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750065 1 Smart Meter 3K4A9426 R021 A prepay in-home display on the side


Smart meters are the new generation of energy meters being rolled out in homes in England, Scotland and Wales. Smart meters come with an in-home display (IHD) which monitors and displays your energy use in near real-time, so you can see exactly how much you're using in pounds and pence.

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There are two methods of paying for your energy with a smart meter: prepayment (also called pay-as-you-go) and credit. In credit mode, you pay for your energy after you've used it. With a prepayment method, you top up your gas and electricity credit and pay for energy as you go.

With traditional prepayment meters, you need to manually top up a card or key at PayPoints. But with smart meters in prepay mode the process is simpler: you can choose to top up anywhere and anytime online - no gas card or electricity key necessary.

Here, we're looking at the ways you can use your smart meter in prepay mode to save money:

  • Adjusting your energy use
  • Keeping track of what you've spent and what you have left
  • Shopping around for the tariff that's right for you
  • Additionally, if you're eligible, applying for grants and benefits that help with your energy costs
Mother and Daughter Kitchen


With smart meters in credit or prepay mode, simply having one will not automatically save you money, but the near real-time energy usage data smart meters offer will help you to make various adjustments that can help cut household costs. Find out how smart meter owners have saved between £10-£20 a month.

Some suppliers also offer discounts for prepay customers.

Smart meters are also helping Britain build a more flexible and resilient energy system fit for the 21st century. This could bring consumers, the energy industry and wider economy up to £40 billion of benefits over the next few decades.

Person with computer checking IHD


The smart meter system comprises two main parts: the meter itself, and the accompanying in-home display (IHD). Your IHD is fed information securely by your smart meter to show you in near real-time exactly how much gas and electricity you're using, how much it's costing, and - in the case of a meter in prepay mode - how much credit you have left.

A smart meter in prepay mode also allows you to top up online, via your phone or on the smart meter or IHD itself.


1. Adjusting your energy use

The key benefit of all smart meters is that they can help us change our energy behaviours. The IHD in prepay mode tells you your balance in pounds and pence, so you can see your energy consumption at a glance.

You can use this information to work out which appliances, such as the kettle, the oven or the tumble dryer are using the most energy and, if you can, adjust accordingly - like, for example, turning appliances off standby. This way, you will identify new opportunities to save energy, and money.

Not only will they help you save, but they can also give you a sense of control over your costs - if your heating is on, you won't need to worry about how much it's costing, because you can see for yourself.

IHDs will also give out a low credit alert if they've fallen below a low threshold and enter emergency credit, which means you're less likely to be caught short.

2. Understanding your prepayment IHD's capabilities

Learning to read your prepayment IHD is an important part of understanding how much energy you use and what this equates to in pounds and pence. Contact your energy supplier for their IHD user guide to help you read and understand your IHD.

3. Easily keep track of energy credit

 Use your smart meter's in-home display to easily keep track of your energy credit. With traditional meters in prepay mode, you may have found yourself caught out having used all your energy credit early in the month. Now, smart meters mean you can keep an eye on your spending as you go.

4. Shop around for the right tariff

 Most energy suppliers offer different tariff options, but it can be hard to know which best suits you. Use the energy data your smart meter gives you to shop around for the best tariff for your energy needs, and look out for suppliers who offer prepay customers discounts.

5. Keep an eye out for any government financial assistance that you may be eligible for

 You may be eligible for extra help with programmes and schemes like Winter Fuel Payment or Warm Home Discount. See the table below for further information or contact Citizens Advice for further assistance.

Programme Savings More information
Winter Fuel Payment

If you were born on or before 5 October 1954 you could get between £100 and £300 to help you pay your heating bills.

You usually get a Winter Fuel Payment automatically if you are eligible and you get the State Pension or another social security benefit (not Housing Benefit, Council Tax Reduction, Child Benefit or Universal Credit).

Cold Weather Payment £25 for each 7 day period of very cold weather between 1 November and 31 March.

You'll get a payment if the average temperature in your area is recorded as, or forecast to be, zero degrees celsius or below over 7 consecutive days.

You may get a Cold Weather Payment if you're getting certain benefits or Support for Mortgage Interest.

Warm Home Discount You could get £140 off your electricity bill for winter 2020 to 2021 under the Warm Home discount Scheme.

The Warm Home Discount is not paid to you - it's a one-off discount on your electricity bill between September and March.

Pension Credit Find out if you're eligible for Pension Credit and how much you could get.

Pension Credit is an income-related benefit made up of 2 parts - Guarantee Credit and Savings Credit.

Guarantee Credit tops up your weekly income if it's below £173.75 (for single people) or £265.20 (for couples).

Savings Credit is an extra payment for people who have saved some money towards their retirement, for example a pension.

Get a smart meter
Get a smart meter