Solar disconnect at boundary?

First post. We recently had solar panels and backup installed in Cape Town’s Deep South. I applied to have our old meter replaced with a two-way meter (to potentially feed-in), but was told I needed to provide a “disconnect at the property boundary”. Apparently newer homes have a breaker accessible on an outside wall that can disconnect the solar system?

While I understand the requirement for safety, I do wonder how this is accomplished with older homes. Do you find the feed cable, dig it up and install cable and a box on an outside wall? This must be happening quite a bit, so I just want to compare the added costs to any potential savings. Thanks

Welcome @SMP.

There is a wire from the street to a older house.

Methinks it needs to be “cut”, switch installed, and switch reconnected to the house.

Well, another reason I probably won’t be selling energy then :slight_smile:

When ESKOM was entertaining solar connections by domestic users there was some regulatory detail to this.
A lockout switch with the appropriate labelling at the meter point, is what I thought at the time.
It was a less stringent set-up than a Zeihl relay.
It was a simple manual arrangement.
Then ESKOM said it had enough to deal with load-shedding and said all this solar stuff was for another day.
I don’t know if this has any bearing on your question, but FWIW there you go.

Thanks for the replies so far. I’m hoping someone else has had this retrofitted to an “older” home. While it doesn’t sound too onerous, it does create some challenges. I’m not exactly sure where my power feed cable originates, for one

I think we discussed it here. It was published around November 2021 but retracted mere weeks afterwards. To be sure, you’d have to consult the latest version of SANS10142-1-2, which of course is not free to the public.

As I understood it at the time, they want a kind of fireman’s switch.

There will be a connection point somewhere on the outside wall of the house. Usually a box that has been painted over a bajilion times over the years, with two/four screws or a cabinet with one of those square-drive latches, revealing a simple cavity where the wire conductors pass through, and in some cases (TN-C-S installations) the local earth rod is also connected and bonded to neutral. You could probably trace the cable back from this point to the perimeter.

We also had a discussion in the past about the safety of having your electricity switch reachable by just anyone. In my town, there is a criminal element known as the “roof rats” (there may be multiple “teams” with the same MO too). They turn off your power outside the house, wait for the alarm battery to run dead, and then break in through the roof. So you would probably need to have this switch in a box as well, alarm the box or some similar arrangement.

Anyway, I hope that helps.

Good morning!

Unfortunately it is so! But not a Disconnect Switch, it is actually the AMI meter that needs to be installed in that box or kiosk (With the needed disconnects). It will be city accessible only (So they will lock it with the same locks used for their distribution kiosks).

I have exactly the same problem, I did consider the R6000 meter option, but then started looking where the heck that cable could possible run between my connection point (wall of house) to the distribution kiosk (where my current Split prepaid metering point sits)… I have not yet gotten my answer and I doubt if the city will have the drawings or indications where the cable would run.

So it leaves 2 options:

  1. Install a new cable (at your cost) from the Munic kiosk to your, then from your AMI kiosk to your house point.
  2. Get someone with a metal detector and hope it was an armoured cable that was used in the first place (I don’t think metal detectors work well on copper/alu cables, right?).

I’d think that technically it is possible to see the magnetic field of the AC running through it, like those devices you use to find pipes/wires in the wall. Of course it is probably buried fairly deep, and with these things you always have that square law thing (signal strength diminishes as the square of the distance away from the conductor), so this might be moot.

Edit: How about something like this, @Rautenk ?

Metal detectors work well on metal (that conducts). You are basically looking for a short in your induced field. The only reason induction cook tops only work on steel is because the frequency is chosen so that the skin depth produces a well-matched impedance. Copper will have a too low impedance and alu too high. In the case where you just want to detect, you don’t need it to be well matched. Also keep in mind that metal detectors are primarily used to detect precious metals (but end up mostly finding bottle caps and pull tabs).

Perhaps this is a good excuse to finally get me a good one and claim it as a business expense!

Might go look for some “cables” at the beach!

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Thanks all - becoming more clear to me now. What a palaver! I’m not sure the payback will make it worthwhile TBH. I only have 4KW of panels, so not a huge production - just that it does exceed use most of the year

I do recall that it was fairly easy for the utility to locate a broken underground electrical cable. I lived in a small development that had been built just as alu wire first came into use and it frequently failed when the insulation was damaged (wet climate). It was down about 500mm IIRC, and they had a device of some sort that could find both the cable and roughly where the =break was. It was located and repaired within two hours

I suppose I should cost it out. My drive is brick paved, so they could be lifted (the fiber internet folks already did that once) and I guess then diverted to a “kiosk” (“box” in CT parlance) with the required tech. I just think it is unlikely that my input from the generated power credits will be likely to cover the installation costs (within my lifetime). Thanks again

Thanks - If the meter is in a Utility-only-accessible box, how would the homeowner recharge the units?

The AMI meter is effectively a credit meter. (Advance Metering Infrastructure = AMI).
So a conventional meter which can do both import and export registers and can also be accessed via a secure remote computer to download the said data.

Thus homeowner would not be recharging units but would get a bill at the end of the month.

Why can’t they just put the AMI meter in the kiosk in the street where the current meter is?

My neighbour across the street has a Landis+Gyr E650 meter which I suspect might be bidirectional, and it is in the same kiosk as the other meters.

But I don’t think City of Cape Town does this (post-pay meters) any more. At all (No doubt there are outliers with “connections”, but for Normal People)

AMI meter is post-paid, we currently do not have Smart PrePaid meters approved in Cape Town.
For those opting to export they revert back to post-pay set-up.

For all the rest they enforce the prepaid option.

There is certainly a tool that can do this. I know this because I have seen COJ do it. A new substation and meter box were installed in the street I lived in at the time. The contractor did not do their job properly and just connected any old meter to any old property.

A dispute arose. My neighbour got disconnected and was not only cross about this, but called up City Power and told them it was ME that should be disconnected (how he came to this conclusion was never explained).

Anyway, to cut a long story short, City Power came out and used a tool which allowed them to trace cables from the box in the street to individual stands. This was when the contractor’s error was uncovered. In the end they had to disconnect the whole street, verify which cable went where, connect each property to the correct meter, then pass correcting entries on all our accounts.

I could go on about this story and the fall out between neighbours (all of whom were blameless), but the point is that it can be done and I know this because I’ve seen it done.

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Because not all houses are done in this way. My house, for example, has a wire coming directly from the box down the street to a little recessed box just outside my living room. If you open that box, you see three thick cables (earth, live, neutral), coming in, and connected to three wires going towards the Distribution board. This is the main connection point of the house, and it is on the wall of the house, not at street level.

There are some houses in my neighbourhood where I can see the box, with the prepaid meter inside, on the outside wall. These houses were obviously done differently, for whatever reason. They probably use one of those conlog meters that communicates with a remote panel over power line communication.

If someone in that house (with the outside kiosk) wants to switch to bi-directional billing, it is very easy for them. For me, it will be a pain in the proverbial.

I have same.

The box in the street, it is open. Jip, anyone can open it as the lock is not working.

So me being me (I cleaned around that street box) had to open it and peek inside.

In there I saw all the houses connected to that box neatly numbered with a switch to each house from that box, and whom has PAYG meters.

In other words, I can switch my neighbors off if that thought ever came across my mind, not that it has ever.

Our street kiosk has an 80A breaker for each house, but all the meters are in there as well: