All You Need To Know About Smart Meters
The government wants to roll out smart meters in every UK home by 2024. What are they all about?
Amelia Crew

There has been a lot of talk about energy Smart Meters over the past few years. This handy guide will help you discover whether a Smart Meter is right for you and tell you all you need to know about how they work and how they can help you monitor your energy consumption.

The introduction of Smart Meters has meant the end of estimated bills. Consumers can be confident that they are paying only for the energy that they use. An added bonus for householders is that with a smart meter, they are never in the dark about their bills.

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How Can a Smart Meter Help You?

Smart meters are the most up-to-date method of measuring your gas and/or electricity usage. Prior to their introduction, householders had to track their own energy consumption. They also had to submit their readings to their energy provider in order to ensure accurate energy bills.

Smart meters come in two parts - the first part is the actual meter which will replace your traditional gas or electricity meter. The second part is the in-home digital display which will accurately show real-time energy use, enabling customers to adjust their habits in order to reduce their bills.

Having a smart meter in your home means that you can see instantly how your lifestyle impacts your energy usage. For instance, you can instantly see how much it costs to make a cup of tea or take a shower. This knowledge enables you to make smart choices. We are all guilty of boiling the kettle then forgetting about it, sometimes boiling it three or four times before using it. Knowing how much this costs could ensure that we don't forget about it next time! Likewise knowing the cost of a five minute shower versus a twenty minute shower could help family members change their habits. You will quickly learn which household gadgets cost you the most money. This will help you plan how and when to use these gadgets in order to save money.

How Do Smart Meters Work?

The newest Smart meters use a secure wireless communication network (known as the DCC) to send your readings to your energy supplier. Some older models use mobile networks but do not need to use your WiFi or your mobile data, it is completely separate.

Can I Switch Energy Suppliers If I Have a Smart Meter?

Yes, you absolutely can switch suppliers when you have a smart meter.

The technology is improving constantly and it is thought that in the future, smart meters will make switching even easier.

At the moment, households which have the first generation of smart meters (known as SMETS1) may experience some issues in the beginning when they switch. They may have to manually submit readings to their new supplier. A remote upgrade of their meter will address this issue in the future.

Newer models (known as SMETS2) are more advanced meaning they are totally compatible with national network which the meters use to communicate with suppliers. Households with this type of smart meter should have no issues switching between energy providers.

Can Everyone Have a Smart Meter?

Thankfully, advances in technology mean that more and more consumers can now benefit from having a smart meter. In the beginning, households on special tariffs, prepayment meters or Economy7 meters were unable to upgrade to a smart meter.

In the case of prepayment smart meters, customers can now top up online. No more trips to the corner shop to buy a card! For Economy7 users, the smart technology will show you your on and off-peak usage separately, helping you to make the most of your money.

Are There Any Disadvantages To Smart Meters?

There are a few disadvantages that you need to be aware of. The first is that poor signal may affect the ability of your meter to transmit your readings. This particularly affects the older generation of smart meters which operate using mobile networks. It stands to reason that if the mobile reception is inefficient in your area, your smart meter would be impacted as well. Currently, around 8% of UK households cannot receive data from mobile networks. This is according to OFCOM, the UK's communication regulator.

It is expected that the new wireless smart meter network will cover at least 99.25% of the UK which is great news.

The second aspect to consider is that having a smart meter will not reduce your bills by itself. It is by being aware of and adjusting your energy habits that you will save money. The smart meter provides you with the information, it is down to you to use it in the best way in order to make savings.

Finally, not all energy providers support smart meters. To check if your provider does, click here.

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