Smart meters will be offered for free to most UK households by the end of 2020. Make sure you know the benefits of having a smart meter fitted, and whether a smart meter will help you.
What does a smart meter do?
Smart meters replace your existing electricity or gas meter to record your energy usage. The key difference from a traditional meter is that a smart meter automatically sends your meter readings to your supplier. Normally this happens every 30 minutes and it means the supplier always has up to date information to generate your bills.
Smart meters often come with energy monitors or “in home displays”. These are simple displays that show you how much energy you are using in real time.
What are the benefits of having a smart meter installed?
Understand your usage
If you have a smart meter it’s definitely worth getting an energy monitor as well. The energy monitor lets you see how much energy you use in real time. If it’s linked to the smart meter you also get the benefit of seeing how much you’re spending.
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Not only is that a useful reminder to turn off the lights, but you can see which appliances are using the most energy, and work out if any are faulty. The meters also help you build new habits and reduce your energy usage, meaning lower bills and lower carbon emissions.
Get more accurate bills
Smart meters mean that suppliers always have up to date usage information when generating your energy bill. You won’t overpay because you’re using less energy than they think. And you won't get hit with a large bill when you submit a higher than predicted meter reading.
Note that, if you’re on a credit deal you’ll still need to stay on top of your monthly payments. You won’t get an “estimated” bill, but your supplier may still try and flatten your monthly payments across the year. That means your account can still build up credit.
Save time on meter readings
Another benefit of smart meters is that your meter readings are sent to your supplier automatically, so there’s one less thing to remember each month. There’s also no risk that you’ll enter a reading incorrectly and get billed for energy you haven’t really used.
Top up more easily
If you are on a pay as you go tariff, a smart meter makes it much easier to add money to your account. You can top up a smart prepayment meter online or via an app instead of having to make a trip to the shop.
Improve the UK’s energy infrastructure
The government are pushing to have all homes upgraded to smart meters by 2025. Real time readings across the UK would allow energy to be delivered more efficiently when it was needed, as production could be adjusted to match demand in real time. This would help reduce UK emissions and make power cuts even less likely.
Smart meters are free, and you might get a discount
The smart meter rollout is already included in the cost of your energy bills, so suppliers can upgrade your meter for free. Some suppliers will even offer cheaper energy plans to households with a smart meter or willing to have one installed. That’s because they have targets to install a set number of smart meters and they also benefit from real time readings which make billing easier for them as well.
Is it worth getting a smart meter?
Smart meters will only save you money if you monitor and reduce your usage – they aren’t a magic ticket to cheaper energy bills.
It’s worth getting a smart meter if:
- You’re keen to understand and reduce your usage
- You struggle to stay on top of meter readings
- Your supplier offers you a discount for upgrading
However, there are still some significant problems with smart meters, so if the above doesn’t apply to you we wouldn’t go out of our way to get one installed just yet.
How can I get a smart meter installed?
Speak to your supplier and see if they will install a smart meter for you. Most suppliers should be able to offer a free smart meter installation. Make sure to check that the meter is the most recent generation of meters – a “SMETS2”. Older generation meters can lose smart functionality if you switch between suppliers.
Some households may struggle to get a meter installed if there is poor phone signal or the meter is in a difficult location to access.
Some smaller suppliers aren’t able to support smart meters yet, however all suppliers will be required to offer smart meters in the future.
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