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?
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.
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.
Not directly: the cost of installing smart meters in the UK is factored into everyone’s energy bills.
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.
You can summarise the advantages and disadvantages of smart meters in this handy list:
|Accurate bills||Energy payments could change|
|Easy to track your energy usage||Data may be used for targeted ads|
|You could save with variable tariffs||Rates may be higher at peak times|
|Power cuts resolved faster||Reliant on mobile signal|
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
No. While you will be given the opportunity to replace your current meter with a smart meter, there's no obligation to get one. Most energy suppliers have dedicated teams available to answer questions you might have so they can address your concerns. If you still don't want one, though, you won't be forced to have one.
However, customers looking to switch their energy deal may find that a smart meter is a requirement. Ian Bewick on TrustPilot said:
"It was explained that there was a requirement for us to use a Smart Meter for the selected supplier (we do not currently have one) and that this would be installed subsequently by that supplier as opposed to being required to be in situ already."
Ian Bewick, TrustPilot
While this might not be ideal for those who want to switch to a specific deal and find that a smart meter is a required part of the deal, it's important to remember that, ultimately, the choice remains yours.
Last updated: 1 April 2021