A meter box acts as a protective shield for your gas, electricity and water meters, protecting them from the elements, as well as preventing any wear and tear, accidental damage or vandalism. The meter itself is vital to the electrical systems of all homes, commercial premises, and industrial properties, keeping track of the occupant’s energy consumption and ensuring that they are billed appropriately and accurately.
In order to ensure a properly functioning gas or electricity meter, consumers need to ensure that not only is the meter box properly kept, it is also properly positioned on the premises. Needless to say, the placement of a meter has tremendous health and safety implications, so there are strict regulations in place that determine where and how a meter can be placed on the premises.
Here we’ll look at everything you need to know about where you can safely and legally place your meter box. We’ll also walk you through the regulations that need to be followed when positioning or repositioning a meter box, and why it is so important to replace a damaged meter box.
Factors that determine the location of meter boxes
When it comes to the placement of your meter box, there are a number of significant factors to consider. These range from safety and accessibility concerns to ensuring the proper functioning of the utility meter itself.
Let’s take a look.
Distance from the main electrical panel
The main electrical panel (also known as the ‘consumer unit’ is key to the electrical safety of your home or business premises. It needs to be located fairly close to your meter box. The meter tails between the main power supply and your meter should not exceed a distance of 3 metres. If this is unavoidable, Institute of Electrical Engineering (IEE) Wiring Regulations state that you will need to install an additional protective device at the nearest point to the supply inside the property. This may add additional cost to the project as it becomes more complicated.
Accessibility for meter reading and maintenance
It’s important to be able to access your meter regularly. Even if you have a smart meter, which automatically transmits your usage data to your energy supplier, it’s essential to be able to access your meter easily and comfortably. Not only is this important for manual readings, it is also necessary should your energy supplier need to make repairs to the meter.
It is important for your meter to be kept in a dry space in either a box or a cabinet. When a meter comes into contact with an excess of water, it can not only lead to a loss of function but potential safety issues. As such, it should be placed far away from areas that are prone to damp or flooding.
Can I change my meter box location if I want to?
There are a number of reasons why you may wish to move your meter. Perhaps you’re developing a new property, or you want to move your existing meter box because you’re planning an extension. Some may also need to move their meter box due to accessibility issues.
Only your energy supplier can move your meter box and meter to a different location on the premises. There may or may not be a charge for this, depending on your reason for doing so. For instance, if you are a pensioner, disabled or living with a long-term illness and need to move the meter to make it more accessible, this will usually be covered by the supplier.
Whatever the case, you need to know that you are moving your meter box safely and in accordance with proper regulations. Which brings us to…
Regulations on the location of meter boxes
There are several authorities that determine the proper placement of meter boxes in domestic, commercial and industrial properties. These are as follows:
Government legislation like The Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1998 and the Electricity Act 1989 cover the fundamentals of where and how utility meters are fitted and the penalties for noncompliance. You can find all relevant legislation pertaining to meter installation and relocation on the government’s website.
These all pertain to domestic, commercial and light industrial meters with a maximum flow rate of 1,600 cubic metres.
Utility companies may sometimes be responsible for moving a meter box from one location on the premises to another. This usually happens when the meter needs to be moved a short distance of 1m or less along the same wall. As such, they must ensure that all work carried out adheres to the appropriate legislative guidelines.
DNOs and gas transporters
Distribution network operators (DNOs) and gas transporters are the companies responsible for maintaining and making additions to the national grid in different areas of the country. Developers and individuals alike must approach their local DNO or gas transporter whenever they need to connect a new property to the grid. They will usually also be the parties responsible for moving a meter box from indoors to outdoors or moving it to a different wall. They will sometimes work alongside registered contractors to ensure that work is carried out to the required standards.
Other regulatory bodies
Other regulatory bodies such as Ofgem, may also have implications for meter placement in a home or business. Depending on where the meter is to be installed, it may be necessary to contact the local building authority to secure planning permission.
Best practices for meter box placement
Now that we know a little about the regulations regarding meter box placement, where is the best place to put your meter box?
While regulations are varied and complicated, the short and simple version is that a utility meter can only be installed in the following locations:
- In a meter box
- In a dedicated meter compartment inside or outside the property
- Inside the property on an external wall
Failure to comply with this can lead to a loss of service, a hefty fine, and having to bear the cost of removing and relocating the meter box. Not to mention the safety hazards associated with improper meter box installation.
With this in mind, here are some tips for meter box placement:
- Measure the distance between the current and new box location. If it is less than 1m along the same wall, it’s likely a job for your energy supplier. If more, your DNO will need to help with the move
- Ensure that the meter box is kept in a relatively dry location, away from flooded areas or areas where extreme temperatures are commonplace
- Be sure to install the meter box somewhere that is easy and convenient to access with no need to stoop or climb a ladder to see the reading
- If you need to dig a trench for cables, regulations state that you can only dig a maximum of 530mm deep and 300mm wide
- Needless to say, you can only dig on your own land
Where do I start?
If you want to move your meter box, start by measuring the distance you want to move it, finding out who is the DNO or gas transporter for your area and contacting your utility provider. They can usually point you in the right direction.
The precise regulations you need to follow, and who is responsible for enforcing them, will depend on the nature of the move. However, it’s important to ensure compliance or risk exposing yourself to serious safety issues and heavy sanctions.