Smart meters are the latest form of energy meter. Smart meters are designed to send your meter readings directly to your energy supplier. The government has decided that they want to fit a smart meter in every UK household by 2020.
There is still, however, a lot of confusion that surrounds smart meters and what exactly they are. With this simple guide, we’ve aimed to answer some of the major questions that people have regarding smart meters.
Smart meters are intended to be the replacement for the traditional form of gas and electricity meter. They send automated meter readings directly to your gas and electricity supplier. This is supposed to improve the efficiency and accuracy of your meter readings, and make life easier for customers.
The smart meters themselves will be fitted with displays that can be read at home. They will give you up to the minute information on how much energy you are using and what you’re paying for it.
These smart meters will be available for gas and electricity supplies. This means that you will most likely have one electricity smart meter and one gas smart meter.
These smart meters work by sending your energy supplier electronic information about your meter readings. By doing this, the smart meter will enable your gas or electricity supplier to ensure that they have accurate meter readings of your energy usage. What this means for you is that you won’t have to take meter readings yourself, or have someone come round and take it for you.
Some smart meters work by sending information over the internet and others work by sending them over mobile phone networks.
There are several advantages that having a smart meter will offer you.
One of these advantages is that you will have much more accurate bills. This means that your energy bill will no longer be based on estimated averages. As a result of this you are much less likely to be overcharged for your gas and electricity consumption.
Another advantage that having a smart meter will offer you is that you won’t have to have anybody come round to your house and take meter readings manually. Having a smart meter also means that you won’t have to take any meter readings yourself. All of your energy usage data will be sent directly to your energy company, saving you time and hassle.
Your smart meter will also be fitted with a display screen that will provide you with live information on how much energy you are using and how much you are paying for it. This will allow you to better keep track of your energy consumption and will give you better control over your budget.
Installing a smart meter in your home will not save you money directly, however there are still ways in which it can save you money if you use it to your advantage. A smart meter can offer you a lot of information, you can use this to reduce the amount that you’re spending on your gas and electricity bills.
A smart meter can allow you to be much more energy efficient at home. The meters come with displays that will tell you how much energy you’re using at different times of the year, month, week or day. By having access to this information you will be able to see when your highest points of energy usage are. This means that you can examine exactly why you are using so much gas or electricity at these times, and decide if it is necessary that you are doing so.
This technology also opens the door for energy suppliers to experiment with more money saving plans and individualised rates that will better suit your needs. Whilst there have not been huge strides in this area yet, it is only a matter of time before gas and electricity suppliers work out how to use these meters to better suit you.
There was initially a concern that smart meters may be unsafe to install in households because of the low-frequency emissions that they use to transmit information to your energy supplier. However these concerns have been heavily investigated by all the regulating bodies. They decided that these concerns were unfounded.
Their conclusion was that smart meters are completely safe for domestic use, as long as they conform to the specifications that have been put in place.
Another, more sustained criticism was aimed at the way in which the government, and the energy companies, have handled the distribution of smart meters across the UK. It has been claimed that the aim, to get a smart meter into every home in the UK within the next 7 years, was overambitious and was being carried out in a way that was detrimental to the consumer.
Many of the major energy companies have stated that the rush to install a smart meter in every home will eventually end up costing the customers about £1.8 billion. This is mainly down to the cost of the in-house displays; a cost that would ultimately be passed on to the consumer through their energy bills.
One cost saving measure that has been proposed, involves linking up these smart meters to the customers’ smart phones or tablets. This would remove the need for an in-home display and would cut production costs considerably.
At the moment many households in the UK are not aware of what smart meters actually are. However, of the households that have had these meters installed, there has been widespread satisfaction expressed. These homes have discovered the benefits of more accurate energy bills and were extremely happy with their provider’s service.
The nationwide distribution of smart meters is scheduled to begin around the Autumn of 2015. This distribution will be led by the energy companies. However there are some providers who have already started installing smart meters to homes within certain regions.
You will be able to find out when you can receive a smart meter by contacting your energy supplier.
Your electricity or gas supplier will install your new smart meter for you.
Ofgem, the regulator for gas and electricity markets in the UK, has put in place a code of practice that will regulate the conduct of the engineers who will install these meters.
These rules also ensure that you are properly shown how to use these meters, so that you learn how you may best benefit from them.
No. Your smart meter will be installed for free by your energy provider, as they are part of a nationwide improvement programme.
However, as with standard meters, all households will be required to pay for the maintenance cost of these meters.
Even if the energy company that you wish to switch to does not support the new technology, they are still required to accept you as a customer. If this is the case then the smart meter will simply revert to being used as a traditional energy meter.
No. There are no rules in place that will force you to accept a smart meter.
Most gas and electricity providers will be more than willing to discuss any reservations that you may have about installing a smart meter in your household.
Yes. Smart meters are being rolled out for both standard and prepayment customers.
Many companies are expected to start offering additional features for prepayment customers, such as remote top ups or online credit management.
No. The Department of Energy and Climate Change have stated categorically that all smart meters will be put under the same safety regulations as any other in-house device. All smart meters will have gone through strict tests to ensure that they comply to UK and EU safety laws.
There were some concerns about the low frequency emissions that smart meters produce. These emissions are used to transfer information electronically to your energy supplier. However PHE (Public Health England) have stated that smart meters will produce smaller levels of low frequency emissions than other household appliances such as televisions and microwaves.
There is no need to worry about the safety of your smart meter.
Smart meters supply you with live information about your energy use. They will also be able to present you with data on your historical energy consumption.
However, Ofgem have put into place regulations that mean that your energy company will only be able to access information that they require in order to bill you. They will not be able to access any other information without your permission. They also require your permission to share your data with any external companies.
If you have any wind turbines or solar panels installed in your home, then you will be able to link these up to your smart meter as well.
Your smart meter will then be able to tell you exactly how much energy you are producing through these sources. It will also be able to tell you if you are producing any surplus energy that you may be able to sell back to the grid.