Are Smart Meters Worth Having?
A smart meter is a device installed in your home that measures your electricity and gas usage and its cost. Having one installed could reduce the cost of your energy bills by giving you access to the cheapest tariffs, as many of the best deals now require you to have a smart meter in your home. It can also help you monitor and reduce your energy usage, which is another way to save money.
Energy companies plan to fit a smart meter in every UK home by 2024, however the scheme is voluntary, so you are not obliged to accept the meter if you don’t want it. To find out more about the roll-out of smart meters and when they are being installed in your area, contact your current supplier.
How Do Smart Meters Work?
A smart meter is made up of three elements: the smart meter itself, a portable display unit for your home and a communication hub that automatically sends readings via wireless technology to your portable display and to your supplier. Meter readings will be sent to your supplier on a monthly basis (if you pay by Direct Debit).
Old-style gas and electricity meters use out-of-date technology and rely on manual readings. Smart meters are designed to give more accurate real-time readings, thereby removing the need for estimated bills.
Smart meters will usually be installed where your current meters are and can be used whether you have a prepaid meter or are a Direct Debit Customer.
What Information Will a Smart Meter Give Me?
Using your portable display unit, you’ll be able to track your electricity and gas usage for the current day, hour, week and month. It will also tell you the cost of your energy in pounds and pence, as well as whether your usage is high, medium or low. It can therefore help you identify where you can make savings.
If you have a prepaid meter your smart meter can also give you information about your balance.
How Can I Get a Smart Meter?
If you want to get a smart meter fitted sooner rather than later, contact your energy supplier to find out if they are installing in your area at this time. If they are able to, they will arrange a date for installation. You will need to be at home when the engineer visits.
Are There Any Cons to Having a Smart Meter?
There are two types of smart meter out there: SMETS1 and SMETS2. SMETS1 meters were the ‘first generation’ of smart meters and use the 3G network to send readings to your supplier. Unfortunately, these meters cease to work as smart meters if you switch to a new supplier, so they revert back to requiring manual readings. This makes it a bit of a pointless exercise if you are someone who likes to switch energy suppliers reasonably regularly (though it is planned that all existing SMETS1 meters will have their functionality upgraded remotely this year).
Most energy companies are now installing the second-generation of smart meters, SMETS2, because since March 2019 Ofgem have no longer counted installations of the older model towards the energy companies’ targets. SMETS2 meters use their own communications system and a central data network to which all suppliers have access, so it’s easy to switch suppliers as and when you want to.
If you can get a SMETS2 Meter installed, there really is no good reason not to have a smart meter in your home.