Solar panels: new meters

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The old electricity meter, now removed

As part of our new solar panels, we needed new electricity meters. In particular, a new meter was required to measure the “gross feed in tariff”, that is, the amount of electricity we produce and sell to the grid.

The old electricity is shown above; clearly it’s pretty old. I wasn’t unhappy to see it go.

The new digital electricity meter

This is the new electricity meter. It’s digital, and is able to separately measure both the electricity we use, and the amount that the solar panels produce. Unfortunately it’s not the easiest thing to read and, most disturbingly, the Energy Australia installer had no idea of how it worked. So I guess it’s working OK, but it’s hard to tell.

Getting new meter wasn’t simple, and it’s yet another complexity involved in installing solar panels. Firstly, most solar panel companies aren’t able to install the meters themselves, as electricians need special certification to do the work, and the energy companies aren’t in a hurry to give it out.

So you’re likely to have to wait for the energy company to install the new meter. And wait you will. We waited quite a few weeks, and then had to make a few phone calls to actually get the contractor to turn up. If our solar power company wasn’t using their contacts behind the scenes, I fear the wait would’ve been even longer.

Tip: check carefully when and how the new meter(s) will be installed. Double-check any claims that the solar panel company can do this. If not, ensure that they are ready and able to push through the installation, via back-channels with the energy company if needed. Otherwise you could end up in limbo, with panels producing power but no money.

8 thoughts on “Solar panels: new meters

    Oliver Bock said:
    July 28, 2010 at 10:37 am

    The guys with the necessary certification are just a rarer breed of your standard electrical contractor. Rather than thanking your solar company for working “behind the scenes”, you might complain that they didn’t properly arrange for a subcontractor to finish the job in a timely manner.

      James responded:
      July 28, 2010 at 10:41 am

      The actual problem is that most solar panel companies don’t have *any* electricians on staff at all. Instead, they rely on subcontracting as required, often taking little responsibility for organising things end-to-end. Several of the firms I got quotes from were very vague about how exactly everything got hooked up…

    Oliver Bock said:
    July 28, 2010 at 10:41 am

    Anyway, if you think you have a hard time, consider this:

    I have to get a new meter for my granny flat. But I am not allowed to put my new meter in a “noncompliant” (read old) meter box, so I need to get a new one, but my old box is not in a compliant spot, so it needs to be somewhere new, but my old meters are also not compliant and cannot be moved, they can only be replaced, and new meters cannot be attached to noncompliant cables from the street, which requires me to pay to have the cables between my house and the pole replaced. It is still up in the air as to whether the point the wire connects to my house is acceptable. The whole lot may have to be moved to the front of my house.

      James responded:
      July 28, 2010 at 10:54 am

      Ouch! I was fearing exactly the same problems, since I’m pretty sure my panel is “non-compliant”, being too high up if nothing else. Much to my surprise, I didn’t have to fix everything, as it looks like you’re going to have to do.

      That being said, when I get the front of the house rewired as part of the renovation, I think I’ll bite the bullet and get it all done then. Better to have all the disruption at the one point in time…

    msbetterhomes said:
    July 28, 2010 at 2:44 pm

    Wow, I’m very grateful for your posts on the whole solar process – my partner & I will be doing it later this year, and will be MUCH more alert to potential dramas thanks to your experiences.

    skweekah said:
    October 12, 2010 at 10:58 am

    What kind of arrangement do you have? I spoke to a friend recently, he said he received $4000 from the govt, which covered the entire install (no out of pocket expenses — his $800 deposit was refunded on completion). Also, he owns the power he generates, not the power company. He said this arrangement is no longer offered and that the power co. owns the power you generate and put back into the grid. Im sketchy on the details, but wish that the govt grant for this kind of install would cover the whole thing. Any chance of that?

    hdxfh said:
    January 7, 2013 at 5:41 pm

    little off topic but do you still have that old meter??, that would be a great addition to my collection!!

      James responded:
      January 26, 2013 at 11:52 am

      Sorry, the old meter was disposed of with the rest of our building waste 😦

      I can see why you collect them though, they’re quite a lovely bit of industrial design in their own right 🙂

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