Smart meters? Not these! Shabbat fears over water

New smart meters being rolled out across the country could technically lead to a breach of Shabbat.


Representatives of the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations have met officials from a leading water company to discuss fears that new smart meters could lead to a breach of Shabbat.

An electrical expert has been brought in to determine whether new meters being installed in London by Thames Water contravene Jewish law, following concerns raised by members of the community over the past three months.

Until recently, meters clocked up the amount of water use through a mechanical process which posed no problem for Shabbat usage.

But the new digital meters being fitted in Hackney and Barnet operate on an electric current, posing the question of whether a person turning on a tap triggers electricity.

A spokesman for the water company said a “very constructive meeting” had taken place with the UOHC on Monday.

“We’re establishing the facts related to the current meters and more investigations are taking place in partnership with the UOHC to understand whether there is a contravention,” he said.

“We’ve agreed to pause our installations at those properties where there is a concern while these investigations are carried out.”

A spokesman for the UOHC said he believed thousands of homes could be affected.

If the meters are found to be Shabbat-unfriendly, the UOHC would seek to have them replaced, though not at an extra cost to Thames Water, the Union’s spokesman said.

“There is a type of meter which is used in Israel which does not incur the problem of use on Shabbat,” he said. “Thames Water said they would take a look.”

As for home-owners who have had one of the new digital meters installed outside their property, the UOHC spokesman said, “anyone who has a query should ask their own rabbi. There hasn’t been a blanket psak [ruling] on what people should do.”

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