What is a smart meter
Smart meters are being installed by energy suppliers. Every home in England, Scotland and Wales will be offered the opportunity to upgrade to a smart meter by their energy supplier before the end of the rollout.
- What is a smart meter?
- How do they work?
- How can I get a smart meter?
- Can I get a smart meter if I rent?
- Why should I get a smart meter?
- Do I need to get a new smart meter every time I switch suppliers?
- Can I get a smart meter for free?
- What does a smart meter look like?
- How to read a smart meter?
- Is my data safe?
- Is the installation safe?
What is a smart meter?
A smart meter is the next generation of a gas and electricity meter.
They are being installed in homes across Great Britain at no extra cost, to replace the traditional meters including prepay key meters, many of us currently have ticking away under the stairs, or outside our homes.
Smart meters measure how much gas and electricity you’re using, as well as what it’s costing you and display this on a handy in-home display.
How do they work?
With a smart meter you can wave goodbye to estimated billing. The smart meter shows a digital meter reading and uses a secure smart data network (managed by the DCC) to automatically and wirelessly send the readings to your energy supplier at least once a month, so you will receive accurate, not estimated bills.
Smart meters also come with an in-home display screen that shows you exactly how much energy you're using in pounds and pence, in near real time.
The smart meter system is made up of two parts – the smart meters, which replace your traditional gas and electricity meters, and the in-home display – a portable screen that shows you how much gas and electricity you’re using and how much it’s costing you.
Both parts of the system work together to ensure you receive accurate information about your energy use. Your smart meter records your electricity use in near-real time, and every half hour for gas. The meter then securely shares these readings automatically with your in-home display for you to see. You can choose how often your meter readings are sent to your supplier, speak to them to find out your options.
The more frequently your supplier receives this data, the better they will understand how much energy is being used around the country, and when. With this information, they can buy more accurate amounts of energy to supply to their customers, helping to make our energy system more efficient.
How can I get a smart meter?
Your supplier will be in touch when your smart meter is ready to be installed. If you would like to enquire about getting one now, please contact your energy supplier.
Smart meters and the in-home display will be provided and fitted by your energy supplier. If your supplier is using third party installers, your energy supplier will let you know who they are and when they’re coming.
Can I get a smart meter if I live in a rented property?
Many homes can upgrade to a smart meter right now - but where you live, the type of home you live in, and the age and type of your existing meter may mean that your energy supplier will take a little longer to get yours to you. Contact your supplier to find out if a smart meter is suitable for your property.
Why should I get a smart meter?
They help you manage your energy costs
Smart meters come with an in-home display which shows how much energy is being used in near real time. You can see what you're spending in pounds and pence, which may encourage you to reduce your energy consumption.
You'll be helping us reduce our carbon footprint as a nation
From the moment your smart meter is installed, you are helping to reduce our carbon emissions as a nation - even without making changes at home to use less energy.
This is because smart meters are the foundation to a smarter energy system. With the information they offer, they will help us better integrate renewable power, such as wind, solar and hydro power, and reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. By decarbonising our energy system, we will dramatically reduce our nation’s carbon footprint on the whole.
Do I need to get a new smart meter every time I switch suppliers?
No, you don’t have to get a new smart meter when you switch energy supplier. With one of the SMETS2 meters, you should be able to switch energy suppliers without any interruption to your energy readings, bill payments or gas and electricity supply.
If you have a SMETS1 meter you may need to send in your meter readings in order to get an accurate bill following a switch (just as you would with traditional meters). But this is a temporary situation and does not affect your ability to switch your energy supplier – so you can go ahead and change your gas or electricity supplier.
Can I get a smart meter for free?
There is no extra cost for the in-home display. You won't have an extra charge on your bill because you choose to have a smart meter. The costs will be spread across everyone's bills, just like the cost of running and maintaining today's traditional meters are.
What does a smart meter look like?
A smart meter comes in two main parts and will be installed by your energy supplier(s). Your traditional gas and electric meters will be replaced with smart meters which send your meter readings to your energy supplier(s).
You will also receive an in-home display which will show you how much energy you're using in pounds and pence.
On an in-home display you'll be able to read:
- how much energy was used in the last hour, week and month (and what it cost)
- at a glance, whether your electricity use is high, medium or low
- updates in near real-time for electricity and every half hour for gas
This is the display for my smart meter. The display shows how much energy I am using daily, weekly and monthly. While the smart meter send the meter readings automatically to my energy supplier, so I don’t have to.
For extra help managing your household budget, get a smart meter today.
If you have a prepay meter
Smart meters are set up to work for both prepay and credit customers, so that means prepay needn't be any more expensive.
In fact, prepay customers will be able to access time-of-use tariffs, which can help you save money if you are able to use less energy during periods of high demand (known as peak periods) and more energy during periods of low demand (known as off peak periods).
If you have a prepay meter your in-home display will show you:
- how much credit you have left
- how much emergency credit you have (and when it has been activated)
- your debt balance (if you have one)
- if your credit’s getting low
How to read a smart meter
Your in-home displays is a portable device that can sit anywhere in the home. It communicates with your smart meter and shows you how much gas and electricity you’re using, in pounds and pence.
There are various settings, which allow you to view your energy usage by day, by week or by month. This information could help you more accurately manage your costs and help you budget. Being able to view the details of your gas and electricity usage on your in-home display makes it easier to see where you may be using a lot of energy and help you figure out ways in which you could reduce this.
Seeing how much energy you’re using as you use it means that, on those cold winter nights when you might be worried about the cost of turning up the heating, you can choose to stay warm knowing exactly what it’s costing you. Accessible in-home displays are available from some suppliers. They have larger buttons and can read information out loud. Contact your supplier to find out what’s available.
Whilst all in-home displays will provide the same information, they won’t all look the same, as each energy supplier may provide different models. But, no matter what yours looks like, your in-home display will put you firmly in control of your energy use.
The video below shows how Elspeth is using her smart meter to reduce her energy bills:
My name is Elspeth Kerr. I live in a three bedroom house with my husband, my two daughters, who are grown up, and my dog, my cat, my rabbit.
We had a prepay meter and really wanted to get a smart meter so it was about a year and a half ago that we got one. We got a smart meter installed because we wanted to have more control over our spending.
The best thing about having a smart meter installed is that we've got a display unit in a prominent place where we can see in pounds and pence quite easily how much is left on it and what the usage is. Also, it's in the living room where when it starts to beep, to let us know that it's low and we need to top it up. It's not hidden in a cupboard somewhere and we know to do it.
Before we had a prepayment meter, before we had a smart meter, we had to physically go and have a look in the cupboard or down really low, where it was really awkward to see how much was left on it. So it was far handier having it out in the open where we know when to top it up.
A good thing about having the smart meter is I can see how much energy is being used at any given time. And we've realised that the shower actually uses a lot of energy. So I have said to my daughter, that showers need to be shorter to try and conserve the energy. Whenever we see it going into the amber or the red we look about and see what's on to see if things can get switched off so that we know what is running at any given time.
My favourite features of the in-home display are that I can see how much is being used at any a given time, and see how much has been used that day in pounds and pence. Also, I don’t have to leave the house to top it up. I just go online on my phone and top it up through that, really easily. So having a smart meter has actually, has made it easier for us to keep the cost down and be consistent with how much or how little we're using.
Yeah I would definitely recommend having a smart meter for anybody especially on prepayment because it's so easy to top up online without having to go to the shop or bend down to a gas meter You know, when it's that easy, why wouldn't you?
Is my data safe?
The data your smart meter captures about your energy usage is strongly protected by law. You have control over it, including the right to decide:
- how often your smart meter sends data to your energy supplier (monthly is minimum, daily or half-hourly are optional)
- whether to share data with other organisations, like price comparison websites
- if your supplier can use your meter readings for sales and marketing purposes
Smart meters were designed in consultation with the UK's top security experts, and can only measure the amount of energy you use.
Personal details like your name, address and bank account details are not stored on, or transmitted by, your smart meter.
If you have other concerns about smart meters, take a look at our mythbusting smart meter problems article for the facts.
Is the installation safe?
- they comply with UK and EU safety standards, and all smart meters meet the same safety standards, regardless of your energy supplier
- they are fitted by trained installers who have passed formal qualifications which are set out in the Smart Metering Installation Code of Practice
- during the installation, the trained installer will perform visual safety checks to identify signs of risk in your gas appliances, and in some instances have identified problems with appliances in customers’ homes
So, what is a smart meter?
Today's technology has come so far, from folding computers to electric cars, it's an exciting time.
When talking about exciting developments, we can't forget the smart meter. It's the next generation of a gas and electricity meter – replacing our outdated analogue meters. It keeps track of how much gas and electricity you're using, as well as what it's costing you and lets you see that in near-real time.
But how does it work? The smart meter shows a digital meter reading and uses a secure smart data network to automatically send the reading to your energy supplier. That means you get accurate, not estimated bills, without needing to take a manual reading. Pretty smart, right?
You may also be interested in…
- Energy saving tips - Want to take control of your usage but not sure where to start? Check out our energy saving tips.
- The Missing Piece in climate conversations - we could achieve 11% of our carbon target if every UK household took energy efficiency measures now.
- The installation process – once you’ve decided to request your smart meter, you’ll need to know how the installation works with your supplier.
Can I switch tariff or energy supplier if I have a smart meter?
Yes. People with a smart meter can switch energy supplier and tariff in exactly the same way that anyone with a traditional meter can. Find out more about switching supplier with a smart meter here.
Can I get a smart meter for free?
There is no additional cost for the installation of your smart meter. You won’t have an extra charge on your bill because you chose to have a smart meter. The costs will be spread across everyone’s bills, just like the cost of running and maintaining today’s traditional meters are.
At the point of installation you should be offered an in home display for no additional cost, this shows your spending to you in near-real time.
For more information on how smart meters are paid for, visit our are smart meters free page.