Should you get a smart meter?

The rise of smart technology makes life easier – and it could help reduce your energy bills too. Here’s a complete rundown of what you need to know about smart meters and whether they can save you money.

In this guide you'll find answers to questions including:

  • Why should I get a smart meter?

  • Will I save money?

  • What is a smart meter?

  • What are the smart meter pros and cons?

  • How do they work?

  • How do I read my smart meter?

  • When can I get a smart meter?

  • Can I still switch supplier?

Why should I get a smart meter?

If you want to save money on your energy bills, a smart meter can help you monitor and reduce your usage. It can also give you access to cheaper energy tariffs.

However, the scheme is voluntary, and you can refuse the new meter if you don’t want it.

The government’s website has more information about the rollout of smart meters in the UK, including your rights and timescales for the nationwide rollout.

Will I save money?

Yes, but only if you use your smart meter to both monitor and reduce your energy usage.

While the cost of installing smart meters nationwide may increase energy prices during the rollout, they remove the cost of third-party meter readings and can unlock access to cheaper tariffs.

Do I have to pay to have a smart meter fitted?

Not directly: the cost of installing smart meters in the UK is factored into everyone’s energy bills.

What is a smart meter?

A smart meter is a device that measures how much gas and electricity you use and how much it costs.

Smart meters are fitted to your home and can be used by both regular tariffs paid for in arrears (typically by direct debit), or prepaid tariffs where payment is made in advance via a prepayment meter.

What are the smart meter pros and cons?

You can summarise the advantages and disadvantages of smart meters in this handy list:

ProsCons
Accurate billsEnergy payments could change
Easy to track your energy usageData may be used for targeted ads
You could save with variable tariffsRates may be higher at peak times
Power cuts resolved fasterReliant on mobile signal

How do smart meters work?

Smart meters tell you how much gas and electricity you’ve used, plus send accurate meter readings to your energy supplier each month if you pay by direct debit.

They’re designed to replace current gas and electricity meters which rely on manual readings – either by yourself or a representative from your energy supplier. Smart meters should also end the need for estimated bills, ensuring you only pay for what you use.

Smart meters comprise three essential bits of equipment:

1. A smart meter to replace your current meter

2. A portable display unit for your home

3. A communication hub to send readings wirelessly to your display unit or supplier

Gas readings can be sent to your display unit every half hour, and electricity readings can be sent every 10 seconds.

You get to choose how often readings are sent to your supplier. The more regularly you send meter readings, the more accurate your bill will be.

What if I have different suppliers for my gas and electricity?

You will need two smart meters installed in your home, but you will only need one display unit. Your energy suppliers will be responsible for linking your separate smart meters to your display unit.

Do I need a wireless internet connection to use a smart meter?

No, the communication hub uses its own secure network to send your meter readings to your display unit and your energy supplier. You will, however, need access to a mobile signal.

How do I read my smart meter?

Your gas and electricity readings are sent to your portable display unit, which shows you:

  • The amount of energy you’re currently consuming

  • How much energy you’ve used in the last hour, week, and month

  • How much your energy usage costs

  • Whether your energy usage is low, medium, or high

If you use a prepaid gas or electricity smart meter, it can also show you:

  • The amount of credit you have remaining

  • How much you have left on your emergency credit balance

  • Your balance of how much you owe if you’re in debt

  • An alert if your credit is running low

Your smart meter display unit may look different depending on which supplier you use, but the information displayed will be the same.

Find out how to read your smart meter on the Smart Energy GB website.

When can I get a smart meter?

Energy companies plan to fit smart meters in every UK home by 2024, but you can contact your supplier to ask about getting yours installed sooner.

At some point, if you’ve not already received a smart meter, your energy supplier should contact you to arrange installation, but you don’t have to wait until being contacted if you’re desperate to get one.

You just need to:

  • Contact your energy supplier

  • Ask if a smart meter can be fitted at your home

  • Arrange a date for installation

  • Be at home for the engineer to fit the meter

If you decide to switch to a supplier who’s not using smart technology after your meter is installed – or you have an older generation (SMETS1) meter that can’t be migrated to a new supplier without a software update, it’ll revert to a standard digital meter for now, meaning you’ll need to take manual readings until it’s upgraded at a later date.

Can I still switch supplier if I have a smart meter?

Yes, Ofgem regulations state that you can still switch if you have a smart meter. Energy companies cannot use your data to prevent you from switching to a better deal.

If you switch to an energy supplier that is yet to use smart technology – or your smart meter doesn’t (yet) support switching suppliers, you may lose its smart functionality temporarily and have to give your readings manually.

However, this will only be until the supplier has upgraded its technology and you will still benefit from being able to monitor your current energy usage.