What are smart meters
What is a smart meter?
Smart meters are the new generation of gas and electricity meters. They are being installed in homes across Great Britain at no extra cost, to replace the traditional meters, including prepay key meters, most of us currently have ticking away under the stairs, or outside our homes.
What do smart meters do?
A smart meter sends automatic meter readings directly and securely to your energy supplier, resulting in accurate bills, an end to estimates and manual meter readings. The accompanying in-home display is a portable device which shows you exactly how much energy you're using and what it's costing you in pounds and pence, in near real time. Both your smart meter and in-home display will be installed by your energy supplier at no extra cost.
How do smart meters work?
Your smart meter measures how much gas and electricity you use and shares this directly and securely with your energy supplier and your in-home display (the bit you'll actually use), using wireless technology.
You won't have to take any meter readings manually – your smart meter will send automatic readings to your energy supplier via a secure national network which is solely for smart meters. This works in the same way as other wireless systems like car remote keys or TVs, using radio waves. Though it is a wireless system, you don’t need Wi-Fi in your home for it to work. And it won’t use your Wi-Fi if you do have it.
Do I need one smart meter for gas and another for electricity?
Yes, both meters will be replaced.
If you're a dual-fuel customer, your supplier will aim to install both meters on the same visit to make things as easy as possible. You will only need one in-home display to view both your gas and electricity usage.
If your gas and electricity accounts are with different suppliers, you will have two separate smart meter installations (one from each of your suppliers).
Do I have a smart meter?
As part of the smart meter rollout, smart meters must comply with technical specifications that will enable you to switch energy supplier. However if your meters were installed several years ago, they may be early smart-type meters and may not meet these specifications.
Please check with your energy supplier to see if your meters comply with "Smart Metering Equipment Technical Specifications" (SMETS). If they do not meet these standards, then you'll be able to ask your supplier for more information about how you can get your smart meters installed.
Alternatively, if you have a gadget at home that helps monitor how much electricity you're using, this could be an energy monitor. Find out more.
How accurate are smart meters?
Smart meters are as accurate as traditional meters. Energy suppliers receive very few complaints about them.
By law, all smart meters have to be certified by the National Measurement Office to prove their accuracy, but if you do think there's a fault, you can report it to the Energy Ombudsman in the same way you would now.
What are the benefits for me?
There are plenty of gadgets that can help control energy use, but smart meters have two unique features:
- they show exactly how much energy you’re using and what it’s costing, in near-real time
- they send accurate meter readings to your energy supplier, so no more estimated bills or manual meter readings
With your smart meter, you’ll always be able to keep track of exactly how much gas and electricity you’re using in near real time, and what it costs in pounds and pence. This means you can be confident that you're only paying for what you have actually used and you'll always know what to expect in your next bill, so no more nasty surprises.
What are the benefits for everyone?
Smart meters are a vital upgrade to Great Britain’s energy system. The way we measure and pay for gas and electricity hasn't kept up to speed with improvements across almost every other area of our lives. Smart meters will enable a more efficient, greener, smarter energy system and lay the foundations for smart grids, which are a whole new way of running our energy networks.
What if I have a prepay meter?
Smart meters will make prepay as easy as pay-as-you-go on your mobile. You will have the ability to switch easily between prepay and credit modes, with no need to change your existing meter. If you choose smart prepay, you should be able to:
- conveniently see how much credit you have left on your in-home display, without having to manually read or access the meter
- top up when and where you want to - online, with an app, on the telephone, or via text message
- top up in person at your local store/outlet, without any need to put a key or card back into a meter. Payments will automatically be added to your account. You will always be able to top up with cash
- pay the same rates as everyone else - smart meters will remove the need for prepay to be more expensive than other tariffs
I'm on prepay and access to my meter is not always easy. Can smart meters help?
Yes. With a smart meter, you don't need a different kind of meter for prepay. With a smart meter in prepay mode, you'll no longer need to access your meter. You'll be able to see how much credit you have left via your in-home display and top-up in a number of ways, including online, via telephone or text message, or even with a smartphone app. And you can still top up in person at a local shop/outlet. Credit will be automatically added to your account without any need to put a key or card back into your meter.
Can I get a smart meter if I am on an Economy 7 or Economy 10 tariff?Smart meters that can support Economy 7 and Economy 10 are being developed by the industry and will be available to customers as the rollout progresses, and in the future all suppliers will be able to offer you a smart meter that works with the right tariff to suit your lifestyle and choice.
Do I need a broadband connection in my home to use a smart meter?
No. Smart meters use an entirely separate, bespoke wireless system. You don’t need Wi-Fi in your home for it to work and it won’t use your Wi-Fi if you have it.
Does having a smart meter make it easier to switch between payment modes (e.g. direct debit or prepay)?
Yes. New smart meters can operate and switch between modes, without an installer having to visit your house and change the meter.
Does a smart meter mean my energy can be cut off more easily?
No. You’re protected by strict regulations against your energy supplier switching off or disconnecting your gas or electricity supply. This protection remains as strong with smart meters as it is with traditional meters.
Can I get a smart meter if I have solar panels?Yes you can get a smart meter if you have solar panels. Your bills will reflect the energy you are using and that you have generated yourself. Your in-home display will only show how much energy you are buying from your supplier. In the future, your in-home display may also be able to reflect the energy you’re generating yourself, such as from solar panels.
I have separate suppliers for gas and electricity. Do I need two in-home displays?
No. If your gas and electricity are supplied by different energy suppliers, the first supplier to install a smart meter will set up your in-home display for that meter. Your second supplier, on installing your second smart meter, is responsible for ensuring your energy information from both meters can be seen on one display.
What is the in-home display and what does it do?
Your in-home display is a handheld digital device that sits in your home. This may be called lots of things - like an IHD or smart meter display. It takes information from your smart meter and shows you in near real time how much energy you're using in pounds and pence.
And that’s just for starters. Your in-home display has all sorts of features to help you control your energy use and lower your bills. You can see:
- how much energy you’re using in near real time (it updates at least every 10 seconds for electricity and every half hour for gas) and can show you what it's costing you in pounds and pence (or if you prefer it, kwh or CO2 emissions)
- how much energy you've used in the last hour, week, and month
For smart meters operating in prepay mode, it will also show:
- how much credit you have left
- how much you have on your emergency credit balance
- your debt balance, if you have one
- a visual or audio alert if your credit’s getting low
In the future, you may even be able to top-up via your in-home display.
Will the in-home display cost me anything to run?
Less than £1 a year in electricity.
Will the in-home display only receive information from my meter?
Yes, your in-home display is paired with your smart meter by your smart meter installer, so it only shows information from your own smart meter. It won’t pick up any information from your neighbours, and you won’t be able to take it and use it in another house.
Will in-home displays work for people who have disabilities or impairments?In-home displays are being designed for people who have disabilities or impairments, including sight, dexterity, perception and memory. Following extensive consultation with the RNIB, an audio enabled in-home display will be available by early 2017.
I generate my own electricity. Will the in-home display show me the electricity I generate myself?
Your in-home display will show you information about the electricity you’re buying from your supplier and in the future, may include the energy you’re generating yourself, such as from solar panels.
Will other wireless devices interfere with my in-home display?
It is possible for other wireless devices operating on the same frequency (like some home routers) to interfere with the signal from your smart meter to your in-home display, although your data will always be protected. If this happens, try using your in-home display in different positions within your home, or moving it closer to the meter itself, to see where it works best.
I have an energy monitor. Is that the same as a smart meter?
No. You can buy a whole range of energy monitors that monitor how much electricity you're using, but they can't measure gas or send data about your energy use to your energy supplier.
Only a smart meter can:
- get you accurate bills from your energy supplier – no more estimates
- show you what you’re spending in pounds and pence in near real time
- make manual meter readings a thing of the past
Will I still be sent energy bills?
Yes. Your in-home display is for information only. You will still receive regular energy bills in the same way you do now, whether that's in the post or online. Only now they'll be accurate, without you having to submit a manual meter reading. Depending on your energy supplier, you may also receive some energy efficiency advice.
What are the technical standards that smart meters have to meet?
Smart meters are covered by strict UK and EU product safety laws. These ensure that smart meters all have the same high quality and safety standards, regardless of your energy supplier.
Could a smart meter impact my health?
Public Health England sees no risk to health from smart meters. The smart meters used in Britain have undergone one of the most rigorous safety testing regimes in the world and exceed every UK and EU safety standard.
What health and safety tests have been carried out on smart meters?
The smart meters used in Britain have undergone one of the most rigorous safety testing regimes in the world and exceed every UK and EU safety standard. Public Health England, the government's agency on public health, has said that exposure to radio waves from smart meters is well within guideline levels, and is many times lower than the exposure from wifi and mobile phones.
What different components are there in the smart meter system?
When your energy supplier(s) fits your smart meter, you’ll get the following bits of kit:
- Smart gas and electricity meters – these replace your traditional meters. Depending on your supplier, your gas and electricity meters may be replaced at different times.
- An in-home display – a handheld digital device that sits in your home and allows you to see how much energy you are using as well as how much it's costing you in pounds and pence, in near real time. This may be called lots of things - like an IHD or smart meter display.
These all come at no extra cost and are fitted by a trained installer.
Where are smart meters manufactured?
Some of the components for smart meters will be manufactured abroad, but factories in the UK are likely to be doing the final assembly and technical configuration of the millions of meters that will be needed for the rollout.
How secure are smart meters?
The smart meter security system is very secure. Security has been at the heart of the whole smart meter rollout programme from its very inception and right through the design process.
Smart meters have their own closed, dedicated communications system that employs technology widely used by, for example, the banking industry. Smart meters have been designed with top cyber security experts, including the government and GCHQ, to ensure that security best practice has been incorporated at every stage.
What data do smart meters store?
Your smart meter has information about how much gas and electricity you’ve used, but doesn’t store other personal information that could identify you, such as your name, address or bank account.
All this information about your energy use is strongly protected. The law, which is explained in the Energy UK Data guide for smart meters, puts strict controls on:
- your data
- who can access it
- how you choose to share it
It’s your data – you choose what you want to do with it and you can change your mind about how much you share, and how often, at any time. So, you can choose:
- how often your smart meter sends data to your gas and electricity supplier (monthly is minimum, daily or half-hourly are optional)
- whether to share data about your energy use with other organisations, like price comparison sites
- if your supplier can use your meter readings for sales and marketing purposes
How is my personal data kept safe when I have a smart meter?
Your name, address and bank details are never stored on the meter, only the energy you use. And even this data is transmitted safely, using a dedicated and secure wireless network (not the internet).
No third parties will be able to access your energy usage data without your consent. For example, you might want to share your information with price comparison sites in order to get the best deal, but you will need to give your consent for this.
Who can access my smart meter data and how is it used?
Only your supplier, and they won’t share any of it without your permission, for example, with relevant third parties.
The meter will keep your data secure. Depending on how often you've agreed to share it with your supplier, your smart meter will send half hourly, daily or monthly meter readings (your usage data). You can change your preference for how often you share this information at any point by getting in contact with your supplier directly.
Your energy supplier may also use this information to provide tailored energy efficiency advice and improve the service they provide for you, including the accuracy of your billing if you have given them permission to do so.
Can my energy supplier use my data for marketing purposes?
Your supplier will not use any data from your smart meter for sales and marketing purposes, unless you've given them permission to do so.
How will a smart meter save me money?
Smart meters make it easier for us to identify the situations where we're using a lot of energy and might want to make changes to reduce it.
If you use the information shown on your in-home display to help reduce your energy use, you should be able to cut your energy costs. Smart meters also mean accurate bills, so you can be confident that you're only paying for what you've actually used, rather than overpaying, as you sometimes do with estimates.
Can a smart meter help me become more energy efficient?
Smart meters are paving the way for a more energy efficient future. They make it easier for us to identify the situations where we're using a lot of energy and might want to make changes to reduce it. They're also a crucial step towards the development of the smart grid, a whole new way of running our energy network. Energy suppliers will be better equipped to plan and manage Great Britain's electricity and gas, and match supply and demand.
In the future, we can look forward to being rewarded with cheaper tariffs at off-peak times. This means we will pay less to mow the lawn or run the washing machine when electricity is not in high demand. It will also mean less pressure on the grid at busier times when we’re all rustling up our dinner, or putting on the kettle whilst the adverts are on TV.
In addition, smart appliances will be able to interact with smart meter systems to help us save energy. For example you could set your dishwasher to come on when electricity is cheapest or get a text from your house if you leave the heating on by mistake.
Contacting Smart Energy GB
Before you contact us
Smart Energy GB is not involved in the practical installation of smart meters – the gas and electricity suppliers are responsible for this.
Please contact your energy supplier if you have any questions about:
- your particular smart meter
- when your supplier will offer you a smart meter
- the installation process in your particular circumstances
If your supplier is not listed on our website, please contact them directly to find out more about their plans.
Citizens Advice provides free independent advice to energy consumers. You might want to get a better deal, find out how to make a complaint, get advice about the quality of your electricity or gas supply, or ask for help if you’re struggling to pay your bills.
To find out more about these, visit citizensadvice.org.uk/energy for up to date information or contact the Citizens Advice consumer service on 03454 04 05 06.
Our contact details
We’re happy to help where we can, so if you can’t find what you’re looking for in our FAQs then please email us:
You can also write to us or give us a call:
Smart Energy GB
1 Alfred Mews
0203 019 1000