Smart Meters

The truth about Smart Meters - the good and the bad

Simple diagram showing how meters and IHD connect.

Energy supply companies have been installing smart meters for electricity and gas in homes across Great Britain since 2012. By 2025, all residential and small businesses across England, Scotland and Wales will be offered a smart meter by their energy supplier.

In Northern Ireland the Department for the Economy (DfE) has recommended an electricity smart meter roll-out over six years starting in 2027. A gas roll-out won't be included as the benefits were not sufficient.

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 website 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.

(Page updated: 2023-09-02)

Questions & Answers

What is the purpose of this website?

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 one way or the other. This site tries to give that view.

(Updated: 2023-06-24)
Supplier says to you that they must fit a Smart Meter - What should you say?
Looking at the install numbers from Elexon, the risk of getting an older SMETS 1 meter is low and you are very likely to get the latest SMETS 2 meter. So we recommend you say Yes. We still recommend insisting on a SMETS 2 meter when ordering and when your installer arrives as:
  1. SMETS 2 meters are more secure than SMETS 1.
  2. Functions such as prepayment are more reliable across a range of suppliers.
  3. Although 15th March 2019 was the end date for installing SMETS 1 meters, this just means that suppliers can't count SMETS 1 towards their Ofgem targets. They could still install them if they have stock left over.
  4. Even if your supplier says they are installing SMETS 2 only, the installer may have some SMETS 1 left in their van to use where they can't get a SMETS 2 to work or physically fit.
  5. SMETS 2 meters will have a solution for high rise flats and basements where the meters and IHD (In House Display) are far apart. This is known as the alternative HAN solution and should be available in 2024.
(Updated: 2024-03-08)
My energy company told me that my meter is unsafe and I need a smart meter – What should I do?
Traditional meters have a recognised life within which should they record energy accurately. This life can be up to 45 years, but most are either 10 or 15 years. When they are beyond their certification date a supplier must replace them with another meter and must use a smart meter unless there is a technical reason why this cannot be done.
We suspect your supplier is using the word "unsafe" to reinforce the fact that this change is compulsory and not something you can refuse. However, they should not have told you your meters are unsafe as this is unnecessarily worrying and most likely not the case.
So don't worry. The meters are being changed to ensure they remain accurate which is in your best interests, so simply agree to have them changed, free of charge, at your convenience. (Updated: 2023-02-12)
Why do my meter, IHD and account show different values?
Due to the challenges of communicating with the meter and In Home Device (IHD), it's possible for the meter, IHD and your account to show different things.
Only meter readings are important for your bill, whether supplied by smart meter automatically or by you manually. The meter readings are used by your supplier to calculate a bill in their billing system.
Therefore, follow these checks to ensure your billing is accurate:
  1. Check your Smart Meter reading (from your Smart Meter and not from the IHD) is on your online account. If it isn't, send it in manually.
  2. Once your readings are provided your online account will produce an accurate bill.
  3. If your IHD does not match your bill don’t worry as many things can affect what the IHD shows. To get your IHD working properly contact your supplier.
(Updated: 2022-11-12)
Why do suppliers keep pushing Smart meters?
It may seem strange why suppliers keep pushing smart meters even though customers can just say no. The reason for this is that suppliers must tell the regulator Ofgem every year what they will achieve by the end of the year in terms of % of customers with a Smart Meter, and they must not miss this target.
Ofgem will also check that the rate of installation is high enough to cover most customers by June 2025, so suppliers can't get away with just giving a low figure.
If suppliers don't achieve this forecast, then they get fined. For example, EDF Energy was fined £350k in June 2018 for missing their own forecast target. (Updated: 2021-11-13)
Can I refuse to have a smart meter installed?
You are under no obligation to have a smart meter installed in your home unless your existing meter is faulty or has reached the end of its certified life. If you refuse you can change your mind and accept one later. However, there will come a time when only Smart Meters are available and so if your meter breaks due to a fault a Smart Meter will replace it.
You can discuss any concerns you have about smart meters with your supplier. See our Good or Bad? page for information on why some people are worried about Smart Meters. (Updated: 2024-03-28)
Could my gas fire be disconnected?
When the installer fits your Smart Electricity and Gas Meters, they will look for potential safety issues on your appliances.
As part of the installation rules, they are required to place a warning notice and, in some cases, cap off anything that looks potentially unsafe and ask you to get it checked and fixed if necessary. For example, if it looks like the flue for your gas fire is blocked, they will attach a safety warning to it with instructions not to use until you get a Gas Safe Engineer to fix it.
It could turn out that there is nothing wrong, but this is for your own safety, the policy here is better safe than sorry.
All installers who work on gas meters are Gas Safe registered. (Updated: 2023-10-02)
Are smart meters safe?
Yes. Smart meters are subject to the same safety regulations and testing of any in-home technological devices, including baby monitors and mobile phones. Additionally, the meters are secure having a security system developed by industry and government experts including GCHQ's National Cyber Security Centre.
A side benefit is that many electrical and gas safety problems are being spotted in people's homes during installation of the smart meter which would not have been spotted without a visit. (Updated: 2022-10-31)
Can I have my Smart Meter removed?
Once you have a Smart Meter you cannot go back to a Traditional Meter. The suppliers' stocks of Traditional Meters are nearly gone, and they are not being manufactured or refurbished anymore except in small quantities. (Updated: 2024-02-11)
Is my Smart Meter working?
Citizens Advice have developed a tool to tell you what type of smart meter you have in your home and if it's working in smart mode. The tool can also tell you if your meter should work in smart mode after switching supplier. Access the tool here: Citizens Advice Smart Meter Checker. (Updated: 2021-10-30)
How do I read a smart meter?
It is possible to read information from your smart meter, unfortunately there are many different makes out there with different controls, so please check our Documents page or contact your supplier for additional information. (Updated: 2019-10-21)
Should I buy an Energy Saving Device?
Over the last few years, we have seen plug in Energy Saving Devices advertised offering to immediately shave 90% off your bill. Do not buy these they are a scam. In fact, worse than this, most are dangerous and could cause fires or electric shocks. (Updated: 2022-06-24)
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 by charging a key or putting coins in a meter. Smart meters allow you to pay through the internet.

(Updated: 2022-09-05)
How do I top-up my smart meter PAYG if the mobile network is down?
Normally your PAYG (Pay As You Go) 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.
Firstly, you can use the emergency credit that most suppliers offer. If that runs out, you can enter the long authorisation number that you received when you paid for the credit into the meter or IHD (In Home Display) to apply your credit. This is very difficult to do on the meter so use the IHD if you can. (Updated: 2019-10-21)
How much data is stored on a Smart Meter?
The SMETS 2 specification requires the following data to be recorded and stored.
Half-hourly electricity data:
  • 13 months of consumption (Active Energy Import)
  • 3 months of active energy exported
  • 3 months of reactive energy imported
  • 3 months of reactive energy exported.
Gas data:
  • 3 months of half-hourly consumption
  • 13 months of monthly consumption.
(Updated: 2020-11-07)
Why are smart meters controversial?
Whilst earlier conversations about smart meters focused on safety, 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 2024 has been a bumpy ride so far.
In early 2014, EDF Energy, Scottish Power 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 their energy bills over the long term. 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. (Updated: 2024-02-28)
Will a smart meter save me money?
A smart meter itself won't save you money, but the In Home Display (IHD) your smart meter comes with can offer much insight into how to lower your bills. Your IHD lets you see how much energy you are using at various times of the day, week, month or year, which should help you cut your energy usage and your bills by highlighting ways you can be more energy efficient.
The Centre for Sustainable Energy has advice on Smart Meters and other ways to save money on energy.
Also, over time the technology will lead to the creation of innovative new tariffs and personalised plans individually tailored to fit your lifestyle and energy consumption. (Updated: 2019-10-21)
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. (Updated: 2022-10-31)
When will I get a smart meter?
Each supplier started installing high volumes of SMETS 1 Smart Meters in 2017, and started on SMETS 2 meters in 2018. They are keen to install as many as they can to meet government targets. Whether they can install at your particular address is mainly governed by the signal availability on the new SMETS 2 DCC Network; there was 97% coverage by the end of 2018 and 99.25% by the end of 2020.
Contact your supplier if you would like a smart meter installed, however, it is up to you if you want a smart meter as they are not compulsory unless your old meter has failed or reached the end of its certified life. (Updated: 2022-03-31)
What is a smart meter?
A Smart Meter is a new kind of meter to measure your energy, they are available for electricity and gas. Smart meters allow communications to and from your energy supplier and distribution network operator, and they can therefore send meter readings automatically. An In Home Display will be provided with your meter to allow you to see how much energy you are using and what it is costing. There have been a number of standards in the UK, but the latest is called a SMETS 2 meter. (Updated: 2018-07-01)
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 in 2021 when technical solutions have been investigated and commissioned by a new company set up specifically to find solutions, the Alt HAN Co Ltd.
Small blocks of flats are being treated the same as other smaller properties during the national roll-out. (Updated: 2020-02-05)
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. SMETS 2 equipment has been designed 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. However, the earlier SMETS 1 standard did not always interoperate unless the meters were on the same system, and even then, support for interoperability by suppliers was poor. (Updated: 2019-10-21)
How much will a smart meter cost me?
Your supplier will install your smart meter for free under the national upgrade programme that begun in 2015. All households currently pay for the cost of their meters and required maintenance as part of their energy bills, this will be the same with smart meters. The overall cost is estimated to be £13 billion, however, the estimated savings are expected to be £19 billion. So even after the investment of installing smart meters for everyone, there should be a national saving of £6 billion by 2034. (Updated: 2019-12-22)
How much can I save on energy costs every year?
The average household can expect to see savings improve from an additional cost of £11 in 2018 to annual savings of £36 by 2034. (Updated: 2019-12-22)
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