Smart Meters

The truth about Smart Meters - the good and the bad

Energy supply companies have started installing smart meters for electricity and gas in homes across Great Britain - most homes should have one by 2020.

A smart meter sends an electronic meter reading to your energy supplier, meaning:

  • they won't need to take a manual meter reading - as the meters send back readings themselves
  • you won't get estimated bills - as actual readings are available
  • it'll be easier to switch energy suppliers - as the reading at changeover is readily available.
  • there should be less arguments - as the readings are reliable and not subject to disagreement.

You'll also get a digital display in your home, helping you to keep track of how much energy you're using and how much it's costing.

You won't have to pay for your smart meter or digital display up front - the cost will be included in everyone's energy bill over the next few years.

A smart meter won't change how you currently pay for your energy bill, e.g. monthly or prepaid. This will still be determined by the product and payment method you choose.

Many people have questions about Smart Meters, this web site tries to answer them honestly for electricity and gas meters, thoroughly and without bias. This site does not deal with Smart water meters as our team do not have expertise in that area.

Questions & Answers

What is the purpose of this site?
When we looked around at the information available for Smart Meters on the web we were concerned that it was difficult to get an unbiased view. This site tries to give that view.

Can my supply be turned off remotely?
Smart meters have the facility to remotely disconnect and reconnect both the electricity and gas supply. However most suppliers seem to have decided it is too dangerous to remotely disconnect or reconnect, as in the case of disconnection they cannot always be sure that the customer isn't relying on a supply for serious health reasons and in the case of reconnection the customer may have left a cooker on for example.

I have moved into a house with a smart meter. Can I get it removed?
You can ask your supplier to turn off the 'smart' functionality in your Smart Meter, which would mean they no longer send messages to it and would ask you to send meter readings, as they would for a traditional meter. They would have to do this and the regulator Ofgem supports this right.
However this could still leave the communications module switched on, albeit with little traffic, and the rules are not clear on whether you could insist on it being turned off. It would require a site visit by the supplier and unfortunately, on most models, the communications module cannot be turned off. We suggest you talk your supplier about any concerns you have.

Will my meters have to be changed if I change supplier?
There are a number of meter standards out there currently, only the latest SMETS2 standard is fully interoperable, meaning only SMETS2 will be supported by all suppliers and allow customer to switch without losing any services or requiring any equipment changes. Unfortunately SMETS2 meters are just being tested and will only start to be installed from June 2017.
The SMETS1 meters currently being installed usually require replacing when you change supplier. However as the programme has been so slow in implementation, there is now an initiative to allow SMETS1 meters to be enrolled into the future systems and thus allow smooth switching for customers, but that is some years away.
So currently it is very likely that your smart meters will have to be replaced if you want to use their functionality. If you don't want the smart functionality, most suppliers will leave them on the wall and treat them as a traditional meter.

Does my meter produce my bill?
Although you meter calculates your bill so that the cost can be shown on your IHD, your supplier will calculate and produce a bill independently from meter readings collected from your meter. Suppliers do this so that they can produce a bill even if the communications to your meter is broken, i.e. requires an estimated bill.

What is credit and prepayment mode?
Credit mode is where you pay for energy though a paying a amount of money regularly, usually a fixed amount. If your energy consumption goes above what you have paid for the supplier will allow you to re-pay over a period thereby offering you credit.
Prepayment is when you pay in advance for your energy buy charging a key or putting coins in a meter. The new smart meters will allow you to pay through the internet.

When will I get a smart meter?
Each supplier will plan their own roll-out to customers but all are expected to start installing high volumes in 2017. The uswitch web site provides a useful guide to each supplier's progress with the smart meter roll-out. Contact your supplier to find out when your region can anticipate smart meter installations to start.

If my electricity and gas is with different suppliers, what happens?
If your electricity and gas is with different suppliers, each supplier will contact you to make an appointment to install a smart meter for the fuel they supply to you. The equipment has been design to a particular standard so that all the meters and In Home Displays can talk together, this way you only need one In Home Display which will normally be supplied by the first supplier who installs a smart meter in your home.

How do I top-up my smart meter PAYG if the mobile network is down?
Normally your PAYG top-up will be sent automatically to the smart meter, however if the communications link through the mobile network is not available then this cannot happen. However you can enter the long authorisation number that you received when you paid for the credit into the meter to apply your credit.
However this is not easy to do, so if you have difficulty with the entry of this number then your supplier can provide a special keypad to allow you to enter the authorisation number more easily and, probably, in a more convenient location.

I want a smart meter fitted by my small supplier. They say they don't fit them yet, what should I do?
Small Suppliers are allowed by regulation to keep fitting Advanced Meters (an older type of electronic meter, not compliant with new SMETS1 or SMETS2 standards) until 12th March 2018. So it's their choice until that date. Large suppliers are already fitting SMETS1 smart meters but only for particular tariff and customer groups that they can currently support. Large suppliers will have to stop fitting older Advanced Meters by 12th November 2017.

How much data is stored on a Smart Meter?
The specification for these Smart Meters requires 13 months worth of consumption data to be stored at the highest level of detail, which is at half hourly measurement intervals.

Why are Smart Meters more accurate?
It is a bit misleading to say Smart Meters are inherently more accurate than traditional meters as they all must meet the same standards. The improved accuracy is around billing, as meter readings will be collected automatically and stamped with the precise date/time.

Why are smart meters controversial?
Whilst earlier conversations about smart meters focused on safety (which you can read more about in Campaigns Against), more recent criticisms have sprung from how the government and suppliers are handling the roll-out. From cost to customer communication, the plan to get a smart meter into every home by 2020 has been a bumpy ride so far. In early 2014, EDF Energy, ScottishPower and npower called for a review of the roll-out, stating the cost to customers would be £1.8 billion. This, they said, was due to the "ambitious" deadline of every household in four years and the cost of the In Home Displays. The cost is ultimately paid by customers through measures on their energy bills. Instead, suppliers proposed, customers could link up their smart meter to their smartphone or tablet to save cost. In 2013, independent research commissioned by uSwitch found that 55% of us were "in the dark" about smart meters. That meant households did not understand what smart meters did and how they could benefit them. However, later studies of those with actual smart meters in their homes enjoyed more accurate billing and were more satisfied with their providers.

Will a smart meter save me money?
A smart meter itself won't save you money, but the extras your smart meter will come with can offer much insight into how to lower your bills. Your In Home Display lets you see how much energy you are using at different times of the day, week, month or year, which could help you cut your energy usage and your bills by highlighting ways you can be more energy efficient. Also, many hope that the technology will lead to the creation of innovative new tariffs and personalised plans individually tailored to fit your lifestyle and energy consumption.

I live in a block of flats. When will I get a Smart Meter?
Large blocks of flats, say over 20 homes, can have technical problems connecting the Smart Meter to the In Home Display, as the meters are often in a common area at some distance from the room where the In Home Display will be located. The roll-out to these properties will be later when technical solutions have been investigated, probably starting around 2018. Small blocks of flats will be treated the same as other smaller properties during the national roll-out starting in 2017.

Can I have a smart meter if I'm a prepayment customer?
Yes. Smart meters work in both credit and prepayment modes. In fact, prepayment customers will have more flexible payment options available to them with smart meters, including remote top-up facilities.

How much is this all costing?
The total cost is estimated to be £11 billion, however the estimated savings are expected to be £17 billion. So even after the investment of installing smart meters for everyone, there should be a national saving of £6 billion by 2030.

How much can I save on energy costs every year?
The average household can expect to make yearly savings of £26 by 2020, and with rising energy costs the saving will rise to £43 a year by 2030.

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