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A guide to smart meters

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A government-backed project is underway to provide smart meters to around 30 million homes across England, Scotland and Wales by 2020. The aim is to help us all save energy by enabling us to keep track of exactly how much gas and electricity we’re using.

Whereas older meters only show us how many units of energy we’ve used, smart meters also tell us how much we’re spending on energy in pounds and pence. If you're looking to save time, energy and money, smart meters are a smart choice. 

Here we answer some frequently asked questions about smart meters.

What is a smart meter?

A smart meter is a wireless meter that monitors your gas and electricity usage in near real time. It consists of both a meter and an in-home digital display unit that tells you how much you’re spending on your energy.

It does not connect to your home internet. Instead it uses radio waves to connect to a secure network that tells your utility provider(s) how much energy you’ve used. It doesn’t send any personal data about you.

It means you don’t have to provide meter readings to your utility provider. You will be billed based only on what you’ve used.

How do I know if I have a smart meter?

If you have a device in your home that shows you how much energy you’ve used, this could be your smart meter. However, smart thermostats and energy monitors can look a bit like smart meters. The way to be sure is to check with your energy supplier.

Can I switch suppliers and still keep my smart meter?

Some smart meters will work continuously regardless of who your energy supplier is, whereas some may experience an interruption in service when you switch to a new supplier. If you’re unsure which kind you have, get in touch with your energy supplier.

Do I have to pay to get a smart meter?

No, your energy supplier will fit a smart meter for you free of charge.

Can I have a smart meter?

For the vast majority of households, the answer is yes. The mobile smart meter network covers 88% of homes in England, Scotland and Wales, but that is set to increase further. Soon virtually all British homes will have access to the network.

If you’re renting your home, but you pay the energy bill, you can still ask for a smart meter. Your old meter belongs to your energy supplier, so they are allowed to take it away if you request a new one. You should let your landlord know you want a smart meter, in case there’s a clause in your contract that requires you to get permission. Your landlord should not unreasonably refuse permission without reason. If you’re renting your home and your landlord is the energy account holder, speak to them about the possibility of getting a smart meter.

If you’re on a pay-as-you-go energy plan, you can ask for a pay-as-you-go smart meter from your supplier.

Do I have to have a smart meter?

You are not legally obliged to have a smart meter if you don’t want one. However, we recommend that you get a smart meter. It will save you the time and hassle of submitting readings, you’ll avoid estimated bills, and you’ll be able to keep a close eye on what you’re spending.

Should I get a smart meter?

Smart meters are safe, secure and provide greater accuracy, so there are plenty of benefits and very few disadvantages to getting one. In fact, 71% of people who have had a smart meter for a year or more say it has made a difference to their energy usage. 

Estimated bills tend to be higher than those that are based on actual usage. Getting a smart meter will mean no more estimated bills, so you'll only pay for the energy you've used. 

What customers say

"[My energy supplier] recently arranged for an engineer to fit smart meters to both my electricity and gas supply. It was done speedily and efficiently at no cost to me. I now have a monitor which tells me how much fuel I am using and automatically sends in meter readings so that I am always charged the right amount."

"The installation of my smart meter was quick and the electrician was very polite and helpful. There was also a follow-up by someone who checked that all was well with the installation."

"The smart meter...makes life a lot easier."

How do I get a smart meter?

Simply contact your energy supplier, who will check that you’re eligible and arrange for your new meter to be fitted. 

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