Why do I have three electricity meters? And how to choose a provider?
June 17, 2014 4:52 PM   Subscribe

I just moved into a new house (in Sydney). We have three old fashioned looking electricity meters in the meter box. Why are there three?

I watched them for a while this morning (around 9am) and two of them were moving. First one for a minute or so, then it stopped and another one moved a bit. When the second one was moving I checked inside the house and the only electrical thing working was the lights. When the first one was moving, the heater might have been on. I haven't seen the third one move at all yet.

Does this mean I have on-peak/off-peak measurement? Does that affect which power company I should sign up for? I just moved from Canberra, where we don't have a choice of power company, so I'm a bit confused. We have a letter from AGL saying that the previous tenant was with them and sounding vaguely as though we have to sign up with them too for that reason, but they don't come right out and say so, so I think that means we don't actually have to. Is that true?

And finally, most power companies seem to want a 12 or 24 month contract. We only have an 8-month lease on this house and are likely to move at the end of that. Does that mean we will have to pay some sort of contract breaking fee, or is it okay as long as we stick with the same power company, even at a different address?
posted by lollusc to Home & Garden (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I am not sure how things work in Australia, but looking at the meters it might be based on a three phase power system. The way it worked in my house (in India) was that different rooms and appliances were connected to different phases/generators and that way you had at least some power available if one or two of them were on-peak/off-peak.
posted by ssri at 5:24 PM on June 17, 2014

Oh, I meant to add, three phase power also results in higher efficiency sometimes for high load applications (motors, heaters) and I believe can be combined for high voltage applications too.
posted by ssri at 5:34 PM on June 17, 2014

It may also be because there are three circuits in your house (lights, appliance power points, hot water, kitchen, or some other combination).

You don't have to sign a power contract! You do if you want discounted power, but the provider for your area will just bill you at the 'regulated' rate. And you certainly don't have to sign one just because the last tenants were with a certain company. There's some amount of information about providers here.

Yes, if you sign up for a contract of more than 8 months you may face a termination fee or, if like many tenants you forget to tell the company you're moving, you end up paying the new tenants' power bills.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 5:43 PM on June 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: It's unlikely to be 3phase unless the house has heavy machinery. Probably just has 3 meters. It's not uncommon. If you want to know what the configuration actually is, ring the network which will be Ausgrid or Endeavour depending on your exact location in Sydney.
I have moved mid-contract and the termination fee was waived if I signed up to the same supplier. But best to ask when you sign up. You don't have to sign up on contract, you can be on default rates, you just will miss out on a % discount.
posted by jacanj at 5:47 PM on June 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

We have a letter from AGL saying that the previous tenant was with them and sounding vaguely as though we have to sign up with them too for that reason, but they don't come right out and say so, so I think that means we don't actually have to. Is that true?

Yes, you don't have to sign up with any specific provider - you can choose which one you want.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:57 PM on June 17, 2014

Similar to jacanj, my experience in Melbourne is that the term contracts are between the customer and the supplier, unrelated to the property supplied. So you can move and remain with the same supplier without ending (or restarting) the contract. Also if you move to a place where the supplier doesn't operate the termination fee should be waived (but this might vary!).
posted by nomis at 6:06 PM on June 17, 2014

Best answer: If your water heater is electric, more than likely one of the meters is off-peak.

If you have an electric oven, they are sometimes on three-phase power, so that could account for the third extra meter.

NSW has full retail competition for all electricity users, so you can sign up with whoever you like. There are several comparision sites that will compare rates from different retailers. Try EnergyWatch, youCompare and iSelect. Also be aware that NSW retailers are required to offer you green energy in the first offer they make you.

The Energy and Water Ombudsman is a good source of information about your rights and responsibilities, including switching retailers and moving house.
posted by girlgenius at 7:01 PM on June 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

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