27 July 2014

SPARKS RECENTLY had an emergency call out from a client who had suddenly experienced a power cut in their holiday home on an urbanisación in Torre-La Mata. He had checked his consumer unit and discovered everything was switched on. Then he contacted Iberdrola to check the status on his account, to be told that it was perfectly in order. Iberdrola suggested contacting an electrician as there obviously was a technical problem.

I arrived and quickly discovered the problem was simple… the client had overloaded his electrics and activated the kill switch in the new Smart Meter which Iberdrola had just installed.

Iberdrola are engaged in a nationwide Smart Grid improvement programme and are currently replacing all the traditional electricity meters across Torrevieja with Smart Meters. The new electricity meters have an integral kill switch which automatically disconnects the electricity if you exceed the amount of power that you are allowed. The kill switch or power limiter, known as an ICP, was previously a manually operated switch fitted in the consumer unit and easily accessible within the property. The new automatic ICP is now housed inside the new Smart Meter which is located in the meter cupboard outside the property, sometimes inaccessible. Some property owners don’t know where their electricity meter is located.

There are twelve different approved Smart Meters that provide two different methods of restoring the electricity in the event of a power cut caused by consumer overload. One type has a green reset button on the meter and must be pushed to restore the electricity. The second type is reset by switching the main switch off at the consumer unit for ten seconds, then switching it back on.

What this means is that it will become a major concern for a lot of property owners whose meter cupboards are generally locked. In the event of a power cut caused by having too many powerful appliances switch on at the same time, resetting the ICP will be somewhat problematic.

To avoid being caught out, ensure that you are contracted for a sufficient amount of power with Iberdrola. Most homes will generally need a minimum tariff of 5.75 kW to avoid nuisance power cuts.

If someone has illegally upgraded or by-passed the ICP in your consumer unit, inevitably you will experience power cuts once Iberdrola fit your Smart Meter. For an upgrade to be legitimate a boletin (electrical installation certificate) must be issued and submitted to Iberdrola.