Kent, where the norm is to mutter 'dyawannit inver back or 'ere' then dump the lot on the car bonnet.

I've seen a Guardian analogue firewood measuring stick for sale at £1,175.00 + vat, and am seriously considering a spreadsheet, possibly similar to yours, where I can also establish: -

1) the wood-pile angle of repose and whether I need a bigger wood shed, and

2) The depth of the dents on my VW Golf's bonnet!

I bet a smart meter couldn't hold a candle to that!

Anonymous said...

Why bother with the display? It just uses (a tiny amount) of extra energy - and only if you're completely thick would you not be able to work out how much money your energy costs you.

I grant that if your meter is really hard to access then the device may make it easier.

Some people don't care, but that's beside the point. I already reduce my electricity use as much as I can (or want to), and I don't need a smart meter to do that. I do read the meter monthly because it only takes 5 seconds to work out whether it seems right or something is sucking energy.

By doing targeted readings you can also gauge the power use of individual devices, as well as looking at their power rating label.