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Should you get a smart meter?

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Written by Martin Lane, Managing Editor

13 September 2018

Technology is smarter than ever and a new monitor could cut the cost of your energy bills. Here is what you need to know about smart meters and whether they can save you money.

Why get one?

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 do not want it.

GOV.UK has more information about the rollout of smart meters in the UK, including your rights and timescales for the nationwide rollout.

Will you save money?

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

The cost of installing smart meters nationwide may increase energy prices, but you remove the cost of meter readings and also get access cheaper tariffs.

Read our guide to saving money on your gas and electricity for more information on cutting the cost of your energy bill.

No, but the cost of installing smart meters in the UK will be factored into everybody's energy bills.

What is a smart meter?

It is a device that measures how much gas and electricity you use and how much it costs.

They are fitted to your home and can be used whether you pay by direct debit or by prepayment meter.

What are the pros and cons?

The pros and cons of getting a smart meter are:

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

Yes, you can request that your supplier does not use your data to contact you with information about other deals or offers.

Your data will still be sent to your supplier so they can provide you with an accurate bill.

How do they work?

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

They are designed to replace current gas and electricity meters which use out of date technology, and have to be read manually. They should also end the need for estimated bills.

Smart meters are made up of 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 can 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 at 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 need access to mobile signal.

The network is run by the Data and Communications Company, which is part of the energy regulator Ofgem. For more information about how your data is kept secure, check out the Energy UK website.

How do you read it?

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

  • How much energy you are currently using

  • How much energy you have 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:

  • How much credit you have left

  • How much you have left on your emergency credit balance

  • Your debt balance, if you have one

  • 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 regardless of your supplier.

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

When can you get one?

Energy companies plan to fit smart meters in every UK home by 2020, but you can contact your supplier to ask about getting yours installed.

You just need to:

  1. Contact your energy supplier

  2. Ask if a smart meter can be fitted at your home

  3. Arrange a date for installation

  4. Be at home for the engineer to fit the meter

If you decide to switch to a supplier who is not using smart technology after your meter is installed, you may have to upgrade your meter again at a later date.

Can you still switch supplier?

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, you may lose your smart meter's functionality temporarily and have to give your readings manually.

However, this will only be until the supplier has upgraded their technology and you will still benefit from monitoring your current energy usage.

Find out how to switch your energy supplier.