If you want to install solar power, you may need a meter box upgrade. Our electricians review and handle a variety of upgrades every day.

Why do I need a meter box upgrade?

Your household meter box contains many electrical components including the meter, the main switch, fuses, and circuit breakers. They control the flow of electricity to your home.

In the absence of a home battery, the energy your solar system produces that isn’t consumed is sent to the grid. In the interest of safety, your meter box must meet current Australian standards and distributor requirements. If it doesn’t, your solar install will fail, and your connection won’t be finalised. It’s the law!

Following are some of the typical upgrades our electricians complete every day, including a switchboard upgrade, new meter box and an MSB replacement.

Do I need a switchboard upgrade?

Switchboard upgrade

These old ceramic fuses no longer meet safety standards. Back when these were first installed, we didn’t have as many appliances as we do now. These ceramics are a fire hazard due to potential overload.

If your meter box looks like this inside, then we’ll need to complete a switchboard upgrade. The new switchboard will feature individual safety switches on all circuits, as well as a neutral link and an isolation link.

Do I need a new meter box?

Meter box upgrades

This meter box has an old chipboard backing panel, which is a fire hazard. In some cases, we find that the backing panel is asbestos. If your meter box looks like this one, then the metering must also be upgraded. Therefore, you’ll need a new, portrait-style metal electrical box with a hinged, fire-proof backing panel.

You can keep this box and install a new portrait-style box next to it, which will house the new metering, main safety switch, neutral link, and isolation link. Alternatively, we can remove this meter box and completely replace it (see MSB replacement).

What is an MSB replacement?

MSB replacement

This MSB or main switchboard has an old chipboard backing panel, which is a fire hazard. The exposed wiring is a safety hazard, and the metering will need an upgrade. Like the previous meter box, you will need to replace the old ceramic fuses. As a result, you’ll need a new, portrait-style metal electrical box with a hinged, fire-proof backing panel.

We can’t retain any of this MSB and therefore a complete meter box replacement is required.

Upgrading a new meter box

Even new meter boxes sometimes need upgrades before we can install solar. The sub board for this brand new 3-phase home is full. You can see just one spare pole on the end. While there isn’t anything wrong with the set-up, there’s no room to add the 3-phase/3-pole safety switch for the solar.

So how do we make room in this board? We can do this by replacing some of the switches. We’ve highlighted the RCD – (Residual Current Device) above. The reason it’s there, is to protect some of the circuit breakers that follow. If we remove this RCD and replace some of the circuit breakers with safety switches, then we’ll create the room required to install the 3-phase solar safety switch. Easy!

Is my meter box solar ready or do I need a meter box upgrade?

So, you’ve decided to get a few solar quotes. We always recommend a site inspection or home visit so that our solar specialists can review your meter box and how the electricity flows to your home. We need to make sure your meter box meets Australian standards and electricity distributor requirements. And in some cases, we may need to send out one of our electricians.

Here are just some of the things we look for when we review your meter box and safety switches:

  1. Are the safety switches in the meter box, or are they located somewhere else in the home or garage? This may involve an additional cable run.
  2. Do you have spare poles available in the switch board? We need to connect a solar safety switch and if you require a smart meter, you may need a minimum of three spare poles.
  3. Is your home single phase or three phase? We need to connect the right inverter to ensure voltage distribution.
  4. Where is the meter box located on the home? It must accessible and located two meters from the front of the property. If this is not the case, you’ll need a meter box relocation and upgrade.
  5. Are there overhead electrical wires? Is the connection point to your roof stable and safe?

Who is my electricity distributor?

Electricity distributors own and maintain the electrical distribution network. So, they are responsible for maintaining the network, including the powerlines and power poles in your area.

Distributors are different in each state and territory. You can find out who your distributor is via the Australian Energy Regulator.

Need help?

Regulations are often updated. It’s therefore necessary for solar retailers and installers to stay informed of the latest compliance and safety standards and advise you accordingly.

Regardless of whether you decide to go ahead with solar power, we recommend you spend the money on a meter box upgrade. It’s not just money well spent, it’s an investment in your family’s safety.

Not sure if you need a meter box upgrade? Then get in touch – we’re here to help.