Lock Your Meter Box Warning

Some years ago when our elder daughter and her family were living in one of their former Cairns properties, some scumbag turned the main switch off in the meter box in the middle of the night.

Fortunately, her husband was at home and he turned the power back on, but after they moved to live at a mine site in Sumbawa, our younger daughter was living in the same house by herself when the same thing occurred.

I ordered Ergon padlocks from their monopoly locksmith supplier for that house and our own home and I installed secure hook and staple fittings to both meter boxes and put a stop to any further occurrences

When we bought our current home in 2015, I immediately bought another Ergon padlock and a secure hook and staple fastener, and I installed it on our meter box.

The padlocks have a restricted master key system whereby the property occupant has 2 slave keys and Ergon and their meter readers have a master key which works with all meter boxes with an Ergon padlock.

If you want to help protect yourself and your family from scumbags who may range from idiots wishing to spoil your night through to grubs planning far more nefarious activities, I would highly recommend that you lock your meter box if your residential situation allows you to do so.

Our neighbours at our former home related the experience of the home owner on the other side of their home.

When their fancy washing machine they had bought from Harvey Norman displayed an alarm, they called the store, and when they told the salesperson the fault code it was displaying, he advised them that their water supply had been turned off and they were about to be robbed.

Some scumbag had reached through their remote-controlled gate to turn off the valve at the water meter which was located behind their high masonry block fence.

Apparently, these grubs turn off the water supply and then return an hour or so later to check if it is still turned off. If it is, they assume there is nobody home.

Another grubby act is turning off the power to the pool pump and chlorinator and then returning some days later to see if the pool has turned green. If it has, they assume the residents are away.


My post above may have saved this person’s life going by the article below.

Another example of why you should lock your meter box.


Do all power providers offer this option? Does it depend on the network operator or the retailer or?

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My understanding is they do, but one needs to contact the relevant meter reading company (through one’s energy retailer) to ensure that one purchases a lock that they can access (they can supply these or point on in the direction of locksmiths that supply the locks on their behalf). Usually the locks are a two key system where the meter reader has a master for all locked meter boxes and residences also have their own ‘unique’ key which will only own the lock on their own box.

This does raise an important question, if a meter reader (company) has a master, then it is highly probable that if one also wants a similar key, it would also be possible.

Maybe the most effective solution if one is concerned is to have two boxes…one for meters which is not locked as it won’t contain any switches and one containing the switch board which is locked with one’s own lock (or placed say in a lockable garage separate from the meter box). If for some reason the residence needs to be isolated from the grid in an emergency (such in the unfortunate case of a house fire), it can be isolated at the pole/street by the energy company/emergency services.


I cannot answer that question but calling your providor should.

We are with Ergon who have a monopoly in regional Qld but we recently received the letter copied below.


Or maybe the most effective solution is remote meter reading. Then no meter reader needs a key at all.


Yes, this is the way metering is going…but in the interim?

There is also the other threads outlining concerns of others in relation to smarter meter emissions.


Having two boxes is not really interim. The cost of getting in an electrician to do the rewiring, plus the materials cost, would be substantial I would guess.

In the interim … do what Fred123 says?

A really expensive interim would be to put in a comprehensive PV system. Then when your potential murderer cuts the power you could be oblivious. :wink:

Some video surveillance wouldn’t go astray.


For many homes unlikely to be cheap, and for some impracticable. This also challenges the current Australian design rules/standards.

A separate concern raised for @Fred123 is the need for maintenance contractors to also access the meter box, which includes isolation and links, all of which need to be accessible for work on the meters, and safety checks.

With a smart meter there is usually no need for access to read meters, which is another solution.
While locking a meter is suggested as an aid to basic home security, it is not fool proof. It will only discourage some casual intruders.

Isolating the power at the street connection in our instance requires an authorised and trained electrical person, which is not necessarily an immediate alternative.

P.S. We use an Energex approved lock which was supplied by a local locksmith. The key also needs to be convenient, just in case there is a need.


I know it can be done in Queensland…our meters are separate to the switch board…and access can’t be obtained to the switchboard unless we unlock the house. When we had our switchboard updated/upgraded a few years ago, the electrician suggested to retain this option (as it was the way the house was built) and Energex who installed the new meters didn’t raise any issues.

A neighbour also has their meter box on the front boundary of the property (fence)…with the switch board located within the property at the house. Many multi-unit dwellings and multi-unit commercial premises are also set up with a similar approach whereby the switchboard is associated with the individual unit/dwelling and the meters are in an easily accessible common area.

It is an expensive option to retrofit to most existing dwellings, but possibly not significantly more for a new dwelling or where major building work requires a new/upgraded switchboard.


Yeah like if someone is prepared to murder you, that person probably doesn’t have any qualms about bringing bolt cutters to cut the padlock.

If they are only prepared to break in and rob you, that still applies.


The downside to remote metering in regional Qld is thet Ergon bills and requires payment monthly instead of quarterly as well as billing in one hundreds of a kw.

We already had a smart meter when our solar & battery system was installed in February this year but as it is not a remote read meter, nothing changed.

When our next door neibghours installed an identical system a month or so later, their old electro-mechnical meter was replaced by a remote read meter, so they get their bills every month, calculated to one hundredeth of a kw whereas we are billed in whole kw.

Ergon must just love not only getting paid faster but squeezing consumers for a fraction of a kw.

But as the meter actually reads in thousandths of a kw, perhaps they will upgrade to billing the same way instead of rounding to a hundredth of a kw.

They also do not provide the previous reading on our neighbour’s bills so the only way they can check the figures is to record the accumlated totals each month.

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Do you know what technology is used for the remote read?

There are a mass of different options. All of them avoid opening up the meter box - the actual problem here. Some of them use very short range or short range communication that still requires driving around (but somewhat reduces cost and hassle to the provider). Some of them use long range communication (e.g. 3G mobile or Power Line Communication) and avoid a site visit - hence much cheaper for the provider.

All of them improve accuracy i.e. avoid human errors in doing the read.

I’m sure they do but noone can really complain about that because currently you are paying in arrears, and so the supplier is out of pocket. More frequent billing merely reduces the extent to which the supplier is getting shafted, albeit that more frequent billing will also be generating unnecessary bank transactions (which may cost you).

Monthly billing brings it broadly into line with, say, post-paid phone service.

That said, billing frequency isn’t really the issue. There is nothing intrinsic to remote meter reading that says that you have to change from quarterly(?) to monthly. It is just their business rule.

It is unclear whether the customer is being disadvantaged at all by this. Any rounding up on one meter read that therefore increases the bill could decrease the bill next time.

Even if this is an out and out ripoff of the customer, a hundredth of a kWh might cost you 0.3c so nothing to get too concerned about. There are a lot more lucrative ripoffs for consumers to concern themselves with.


What might be the circumstance for some properties (exceptions) does not necessarily permit the exception to be the norm?

You might like to consider the following as to the current requirements, at least as they have been interpreted by Ergon. Irrespective of the individual property installation the requirements indicated include a line side isolator at the meter.

IE as a consequence, access to switch off power at any indoor distribution board is typically unnecessary where there is a separate meter. We have such an installation which dates from the 1980’s. It has a line side switch and had a load side fuse, now CB.

Para of the following considers existing non compliant installations.

Apologies for the technical content.


Independently of this there are also additional safe access requirements and isolation requirements associated with PV and battery connected to the load side of the metering.

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Would it be possible to be compliant with that requirement while still having two separate boxes?

i.e. power comes in to switch box where the line side isolation switch is, then continues to the other box where the meter is, then goes back to the switch box where all the usual things on the switchboard are.

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For above ground distribution lines, there is a line isolator usually on the street pole prior to entry to the property. This can be removed using a long fibreglass stick and is used by emergency services for disconnecting a premise in the case of a fire or the ulility company in the case of a formal disconnection (e.g. failure to pay bills, for a vacated property or for say work/demolition of the building).

I understand underground also has street isolators…but I could stand corrected.

The street pole isolator to the property line would meet the Ergon requirements.

I am not aware of a pre-meter upstream isolator switch next to the meter in the box being installed as this has other issues.

It is also worth noting that electrial safety requiements also relate to Ergon’s work and assets…

Edit. I’ll actually see a PV specialist electrician on Friday and will ask him about the isolator requirements for a single phase, individual connection.

Convention vs interpretation.

Colin Chapman, the founder of Lotus and famous for cunning reinterpretation of the rules of motor racing to the advantage of Lotus would be smiling.

A simple answer is no.

The core requirement is that the meter/s have a line side isolator. For a single domestic supply this is typically an isolator link. IE it can be removed to isolate the incoming supply before they connect to any equipment on the load or customers side of the meter. It is not usually a physical switch isolator. Older houses may not have this link, although they are typically installed when any meter upgrades are carried out.

Up to and including the meter belongs to the supply authority. They have to have access to it however it is configured.

The connection outgoing from the meter to the household DB, if it is separate that connection also requires protection of the outgoing cable, which may be a switch and fuse or integrated circuit breaker with switch.


Per my previous note, or read again the extract, isolation is not specified as needing to be a switch. Typically the requirement stated is for a sealed link next to the meter. MDU (flats etc) arrangements may differ and the link may be absent on old single dwelling installations that have not been upgraded. In that instance your comment that there is a street side pole top or top hat located isolator is relevant.

We’ve had three upgrades in Qld, two in the past year and one 6 years past. In the last instance the house meter box had to be isolated at the top hat out front as there was no link on the board to isolate the incoming supply. The other two were done at the meter box.

Note, for an incoming supply if it has been split between an incoming meter box and a customer distribution board (fuse box etc) located remotely there should be an isolation switch and fuse or CB on the load side of the meter. That enables the customer owned cable from the meter to the DB which may be in a garage, inside or outside to be isolated and protected. There will be typically two, but sometimes only one means of turning off all power to a property immediately next to the meter.

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I should also say that we have an isolating link as per drawing 6.2 between the line and meter, but this is adjacent to the switchboard (which is located on the other side of the wall to the meter box and inaccessible from the meter box/street). This isn’t a switch but appears to be a pull out type plug fuse/bridge…and requires the breaking if the security wire/seal. I would expect that unless the thief/criminal is a qualified electrican or knows what this plug fuse/bridge is and it resides in the meter box, it is unlikely to be known what to do with it.