I've seen a few quotes for $750 and at least one for $1125 for a consumption meter install recently, which is a bit disappointing if you've had the option of $250(?) on install day and not realised that it's sort of like air conditioning in your car, an "option" you don't want to be without. Indeed if you have a battery or a large system with an export limit then the consumption meter is mandatory.
I've written about the benefits of consumption & smart meters more generally here :
And if you have the right sort of retail meter, you can access your own data for free by following the procedure here :
Installing a consumption meter seems expensive however I can easily see how we arrive at these figures, because in some cases the repeat work is much like a new inverter install. Switchboards and inverter combinations can be as different as roof layouts from job to job but I'll outline a few points :
- Consumption meters rely on a data cable, be it cat6 or shielded twisted pair, which has to traverse the same/similar route, up and down the walls & across the buildings.
- Some particular inverters supply their own CT coil which means the cable can only be pulled from the meter board back to the inverter.
- So running these cables can be 100% rework of the AC supply to the inverter, plus fiddling with a neat wall exit and termination at the inverter.
- It might be a metre or two and a few minutes but it might also be 20 metres and need an apprentice on hand to successfully negotiate the roof space.
- Consumption metering can be behind the escutcheon, or may need up to 4 poles of space in the main switchboard
- Often times this requires a rebuild or rearrangement of the board, either with updated single pole RCDs for existing house circuits, or an additional surface mount enclosure, even a separate outdoor enclosure to house the solar main switch
- So once again, reworking the switchboard to put an additional or larger enclosure can be just as time consuming as the original install.
This external "backup box" has 19 poles of equipment required to make a standard Fronius Gen24 into a battery backed hybrid.
Added to this is the potential for some techno-drama, if the commissioning process isn't straightforward or the WiFi gods must be appeased somehow you can easily burn a couple of hours with tech support. When the last place I worked was charging $132 for a half hour call out and $120 thereafter, the costs soon mount doing service work.
Rebuilt switchboard with just enough space for the consumption meter on the left.
Many contractors will want to allot half a days labour to a supposed 2 hour job, because by the time you factor in travel, administration and writing a compliance certificate you've wrecked a whole day's productivity doing something else, and unlike a panel clean, measure up or basic inspection, it's licenced technical work that can't be given to a panel fixer.
Two consumption meters, a hot water "sunshine circuit" and room for precious little else.
You can engage any contractor you like to add a consumption meter however it's worth checking with your original installer if there are password protected components for the monitoring platform.
For example the Fronius smart meter needs to be commissioned with an app which calls for a password to be changed at the time of first install. It might be resettable by Fronius via their online support but having the password set by the original technician is a much better solution, and it's not always included in the handover pack or written inside the meter box door.
Meter settings circled in red aren't available without passwords
So as you might appreciate, most of this work is included for free on your original install and can equally be a real pain to organise afterward.
I always recommend that if you install solar or a car charger, it's worth adding a data cable or two just in case you decide later to add a hot water diverter, occp, DRM control or other smart functionality, which is something the network operators may begin to mandate or incentivise as we more inexorably to a renewable dominated grid.