Under the smart meter rollout, every home and small business in the UK should be offered next generation, wireless-enabled gas and electric meters by the end of 2020. The rollout is behind schedule, but as of late 2018, 12.8 million smart meters had already been installed.
Consumers won’t have to pay for the installation of these meters upfront, but the costs of the rollout, initially estimated to be £11 billion, will be spread across all energy bills in the coming years – reportedly adding £374 to each household’s costs.
In return, smart meters give you more insight into and control over your energy consumption. Households can reportedly shave 20% of their energy bills by proactively using their smart meters and modifying their habits.
So how do you join the smart meter revolution?
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Smart meters are wireless-enabled, digital replacements for your old mechanical or dial meters. They display your energy usage, in real time and over time, in kilowatt hours and in pounds and pence on a digital screen. And you won’t have to open your meter cabinet to see how much energy you’re burning. Smart meters also communicate this information to an in-home display (IHD) you can keep in an easily viewable place in your house. Some energy suppliers also offer smart meters which communicate with a smartphone app, so information about your energy consumption will always be at your fingertips.
Smart meters also automatically beam information about your consumption to your energy supplier. This means no more meter readings, no more engineer visits, and no more estimated bills.
Eventually, your energy supplier will offer you a smart meter, although perhaps not by the 2020 deadline. You can also request one if they’re installing them in your area – you typically do this over the phone or via your supplier’s online portal.
When you accept an offered smart meter or are given an appointment following a request, your energy supplier will schedule a visit from an engineer with you. Someone over the age of 18 will need to be present at the home, even if the meter is outside, and you’ll need to ensure the engineer has access to your meters. This may involve clearing out cupboards.
The installer should:
The installation won’t take more than a few hours, although at some point during the process the engineer will need to shut off your electricity and/or gas, usually for about 20 minutes each.
You won’t have to pay for the installation – at least not upfront. The cost off the rollout will ultimately be spread across all our energy bills.
If you’re impatient for a smart meter and your supplier hasn’t offered you one yet or isn’t rolling them out in your area, you can request one or register your interest. Your supplier doesn’t have to honour your request, however.
If you’re really desperate to get a smart meter, you may want to consider an energy switch, moving to a supplier which is installing smart meters in your area.
All households and small businesses are eligible for smart meters in theory. But not all will be offered them by suppliers, or at least not yet.
Generally, suppliers also won’t be able to install smart meters in areas with poor signal strength, as the technology won’t work.
Suppliers are rolling smart meters area by area. Unfortunately, they don’t publish a list of where they’ve already installed smart meters or where they’re headed next.
Some large suppliers do offer postcode checkers so you can see if they’ve reached your area, however. See the table below.
Unfortunately, some small suppliers don’t offer smart meters at all. Smart Energy GB, the campaign for smart meters, offers checkers so you can see if your electricity supplier and your gas supplier are installing smart meters. Again, if you’re angling for a smart meter, it could be worth an energy switch from one of these smaller firms to a company which is offering them.
The following table lists the smart meter request procedures of the Big Six energy suppliers, covering 75% of the residential energy market. It also shows which customers they’re not offering meters to and links to any postcode checkers so you can see if they’re installing smart meters in your area.
|Supplier||How to request a smart meter||Excluded customers||Area checker|
|British Gas||Request one online and receive an installation date within two weeks.||households on Economy 7 with storage heaters||Link|
|EDF||Log in to your EDF account to book installation. You can book up to 30 days in advance.||households with pre-payment meters||Link|
|E.ON||Log into your E.ON account and request one. You’ll get an installation date within 28 days.||None||Link|
|Npower||Log into your Npower account to request one.||• households with pre-payment meters
• households on Economy 7
|Scottish Power||Log into your Scottish Power account to request an appointment. Installation will usually be scheduled within two weeks||• households with pre-payment meters
• households on Economy 7
|SSE||Book an installation online or over the phone||households on Economy 7||Link|
You’re not obligated to accept a smart meter when your energy supplier offers one to you. However, consumer watchdog Citizens Advice has noted that, in their rush to meet installation targets, some energy suppliers are telling households that they are mandatory or pressuring them into accepting one.
You shouldn’t feel coerced into accepting a smart meter, but you should know that Citizens Advice also found that 80% of households with the technology are satisfied with them.
As we upgrade our energy network, not having a smart meter will become increasingly inconvenient. If you don’t accept a smart meter, you may rule yourself out of some energy tariffs, which will only be available to consumers with up-to-date meters.
If you’re concerned about the meter sending daily readings to your supplier for privacy reasons, you can turn off the meter’s smart functionality and continue to manually submit readings to your supplier once a month. That functionality can always be turned back on at a later date.