Will your storage heaters work in April?

by The Curious Scribbler 

I seldom use my website for rants about consumer issues but today I am moved to share my concerns on a matter which may affect many of my local readers if they heat their homes with storage heaters.

If you use the  Economy 7 tariff you may still have a meter which uses a radio tele switch to tell the system when to charge up your storage heaters with off peak electricity.  A separate circuit delivers off peak electricity to the storage heaters and hot water cylinder.  It probably turns on at around midnight and turns off at 7am.  It may be a large black box beside the meter labelled RTS.

Radio teleswitch - WikipediaOr the switch mechanism may be in a white meter such as mine which is labelled Radio Telemeter series K.

 

Radio telemeter help | Electricians Forums | Electrical Safety Advice | Talk Electrician Forum

With some models you hear a loud click when the switch operates. Very soon this system will cease to operate because the BBC long wave radio frequency will be switched off.  The OFGEM website reads thus:

If you have an electricity meter that uses Radio Teleswitch (RTS) technology

The BBC radio service that supports RTS meters is being phased out and is planned to end 31 March 2024. If you have an electricity meter which switches between peak and off-peak tariff rates, such as an Economy 7 or 10 tariff, or it automatically turns on your heating or hot water, you may have a meter that uses Radio Teleswitch (RTS) technology. Read about the changes and how they affect households in the Radio Teleswitch electricity meters: consumer guidance.

So if I do nothing the storage heaters will cease to work on April fools Day.

Scottish Power, they of the impenetrably unhelpful customer service, are eager to install a Smart Meter (indeed the government target demands that they do so within a year or so)  but because of the location of my property, where there is no phone signal, a Smart meter will not communicate with the Smart Metering Wide Area Network  ( SM-WAN).  Scottish Power knows this.   And as OFGEM succinctly puts it

Areas where smart meter signals do not work

Smart meters need a signal to work. The signal comes from the Smart Metering Wide Area Network (SM-WAN). This is a national network that connects smart meters and energy suppliers. Your electricity supplier will tell you if your home can connect to the network and if not what your options are for replacing your existing meter.

Scottish Power does not appear to offer options.  They simply want to install a Smart Meter, perhaps in hope that one day the signal will be improved.

Of course where Smart Meters do work it is possible to receive differently priced electricity by time of day, even without a separate storage heater circuit, so not everyone will be affected.  But I suspect there are a lot of radio teleswitches out in rural Ceredigion and in older flats which will not have been upgraded before the deadline, and some which may never be able operate their storage heaters again.

OFGEM writes

We are monitoring the progress of suppliers and have asked them for updates on their work to replace and upgrade all RTS meters. They must make sure that their customers have a suitable electricity meter installed and that their service is not disrupted.

I live in hope but am seriously worried.   I can find no reliable source of advice.  Meter installers are mysterious subcontractors who cannot be contacted except by your supplier.  I guess a lot of people will wake up to a cold and expensive April.

 

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9 thoughts on “Will your storage heaters work in April?

  1. The fact that a smart meter cannot send data out is, actually, irrelevant. A smart meter without transmission is still smart enough to run a dual tariff economy 7 household. You just need to take manual readings for billing.

    How do I know? We’ve just been (end November last year) through the process, on a house in Devon, with no phone signal at all. We had a 1987 vintage radio teleswitch for the night rate switching. I contacted Octopus, our provider, and discussed it with them. They instantly confirmed we would need new metering from end March – and also confirmed that a smart meter can be fitted and would be smart enough, by itself, to run a dual tariff, even without external connections.

    So stop seriously worrying. Seriously get on with getting a smart meter fitted instead. Make sure the installer knows that you need economy 7. They will have a variety of smart meters to choose from and not all will be suitable. Ours is a kaifa ma120.

    • This is deeply encouraging, thank you for your explanation. But I did speak with Octopus the day before yesterday and the customer service operator said that he was afraid he had never heard of a Radio Tele-Switch and could not advise! I then emailed the Octopus Operations Team and have yet to receive a reply…

  2. Thank you for alerting us to this issue. I had huge problems trying to get a Smart Meter removed from my flat which had been installed by a tenant. I was told by my electrician to get it removed asap as it didn’t recognise the cheap night and peak rates therefore my heating was costing a lot more..It took weeks of begging and pleading with SP and hours of waiting on the phone. Not sure what type of meter they replaced it with but at least it recognises both rates now. I am thinking of getting new radiators and will consult my electrician again to see what is best. If I hear any good advice from him, I will pass it on.

    • Your experience of SP sounds familiar. last year I spent about 40 hours on the phone trying to stop them reversing the rates at which they billed me because the off peak was being charges as Day and the Peak as night! I really do not want to go down that rabbit hole again. I wonder whether your OK meter is a Kaifa MA120 as recommended by the last commentator?

      • Just checked and mine is a E150 Single Phase Meter. One of the other flats I noticed does have the Kaifa but as it is rented out, I couldn’t guarantee that the tenants would be aware of its effectiveness.

  3. Wow – is this relevant! After a power cut 2 weeks ago, our economy 7 switched the times it comes on (still 7 hours but now during the day). I wrote to Octopus to tell them and it was obvious from the reply that they have no idea how Economy 7 works. Doesn’t bode well!

    I think I’ll write again and ask what they plan to do about the switchoff of RTS.

    • Yes I spoke to Octopus and the person on the line had no idea what a Radio Telemeter was and why it mattered. I then emailed the Operations team (who don’t seem to answer their phone), but have had no reply so far. Keep writing!

  4. If contacting your supplier I’d suggest email or letter rather than phone, as with phone all you get is a realtime chat with someone who may not be briefed on all this. A written note can lead to a more informed response as they can actually look it all up. My Octopus experience – which led to rapid action, was initially by email.

    Also, it may be unnecessary to be so hurried – there’s news just out that RTS switching may continue for another year or more. See https://www.elexon.co.uk/documents/change/issues/101-150/issue-108-issue-report/

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