The closure of radio teleswitching (RTS) explained
It’s estimated there are over 250,000 electricity teleswitch meters across Scotland. There are lots of types, but some of the most common include ComfortPlus White Meter, ComfortPlus Control and Total Heat, and Total Control.
If you have this type of electricity meter your heating and hot water is likely controlled by a radio signal which tells your storage heaters when to charge and when your hot water heater should switch on. The system that controls the teleswitch signals is due to close on 31 March 2025. Your electricity supplier may have already been in touch asking you to change your meter. Energy UK, the trade association that represents many energy suppliers, has answered some frequently asked questions (FAQs) about the closure.
If you have questions about your heating system, how it works and how it could work differently with a new meter, get in touch with us for free and impartial advice.
Radio teleswitching FAQs
What is the Radio Teleswitch Service, and what is it used for?
The Radio Teleswitching Service (RTS) enables electricity suppliers to switch large numbers of electricity meters between different tariff rates, and helps deliver specific electricity tariffs designed for customers who use electricity for their heating and/or hot-water provision. Examples of this type of electricity tariff are Economy 7, Economy 10, Total Heat Total Control, Comfortplus/White Meter, Heatwise, Warmwise, Budget Warmth and others depending on where you live and who your electricity supplier is. If you’re unsure if you have RTS equipment in your home/business, contact your electricity supplier who will be able to confirm this for you.
Which consumers have Radio Teleswitched meters in their homes or businesses?
For many consumers who use electricity as their primary heating and/or hot-water heating source (using electric storage/panel heaters and/or immersion heaters in hot water tanks), RTS controls when relevant heaters charge up – typically over-night during off-peak (and often cheaper) usage periods. Most consumers that make use of cheaper off-peak tariffs are likely to have RTS equipment in their home/business. If you’re unsure if you have RTS equipment in your home/business, contact your electricity supplier who will be able to confirm for you.
How does the RTS equipment in my home/business receive RTS updates?
RTS works by transmitting messages to RTS equipment in homes/businesses across the UK, using Longwave radio broadcast. It uses the same radio frequency that the BBC uses for delivering radio programmes such as Radio 4, the Extended Shipping Forecast and Test Match Special.
Will RTS continue indefinitely?
No it won’t. RTS was introduced in the late 1980’s, and whilst Longwave radio transmission has remained reliable over the years, the infrastructure that supports it is now reaching the end of its natural operational life. The BBC have also recently announced that it plans move all of the content that is unique to Longwave onto other BBC broadcasting platforms such as Radio 4 FM/DAB, or on to other BBC Radio Stations such as Radio 5 Live Extra. So, it is clear that both Longwave radio broadcasting and RTS with it, is coming to an end.
I’ve got an RTS meter, but I’ve always been told never to let anyone change my meter, or it would stop working. Why is it different now?
Upgrading to a smart electricity meter is the natural technology upgrade for RTS. Smart electricity meters have been designed to include the necessary capability to replace RTS equipment. Your electricity supplier’s smart meter installation engineer will ensure that your heating/hot water continues to operate as it does now.
What is being put in place to replace RTS?
The national smart meter infrastructure now in place for GB is the natural (and only) technology upgrade for RTS. Smart electricity meters can be directly programmed to deliver similar capability that the old RTS equipment was able to provide. Many electricity suppliers also offer a wider range of Time of Use products/tariffs that make use of smart electricity meter capability. It is expected that more innovative and flexible Time of Use tariffs will eventually replace the vast majority of the older legacy electricity tariffs that have been available in the past.
What happens to RTS when Longwave radio transmission ends?
Once a decision is made to end Longwave radio transmission, all other services that are broadcast on Longwave, including RTS will also end. The contract currently in place with the BBC for the provision of RTS ends on 31 March 2025. Electricity Suppliers, Ofgem (the Energy Regulator), and Consumer Groups such as Citizens Advice, National Energy Action, the Energy Savings Trust and others are now urging consumers with RTS metering equipment to contact their Electricity Supplier to arrange for a smart electricity meter upgrade at the earliest opportunity in order to reduce the risk of disruption to their heating and/or hot water provision. If consumers leave it too late, there is a risk that their Electricity Supplier won’t be able to offer a smart meter upgrade appointment before the Radio Teleswitching Service ends.
Can every RTS customer have a smart meter upgrade right now?
Unfortunately not. There are some situations where your electricity supplier won’t be able to offer you an appointment for a smart meter upgrade just yet. If that’s the case, then your electricity supplier will contact you once they’re ready to carry out the upgrade.
Will the national smart metering infrastructure provide connectivity to every home/business?
The smart meter communications infrastructure provides coverage to around 99.25% of premises across the UK. However, there are a very small number of locations in the UK that can’t yet be connected. If you’re reliant on RTS and your home/business is in one of these locations, you might not be eligible for a smart meter upgrade just yet. Your electricity supplier will confirm whether or not your home/business can be connected, and if not, when it is likely to be.
If I rely on RTS, can I refuse to have a smart meter installed?
Yes, any consumer can refuse the offer of a smart meter upgrade from their electricity supplier. However, no other technology upgrade or replacement for RTS other than smart electricity meters will be available once RTS ends. Consumers are therefore encouraged to contact their electricity supplier to arrange for their RTS metering equipment to be upgraded to a new smart electricity meter at the earliest opportunity in order to reduce the risk of disruption to heating and/or hot water provision.
I still don’t want a smart electricity meter. What will happen when RTS ends?
If you rely on RTS for heating and/or hot water provision, and you’re still not prepared to accept a smart electricity meter upgrade as the replacement for RTS equipment, then there is a high probability that heating and hot water provision in your property will be affected – this is due to the way in which RTS controls and switches the flow of electricity to charge storage/panel and immersion heaters during off-peak electricity usage periods. It could be the case that without receiving RTS messages, your heating could be left continuously on or off. If this is happens, then it is highly likely that you will face increased electricity costs if your Electricity Supplier has to charge all of your electricity use at a single rate as a result of not being able to establish the split of electricity used between the more expensive peak and cheaper off-peak time periods.
I still don’t want a smart electricity meter. What do I need to do when RTS ends?
If you refuse the offer of a smart electricity meter upgrade as the replacement for RTS, then you are likely to need to engage the services of an electrical contractor to make the necessary internal wiring changes in the home/business, and/or to fit a new heating controller to ensure the effective ongoing operation of heating and/or hot water equipment. The cost of making any changes needed to your internal wiring, or adding new heating/hot-water heating controls are the responsibility of the consumer/bill-payer or the property owner.
It is also highly likely that you will face increased electricity costs if your electricity supplier has to charge all of your electricity use at a single rate as a result of not being able to establish the split of electricity used between the more expensive peak and cheaper off-peak time periods.