The government wants energy suppliers to install a smart meter in every home in the UK by the year 2020. Whether suppliers are even close to meeting that target is open to question, but what’s not disputed is that a lot of people are confused about smart meters.
Our smart meter FAQ can help answer your questions.
How to get a smart meter
Eventually all domestic properties will be able to have a smart meter installed, but some suppliers are rolling this out area by area. Visit the websites of the UK’s energy suppliers to find out if your home is eligible for a smart meter yet, or to arrange installation.
Do I have to pay for a smart meter?
Not directly. Your energy supplier will install your smart meter and the cost of installation and ongoing maintenance is absorbed into all householders’ energy bills.
How do smart meters work?
Smart meters accurately track your gas or electricity usage in real time and send digital meter readings to your energy supplier.
They feature a useful display which can help you understand how you use energy in your home. This helps you to reduce your energy bills by showing you areas of your home where you might be able to reduce energy usage.
Smart meters will eventually replace the traditional meter, which relies on a manual reading for accuracy – no more estimated energy bills!
Will a smart meter save you money?
Smart meters will only save you money if you take note of the display readings to keep track of how much energy you’re using, and proactively try to reduce your usage.
Can I switch energy suppliers if I have a smart meter?
Yes, if you’re shopping around to compare energy providers you can switch supplier just as you did when you had a traditional meter.
If you were one of the early adopters of smart meters, you probably had a first generation smart meter installed. If you switch suppliers, your new supplier may not be able to operate a first generation meter in smart mode, so it may have to run as a traditional meter, with manual meter readings required.
The good news is, first generation smart meters are due to be upgraded to a new infrastructure in the first half of 2019 which will solve this problem. In the meantime, some energy suppliers are installing second generation smart meters that have already evolved to work seamlessly in smart mode with all energy suppliers, making it really easy to switch whenever you find a better deal.
Can I refuse a smart meter?
You can refuse a smart meter if you don’t want one; however, homes without smart meters might not be able to access all available energy tariffs in future, which means you might miss out on a cheaper tariff by sticking with the old-style meters.
Tip: if you have a smart meter installed, you can ask for its “smart” functionality to be turned off, so it works in the same way as your old meter but it won’t send information to your supplier. You can turn the smart functionality back on at a future date.
If you don’t agree to have a smart meter installed when it’s first offered by your supplier, you can still ask to have one installed free of charge in the future.
When you should not refuse a new meter
If your energy supplier contacts you to suggest that you install a new meter because your old meter is getting old, you really ought to take their advice; as well as potentially not recording your energy usage accurately, an old meter could be a safety hazard.
How to read a smart meter
Although you don’t actually need to take readings from a smart meter (they’re sent to your supplier automatically) you might want to take a reading for your own information, to understand your usage better.
Smart meter displays may look and operate slightly differently depending on your supplier, so here are some useful links to instructions on reading your smart meter from some of the UK’s most popular energy suppliers.
Most energy suppliers have these instructions on their websites – a quick search on the internet can usually direct you to the right place if we haven’t listed your supplier here.
Smart meters and solar panels
Smart meters can only display the energy you’re buying from the grid, so currently, you can’t measure the energy your solar panels are generating via a smart meter. Hopefully this will change in the future with technical advances.
If you have solar panels installed, you should already have a separate PV generation meter that shows how much electricity you’re generating yourself.
Some energy suppliers can support smart meters for homes with solar panels, but according to a Which? report, some users have experienced problems. Several energy suppliers admit there have been technical difficulties, but they believe these will be ironed out in the coming months.
Smart meters for business
It isn’t only domestic premises benefitting from smart meters. Gas and electricity suppliers are being asked to roll out smart meters to all their small business customers by the end of 2020, too.
The technology works in just the same way as in domestic households, so contact your supplier to ask about getting a smart meter installed at your business premises. If your energy bills are included in your rent, ask your landlord about getting one for your building.
Do you need WiFi for a smart meter?
No, you don’t need WiFi, or any kind of internet connection, for smart meters to work. They use a secure wireless network, just like a mobile phone, but it’s separate to your home WiFi.
The smart meter network infrastructure is run by the Data Communications Company, overseen by Ofgem, with strict regulations to keep your smart meter data secure and safe.
Are you getting the best deal?
Now you’ve seen how smart meters can help you track your energy usage to save money, isn’t it time you made sure you’re getting the cheapest tariff?