Your Guide to Smart Meters
It is likely that you have been offered a smart meter, or at least have heard tell of them, even if you do not yet have one in your home. But you may be wondering exactly what a smart meter is, how it works, and whether or not you should have one installed where you live. To help you understand smart meters and make the right decisions, Money Pug has put together this guide. Read on to learn everything you need to know about this new technology.
What is a Smart Meter?
A smart meter is a more technologically advanced alternative to standard gas and electricity meters. Unlike regular meters, smart meters to not have to be read by consumers. Regular meters must be read, either by the energy supplier or by the householder. But smart meters track their own readings, and automatically update the energy company on how much energy has been used.
A smart meter is connected to a secure national communication network (called the DCC). It uses this network to automatically and wirelessly send your actual energy usage to the company who issues your bills. They also come with an in-home display, which gives you real-time usage information, including kWhs used and the cost.
What Are the Benefits of a Smart Meter?
There are a wide range of benefits to having a smart meter installed in your home. Namely:
- Smart meters are part of efforts to create a smart grid here in the UK. They are part of providing efficient, low-carbon and reliable energy to households and Britain’s transition into a more sustainable 21st Century.
- Smart meters provide energy companies with the usage data they need to build up a more accurate picture. Understanding energy usage better allows them to offer more innovative energy tariffs.
- Since the readings are sent automatically, you can get more accurate bills. Strangers do not have to come into your home to take readings, and you do not have to worry about providing readings either.
- The smart meter display also helps you to understand your energy usage better. That can help you determine ways to cut your energy use and reduce your energy bills. When you understand how exactly you are using energy, this can empower you to make positive changes, make smarter decisions, and save money.
How Much Does it Cost to get a Smart Meter?
There is no additional charge for installing a smart meter. Your energy supplier will cover the cost, since the cost of the roll out is already factored into your energy bill. This is exactly the same as the way in which installation and maintenance of traditional meters are included in energy bills. So there is no cost to you in getting a smart meter fitted.
If I have a Smart Meter, Can I Switch Energy Supplier?
Having a smart meter is no barrier to switching energy supplier. No matter what kind of meter you have, you still have the freedom to compare your options and switch energy supplier. However, there have been some teething problems around these new smart meters and switching, which are worth bearing in mind.
The first generation of smart meters (which are called SMETS1) have had some functionality issues when consumers switch energy supplier. These smart meters can temporarily lose function when a switch is made. But that does not mean that you cannot switch. It just means that you will have to switch back to providing manual readings until a remote upgrade can be applied to make the meter multi-system compatible. Even if the meter reverts to ‘dumb mode’ because you have switched, it is worth noting that the in-home display will still provide you with real-time updates on your energy consumption. This can be very useful even when the other benefits of the smart meter have temporarily been lost.
Second generation smart meters (SMETS2) started to be rolled out in 2018. These newer models are fully compatible with the DCC (the network through which smart meters talk). These therefore have no issues with energy supplier switching, and you should experience no loss in functionality at all.
When Will I Get a Smart Meter?
If you do not already have a smart meter, or have not already been offered one, you should be offered a smart meter by your supplier by 2024. If you have not been contacted by your supplier already, you could reach out to them to find out when they plan to install smart meters in your area.
Who Will Install My Smart Meter?
Your energy supplier will work with you to arrange a suitable time to install a smart meter in your home. However, it is likely that they will contract a third party that specialises in the installation of smart meters to actually carry out the work.
Those in installing smart meters are bound by Ofgems Smart Metering Installation Code of Practice. Sales attempts are prohibited during installation (unless previous consent has been given by the household). The code also binds companies to properly explain to you how smart meters operate, and how you can use the data they provide to improve energy efficiency in your home.
Do I Have to Have a Smart Meter?
No, you do not have to agree to have a smart meter installed. It is important to understand that while you may wish to consider the benefits, you are under absolutely no obligation to have a smart meter put into your home. If you have any concerns then you are welcome to raise these, and any queries you may have, with your supplier. Many companies have dedicated teams to help answer questions about the technology that is involved, and the installation process (should you decide to go ahead and get a smart meter).
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