Can You Install A Smart Solar Meter On A Strata Townhouse? YES!

Solar smart meter for townhouses

Smart Meter Installation Woes in Sydney. 

Recently we wrote about an instance in Queensland where a solar meter changeover on a detached suburban home had gone sideways. As it happens, another example that caught my attention involved multiple meters in a strata-owned switchboard.

This situation is quite different to a single household installation in the suburbs. However, they are both cases of legacy switchboards that, in a perfect world, would be ripped out and upgraded if it weren’t so bloody expensive.

Mind you, your local electricity network company (DNSP) is often perfectly happy to spend your money insisting you do it.

Happily, there is a cheaper and less wasteful solution.

Q: Can A Smart Meter Be Installed On My Strata Townhouse?

My retailer says no, but an independent electrician says yes! What gives?

Specifically, the customer from Sydney wanted to upgrade their townhouse’s electricity meter to a smart meter for solar panel compatibility. After sending photos of the meter and switchboard, arranging coordination between the retailer and DNSP (Ausgrid) and even paying a fee, the meter technician came only to say they can’t install it! It was a lot of cat herding for nothing.

Cluster of electricity meters

The red arrow shows the meter to be swapped, the one above has already been changed, and one to the left has also been upgraded, with a fuse as required more recently. So for this switchboard, it’s not impossible.

A: You Were Misled! A Smart Meter CAN Be Installed

Getting bad advice from big companies is both frustrating and confusing, but let’s explain.

In the smart meter section of Ausgrid’s electricity meter page you’ll see dimensions and information stating that they don’t perform installations anymore – it’s up to the electricity retailer.

Beware: Webpages can be misleading if they’re not curated carefully, just as DNSP responses can be misleading depending on who’s on the phone interpreting the rules to you – and sadly, some meter installers are lazy too.

No is always the easy answer, and of course, the next option is a full switchboard overhaul, which is easy to recommend when you’re not paying the multi-thousand dollar bill.

Plug in retail electricity meter adaptor

This is the basic kit of parts required.

Context Makes A Difference

Submitting closely cropped photos can be helpful to read the numbers on the meters or switchgear, but if the meter installer rocks up to find a surprise like this hole in the wall (see below), you could be knocked back on general principle.

It pays to have a broader context to explain what’s going on. Even if the powerpoint with soft wiring leading to who-knows-where turns out to be compliant, it can still be a sticking point.

Electricity meter position with hole in the wall

Extension cords leading off inside the walls, broken (asbestos?) cement sheet that should be covering a hole are both issues that can put electricians offside and raise further questions.

The Real Solution: An Adaptor Bracket

Good news! A readily available bracket allows an EDMI Mk7a smart meter to plug into the existing base. This solution is far cheaper than a full switchboard replacement, pushed for by the lazy authorities.

Check out this link for a plug-in base that can easily install a MK7C meter on a standard meter plug.

Electricity meter on adapter panel

Fuse on the left, electricity meter installed on the adapter panel, ready for a terminal cover.

Adapter back panel

The backside of a 3-pin plug that powers your whole house.

Smart Building Services offers a new Mk7C Plug-in base accessory with an integrated industry-standard fuse holder for easy installation. It’s suitable for a Service Protection or Meter Protection fuse assembly, as per the NSW Service and Installation Rules.

Conclusion

This concern has opened up a broader question about the integrity of the information provided by DNSPs and electricity companies and the solutions they offer. Here at SolarQuotes we often have to correct bad advice doled out by big company call centres.

The bottom line is:  Yes, a smart meter can be installed in this strata townhouse’s switchboard. This won’t always be the case, and as more people want to install EV charging, it may be prudent to bite the bullet and upgrade service connections and switchboards anyway.

Just remember to be vigilant, seek second opinions, and don’t fall for someone else’s easy option. There are often innovative solutions available that fit your needs and budget.

About Anthony Bennett

Anthony joined the SolarQuotes team in 2022. He’s a licensed electrician, builder, roofer and solar installer who for 14 years did jobs all over SA - residential, commercial, on-grid and off-grid. A true enthusiast with a skillset the typical solar installer might not have, his blogs are typically deep dives that draw on his decades of experience in the industry to educate and entertain. Read Anthony's full bio.

Comments

  1. Andrew Thomas says

    Hi,

    This is great! Please note that in your article you first mention the Mk7A and then mention the Mk7C. They are two different devices and the device referenced here is the Mk7C.

    Thanks for putting this up. As a member of the EDMI team, our focus is to provide technology to allow these type of options for end consumers.

    We don’t get too much engagement with the end customer, but great to see our distributor Smart Building Services helping to solve these problems for customers.

  2. Do smart meters come with the same cyber security risks as smart inverters or smart batteries?
    Are they internet enabled?
    Could they be hacked, or built with a cyber-backdoor?
    Are there options that are not made in China?

  3. Pete Sarras says

    It was a lot of cat herding for nothing.! Sums up our experience perfectly.
    We chose a local installer ( recommended by SQ )
    Nice people till the meter change . A tech was to attend a few days after the solar system was installed –
    15 x Enphase IQ8HC Micro inverters –
    Trina Vertex S+ TSM-435-NEG9R.28 N-Type cell 435w.
    It seems the tech arrived took a look at our meter box and concluded “new meter would not fit, and just left. No word to us.
    So for over a month and dozens of phone calls and emails to the Solar System installer , Energy Australia, Plus ES and the varied sub contactor level 2 electricians , we finally had a new meter installed. After much finger pointing and not our job from all involved .
    Seems there was a breakdown in communications as what type of meter was required.
    Morale of the story for any strata unit / villa owners is get the meter change first.

    • Anthony Bennett says

      Hi Pete,

      Glad you’ve got it sorted. Now that metering is a retailer responsibility, nobody wants it, not even the retailers, hence it’s often a mess. These are the blessings of privatisation.

      Word of advice is that you don’t change retailers during the meter change either. That’s always a disaster too.

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