What’s a smart meter?

Smart meters are electricity and gas meters connected to a national network. They offer insight into how much energy you use and should put a stop to inaccurate estimated bills.

They’re a replacement for traditional meters and can send accurate meter readings direct to your energy suppliers.

How gas and electricity smart meters work

They work just like a traditional meter by measuring your per unit consumption of gas and electricity.

But they’re also plugged into a secure national communication network (called the DCC) to automatically and wirelessly send your actual energy usage to your supplier.

They also connect to an ‘in-home display’ that will display your energy consumption, in both units of gas and KWh and cost in pounds.

Benefits of a smart meter

  • You can keep an eye on your live consumption of gas and electricity
  • You don’t need to let anyone into your home to read your meter
  • You don’t need to do any readings yourself
  • Your supplier can bill you on how much gas and electric you’ve actually used, rather than make estimates

It’s also hoped that suppliers will be able to use their understanding of usage patterns to offer more innovative (and hopefully cheaper) tariffs in the future.

Do you have to get a smart meter?

You’re under no obligation to have a smart meter installed in your home. You can keep your old gas and electricity meters as long as they’re operable (which should be for many years to come).

You can discuss any concerns you have about smart meters with your supplier

How do you get a smart meter?

You must be offered a smart meter from your energy supplier by 2020.

However, this doesn’t mean you’ll actually have a smart meter by this date, but you should at least be contacted by your supplier asking if you want one.

All of the ‘big six’ energy suppliers already offer smart meters to many of their customers.

They’ve mostly been rolling them out by location and usage type, but if you want one and haven’t been offered yet, you can try contacting your supplier, or registering your interest online.

How much does it cost to get a smart meter?

It shouldn’t cost you anything to have a smart meter installed. It’ll be carried out by your energy supplier.

Will a smart meter save money?

A smart meter itself won't save you money, but it can offer insight into how to lower your bills.

Your in-home display lets you see how much energy you’re 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.

Who installs my smart meter?

Your energy supplier will arrange your smart meter installation, though if they don’t send their own engineers they may use a specialist agency. In any case you should be informed about who is coming to your home and when.

The installation shouldn’t be used as a chance to sell you any additional services, as this is prohibited by Ofgem.

Are there prepay smart meters?

Smart meters will work for prepayment customers, it’s worth contacting your supplier if you have a prepayment plan and would like to get a smart meter.

Prepayment customers likely stand to benefit the most from smart meters. The possibility to make flexible payments via apps, and notifications to keep up to date, could make it much easier to keep on top of energy bills.

SMETS1 and SMETS2 meters

The first generation of smart meters (called SMETS1) would only provide ‘smart’ benefits with the energy supplier that installed them.

Over the course of 2018 these have been replaced with SMETS2 on a secure national network (called DCC) that all energy suppliers can access. So, when you switch your new supplier will be able to use your smart meter.

While the government insists we’re all given smart meters for free, there doesn’t seem to be any obligation to for suppliers replace a SMETS1 with a SMETS2.

However, energy suppliers claim they’ll be able to upgrade the older SMETS1 models to the DCC network with a remote software update.

Can I switch supplier if I have a smart meter?

If you have a SMETS2 meter you should be able switch without any issues affecting the functionality of your meter.

If you have a SMETS1 meter you may temporarily lose smart functionality when you switch energy supplier. But, you’re not stuck and can still switch, it just means you have to revert back to providing manual meter readings.

Are smart meters safe?

Smart meters have received some negative press since their launch back in 2014.

The concerns have mostly revolved around the SMETS1 switching issues mentioned above, but also some safety worries, that are largely unsubstantiated.

Smart meters are covered by EU and UK safety legislation, which means they’ve undergone rigorous testing.

Smart meters emit low radio frequency emissions in much the same way as other wireless devices. The emissions from smart meters is lower than that caused by appliances such as microwaves, smart phones and TVs.

Is your privacy at risk?

In terms of your privacy, you do need to be comfortable that your supplier will be able to access your daily energy use.

However, they do need your permission if they want to see your live energy usage data, as well as to use your data for marketing purposes.

Like anything linked into a network, a smart meter could theoretically be hacked. Though, as yet there have been no recorded cases of a smart meter being hacked. The DCC network is protected by the government and considered secure.

Switch your energy with us

We can help you find cheaper deals for gas and electricity. You can compare energy tariffs from several suppliers with our switching service, which is provided by our partners Runpath.

See if there’s a dual fuel deal, a fixed contract, or something different that’s right for you.