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Sheila, Edinburgh

Sheila Blair in her kitchen

Sheila’s smart meter has helped to teach her tech-savvy teenagers about how much energy their gadgets use and has even sparked interest from visiting friends. More importantly, Sheila and her family love that they only pay for exactly what they have used – nothing more, nothing less. Sheila lives in a bungalow in West Edinburgh with her husband, two teenage children and their dog.

I am quite an energy conscious person so when we bought a new property and enquired about changing its existing prepayment meter, I was pleased to be offered a smart one. I always used to find our energy bills exasperating because the estimates weren’t very accurate and this meant we were usually in credit by quite a large amount. It just seemed unnecessarily complicated – I wanted money I haven’t spent in my pocket, not sitting in someone else’s.

We live in a 1930s bungalow with very old, thick walls and this meant that the installation was a bit tricky and involved two different technicians. They were both extremely helpful though and managed to resolve the initial issues. There was no mess or upheaval and the impact on my day was minimal.

We keep the in-home display in the kitchen but it’s so small and unobtrusive you could put it anywhere really. We have set ours to beep if our energy usage increases noticeably, which happens from time to time throughout the day. The occasional alert is a really useful reminder for me and prompts me to check how much energy we’re using.

It has also proved to be particularly handy with two teenagers at home! When everyone wakes up the lights go on, tablets and computers start up, phone chargers are plugged in, and the in-home display springs into life. Having it in the house has really helped my kids to see how the electricity they use translates into pounds and pence, which funnily enough is a language they understand. Everyone is much more conscious now of things like unplugging a device when it has finished charging, switching off the standby on the TV and not using the tumble drier for a single t-shirt!

A number of our friends have also asked about the in-home display and have ended up going home to ask their energy supplier about getting their own. People don’t like change but if something helps, it can’t be a bad thing. There really is no downside to something that makes people think about what they are using and why they are using it.

The in-home display is a great way to save on energy, but I also think it is a useful tool to encourage people to keep their homes warm. Some people worry they are spending too much, when actually they are under-spending. A smart meter is a good educational tool, even for adults. I’ve realised that sometimes it’s cheaper to leave some lights on than it is to keep switching them on and off every five minutes.

Since the installation of our smart meter we have undertaken a large amount of home improvements and extended the house so we have used more energy, but I still find that having the in-home display gives me far greater control and awareness of how much energy the family uses on a day-to-day basis and how much our bills will be each month.

It is great that my bills are accurate, and I absolutely love that I don’t have to do meter readings anymore. You use it; you pay for it; that’s how it works – dead simple.