Government plans to roll smart meters out to homes across the UK by 2020 has prompted questions around the devices, namely, whether or not they can save homeowners money.
This guide will answer your questions about smart meters and help you decide whether you should have one installed into your home.
What is a Smart Meter?
A smart meter comes in 2 parts: a gas and electricity meter that replaces the traditional meter and a portable device with a small digital screen called the in-home display (IHD).
The first part sends meter readings directly to your energy supplier without any need for a manual meter reading. The IHD sits in your home and provides a real time display of your energy usage. These screens are often touchscreen to allow you to discover more about the energy usage of your home.
How Smart Meters Work
Using radio waves, the energy usage of your home is sent to the digital in-home display (IHD) which allows you to see a visual representation of the amount of energy being used.
Smart meters are in direct communication with your energy supplier, eliminating the need for you to do a meter reading, which helps to provide a much more accurate energy bill.
Benefits of a Smart Meter
There are many benefits to having a smart meter installed, especially when you compare them to traditional meters:
- Accurate real time energy usage
- Visibility of energy usage can help you find ways to save money
- No need for a meter reading
- Energy usage reports are sent directly to your energy supplier meaning that you get a more accurate bill rather than an estimate.
What Appears on the Smart Meter Display?
The in-home display shows you:
- Real time energy usage
- Energy used in the past hour, week and month
- How much your energy usage costs
- Whether your home has a high, medium or low energy usage.
Should you have a pre-pay meter, then you’ll also be able to see the following:
- Amount of credit that you have left
- Whether you have any emergency credit
- A warning to let you know if your credit is running low.
Cost of a Smart Meter
There are no upfront costs when it comes to having a smart meter installed.
Traditional meters are paid for through the energy bills of every consumer and this is the same for smart meters too. So, that means whether you have a smart meter or not, your bill covers the cost of all smart meters being rolled out by your energy supplier but you won’t see a ‘smart meter payment’ section on your bill.
Switching Supplier With a Smart Meter
Having a smart meter doesn’t affect your ability to switch energy suppliers. So don’t let having a smart meter put you off looking for a cheaper tariff.
However, should you switch supplier and they’re unable to operate it as a smart meter, it may revert to a traditional meter, which would prevent you from seeing real time updates of your energy usage. The new energy supplier will let you know if this will be the case beforehand. As the smart meter technology becomes more widespread this should become less of an issue.
Who Will Install the Smart Meter?
The smart meter installation will be carried out by your energy supplier and should take no longer than 2 hours from start to finish. Not only will your supplier fit the smart meter but they should also explain how to use it effectively.
Do I Need to Have a Smart Meter Installed?
Smart meters aren’t compulsory but as part of plans to improve the efficiency of homes around the UK, the government is aiming to have them installed into most homes by 2020 so you will be offered one.
While they might not be compulsory, they’re a useful tool for anyone looking to lower their energy bills, making them well worth considering.
Why are Smart Meters Being Rolled Out?
Government plans to make the use of gas and electricity in the UK more modern, as well as giving consumers more control over energy usage, has resulted in a smart meter roll out. Homes with a smart meter will be able to find ways that they can save energy, ultimately contributing to a reduction in the UK’s carbon footprint.
Smart Meter Safety
There are some concerns around the safety of smart meters, in terms of data security and physical health.
As smart meters are tracking the energy usage of your home, they safely and securely hold this information but no personal information about yourself. The only people who are able to see your energy usage are the energy supplier and energy network operators who get completely anonymous data to further understand UK energy usage and use that information to help them deal with power outages. Ultimately, though you have the power to decide who sees the information and how often your smart meter can send data to the energy supplier (can be done no longer than monthly).
When it comes to physical safety, there are concerns because smart meters display information about your energy usage with radio waves. Public Health England, however, has said that current evidence shows that the radio waves don’t pose a threat and are completely safe.
The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), who are responsible for the smart meter rollout across the UK, has stated that smart meters are covered by UK as well as EU product safety legislation. This legislation requires any product placed on the market to be safe.
Is it Worth Getting a Smart Meter?
If you’re looking to find ways of saving energy around the home, then a smart meter is a great piece of technology that will be able to help.
While a smart meter is a great tool, it’s not the only way you can save money on your energy bills. If it’s time to replace your current boiler then a new condensing unit can reduce your energy bills as they’re much more efficient than non-condensing units, as more heat is used to heat up the water that gets sent to taps and radiators.