Smart Energy Explained
New research reveals that people living with a long-term disability, on low incomes or in later life say having a smart meter has made their lives easier. So, we've worked with Ade Adepitan MBE to highlight the different ways smart meters can benefit you.
My name is Ade Adepitan. I'm a Paralympic medallist, TV presenter, travel journalist and children's book author.
I think before the pandemic, when it comes to disability, generally people tend to look at all the things that you can't do. Well he's in a wheelchair, he can't walk. Oh, that person's blind, they can't see.
One of the biggest challenges when you have a disability is that you're constantly having to prove yourself to people.
There's always been issues when you have a disability, getting around London, getting around the UK. Since the pandemic, those things have become tougher.
I use my hands all the time. And so, if I'm touching stuff, I'm worried about the risk of maybe inadvertently touching my mouth or rubbing my eyes and then catching COVID that way. It makes things emotionally and physically really stressful.
Researchers has showed that during this pandemic, 70% of people have said they felt more anxious making a trip to the supermarket. I know what they mean.
Everybody needs to know that they're not alone. And also, technology has such a huge part to play in making our world so much more accessible.
And I was so surprised when I heard this stat, that 15% of people living with a disability find it difficult to access their meters. Yeah, I actually thought it'd be more than that.
You know, my meter is underneath some stairs. And doesn't matter how good a mood I'm in before I've been asked to do a meter reading, afterwards, I'm furious. Because I usually banged my head about five or six times, probably got a splinter, dropped my phone which I had a torch on to try and look at this meter reading.
Having this IHD, my in-home display, has just made things so much easier. It's a no brainer, especially if you have any disability.
What is the Smart Energy Explained campaign about?
2020 has been a tough year for most people in Great Britain. Extended periods of lockdown have made the lives of people with disabilities, mental health conditions, or on low income more difficult, in many ways.
From our research, it is noted that struggles when dealing with energy usage and bills can go unnoticed, and have become more difficult because of the pandemic. From accessing energy meters which are difficult to reach, to being unable to go to the shop to top up. Or carers being unable to check meters due to the pandemic. There have been a variety of barriers for those with traditional gas or electricity meters.
That’s why we’ve launched our Smart Energy Explained campaign. This seeks to highlight particular smart meter benefits for a range of people including:
- people on low income;
- people living with a long-term illness, impairment or disability; and
- people in later life.
Our research reveals that smart meters have eased these energy concerns and made life a little bit easier for many people. For example, 70% of people with a disability, mental health condition or on low income say that having a smart meter has made managing their energy easier by taking away the worry of having to access a traditional gas or electricity meter.
Paralympian, TV presenter and author Ade Adepitan MBE, who is campaigning to highlight the benefits of smart meters to vulnerable people, said:
“People living with a disability or in vulnerable circumstances face challenges on a daily basis, and technology is playing an increasing role in knocking down some of those barriers. Smart meters are a pretty simple piece of tech, but the tasks that they completely remove could make life easier for many people across Britain.
“For example, customers with smart prepay meters no longer need to worry about going to the shops to top up, which can be more difficult with limited mobility, sight or hearing loss. With a smart meter you can top up online or via an app and see when credit is running low on the in-home display.
“Meter readings are also automatically sent directly to your energy supplier, and the in-home display shows your energy use in near-real time in pounds and pence, which can help households, especially those with low incomes, to take control of their energy use and have complete visibility over what they are spending.
“Energy may not be very exciting, but it’s still an essential everyday part of life which no-one should have to struggle with in this day and age.”
Key smart meter benefits
For many people, getting a smart meter installed by their energy supplier could make managing energy at home that little bit easier. Upgrading at no extra cost could free up time to spend on things that you care about and enjoy.
Meter readings are sent automatically to your energy supplier
All smart meters show a digital meter reading, and securely and automatically share meter readings with your energy supplier at least once a month.
This could be particularly useful for people with limited mobility, who may find it more difficult to access the gas or electricity meters to take a reading each month for an accurate energy bill.
Find out more about how smart meters work here.
An accessible in-home display (AIHD) can verbally tell you how much energy you’re using
Accessible in-home displays have been developed in partnership with the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB). They feature large buttons, text-to-speech functionality, and more.
They have been developed to allow more people, including people who are blind or partially sighted, to access some of the key benefits of smart meters. Namely, being better able to monitor energy use, to more easily spot ways to reduce it and cut energy costs.
At the moment, accessible in-home displays are not yet available from every supplier. If you want one it is important to make your energy supplier aware of this.
Prepay customers can top up remotely and monitor credit
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?
With a smart meter in prepay mode, you can see your credit in pounds and pence as well as your energy consumption on the handy in-home display. You can use this information to more easily spot ways you can reduce it.
Also, smart meters in prepay mode allow you to top up in a variety of ways from home. So, you no longer need to worry about going to a shop to top up, which can be more difficult for people with limited mobility, sight, or hearing loss. And it can be an unpleasant and annoying experience for anyone if it’s cold and rainy outside.
Smart tariffs could save you money
Getting a smart meter installed could mean you could access some of the cheapest energy tariffs available, helping you to save money and better manage your energy use.
For example, if you have a smart meter, you could choose a smart time-of-use tariff. These tariffs offer a different price of energy at different times of the day. 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), you could reduce your energy bills.
Find out more ways your smart meter in-home display can help you identify how to save money.
In the future, smart meters could, with consumer consent, alert carers when unusual patterns of energy are detected
I know from experience how hard it is to notice the early signs of dementia in a loved one and how worrying it is, too.
I found out that my father would often leave the hob on all night, which was worrying, but more than that dangerous and he wasn’t aware he was doing it I wish I'd known that was happening much sooner.
So, imagine if a family member could be alerted that Grandma hadn't boiled her kettle for a couple of days, or a doctor could be notified that one of their patients was frequently watching TV in the middle of the night.
Both could indicate early signs of diseases such as dementia.
Well, a new report illustrates how that could happen in the near future, thanks in part to smart meters.
Smart meter data, with consumer consent, could be fed into a system which recognises patterns of appliance use over time and starts to learn the routines.
If unusual energy patterns were identified, such as failing to turn the cooker on, relatives or health care workers could be alerted that the person may need support.
This, in turn, could help people to remain in their own homes for longer.
It could also support family members and help alleviate pressure on our already stretched NHS.
In future, and with consumer consent, energy usage patterns from smart meter data could be used as a non-intrusive way to help carers understand the daily habits of those they are caring for.
Irregularities in these patterns could alert relatives or healthcare workers that the person may need additional support.
For those caring for someone with degenerative diseases, such as dementia or Parkinsons, this could offer a little more peace of mind.
Government support schemes to help with energy bills
|Scheme||How can this help you?||Eligibility|
|Fuel Direct Scheme||Fuel Direct can aid energy bill management for those receiving state help by taking outstanding debt, in parts, automatically from their benefit payments.||
These have been rolled into Universal Credit and other benefits schemes. You can apply here.
|Cold Weather Payment||
You'll get a payment if the average temperature in your area is recorded as, or forecast to be, zero degrees celsius or below for over 7 consecutive days.
This could be £25 for each 7 day period of very cold weather between 1 November and 31 March.
You may get a Cold Weather Payment if you're getting certain benefits or Support for Mortgage Interest.
|Warm Home Discount||
The Warm Home Discount paid to you - it's a one-off discount on your electricity bill between September and March.
You could get £140 off your electricity bill for Winter 2020 to 2021 under the Warm Home Discount Scheme.
How you apply for the Warm Home Discount Scheme depends on how you qualify for the discount. You can find out more here.
Request your smart meter
Join the millions of Brits already helping to create a smarter future. Simply type your energy supplier in the box below and we'll redirect you to their website.
Please note: accessible in-home displays are not available with every supplier. If you want one it is important to make your energy supplier aware of this.
For more smart meter benefits, visit...
- Smart meter reviews - hear from people who have already had smart meters installed.
- Smart meter benefits for Britain - getting a smart meter is a small step for households that could add up to big things for Great Britain.
- How smart meters can help reduce your carbon footprint - find out how people are using their smart meters to take control of their energy usage.