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. Between now and 2024, 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 no plans at present to install smart meters.
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
Supplier says to you that they must fit a Smart Meter - What should you say?
Say No. We recommend customers waiting until Spring 2020 before saying yes for a Smart Meter in order to increase the chance of getting a SMETS2 meter. The reasons are:
- SMETS2 meters are more secure than SMETS1.
- Functions such as prepayment are more reliable across a range of suppliers.
- Although 15th March 2019 was the end date for installing SMETS1 meters, this just means that suppliers can't count SMETS1 towards their Ofgem targets. They could still install them if they have stock left over.
- Even if your supplier says they are installing SMETS2 only, the installer may have some SMETS1 left in their van to use where they can't get a SMETS2 to work or physically fit.
- SMETS2 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 early 2020.
We will keep reviewing the installation figures from Elexon
to see if the Spring 2020 recommendation can be brought forward. (Updated: 2020-01-20)
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 one way or the other. This site tries to give that view. (Updated: 2014-12-20)
Can I refuse to have a smart meter installed?
Yes. You are under no obligation to have a smart meter installed in your home, and you can change your mind and accept one later. You can discuss any concerns you have about smart meters with your supplier. However there will come a time when only Smart Meters are available and so if your meter breaks due to a fault it will be replaced by a Smart Meter. See our Against
page for information on why some people are worried about Smart Meters. (Updated: 2019-10-21)
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 have to 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 all customers by 2020, 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: 2018-09-01)
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 safety problems are being spotted in peoples homes during installation of the smart meter which would not have been spotted without a visit. (Updated: 2019-10-21)
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 are supported by all suppliers and allow customers to switch without losing any services or requiring any equipment changes. SMETS2 meters are now being installed in large volumes.
SMETS1 meters usually require replacing when you change supplier to retain a smart service. However due to the large volume of SMETS1 meters, there is now an agreement to allow SMETS1 meters to be upgraded and enrolled into the new DCC systems and thus allow smooth switching for customers.
See our Technical page
for a list of SMETS1 meter types that can be upgraded. (Updated: 2019-10-21)
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. (Updated: 2017-09-11)
When will I get a smart meter?
Each supplier started installing high volumes of SMETS1 Smart Meters in 2017, and started on SMETS2 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 the the signal availablity on the new SMETS2 DCC Network; there was 97% coverage by the end of 2018 and a planned coverage of 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. (Updated: 2020-02-01)
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. SMETS2 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 SMETS1 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)
I have a SMETS2 meter. Will it work after switching suppliers?
If you have a SMETS2 meter it has to be commissioned through DCC which is a common service used by all suppliers. Therefore you are safe to switch as your meter will continue to work with your new supplier.
SMETS1 meters often use different support systems across different suppliers and therefore fail to work after switching suppliers. (Updated: 2020-01-07)
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.
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 to apply your credit. This 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 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. (Updated: 2016-03-07)
Why does my IHD show CO2?
The measure of CO2 on your IHD (In Home Display) shows the amount of CO2 given off by power stations generating the electricity you are using. The calculation is set by Ofgem based on the average amount of carbon dioxide emitted for every kWh of energy generated. The average is for the fuel mix across entire UK energy industry, so may be misleading if you have opted for a CO2 free source such as Wind or Nuclear. (Updated: 2018-06-03)
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 2024 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. (Updated: 2019-12-22)
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 different 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)
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)
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: 2014-12-20)
What is a PPMID?
Customers who opt to pre-pay for their energy should have a fall back means of applying a top up locally to their meter in the event of a temporary loss of WAN communications. This can be most easily achieved with a PPMID (pre-payment meter interface device), which allows the customer to easily enter a purchase reference number. Most suppliers now use IHDs (In Home Displays) with integrated PPMID functionality. (Updated: 2020-02-09)
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)