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Every home in the UK will be offered a smart meter by 2020, so it’s worth taking the time to inform yourself about what exactly you’re signing up for by installing one. This page will tell you everything you need to know about the new technology used by energy suppliers across the country.
A smart meter is a new type of gas and electricity meter that digitally monitors your energy usage, which you’ll be able to view on an in-home display screen in near real time. This information is automatically sent to your energy supplier at least once a month, so there’s no need to count on estimated bills or submit meter readings yourself.
You’ll need two different smart meters – one for electricity and one for gas – but the information will be shown on the same screen, even if you’re with two different suppliers. Inside each device is a SIM card which allows your electricity and gas meters to communicate with each other and your energy supplier(s). The readings are sent wirelessly over a secure national network called the DCC (Data and Communications Company).
Every smart meter comes with an in-home display – a small digital device that can be placed anywhere in your home. On this screen, you’ll be able to view your energy usage in pounds and pence, kWh or CO2 emissions, as well as how much you’ve used in the last hour, week and month. Customers with pre-pay meters will also be able to see their remaining credit and receive alerts when the balance is low.
Using a smart meter alone does not guarantee saving energy or money. However, since a smart meter makes it much easier to monitor your usage, you might find it easier to target energy-wasting appliances or behaviours and make smarter decisions to save on your bills.
There’s no extra fee for installing a smart meter or in-home display and you won’t be charged on your future bills. Just like with traditional meters, the cost of running and maintaining them is already included in your tariff.
With a smart meter, you won’t ever need to receive estimated bills, provide meter readings yourself or have anyone come to read your meter for you. You’ll be charged for what you use – no more, no less.
Being able to view your energy usage in close to real time can help you gain a better understanding of where your gas and electricity are going. This means you’ll be more informed about the steps you can take to reduce your usage, and whether they’re working or not.
The introduction of smart meter technology is part of a wider plan for a nationwide smart energy grid – a supply network that monitors and reacts to local changes in demand. This new grid should be more reliable, benefit the environment and reduce energy waste.
All the data about your energy is sent over a secure network and you have full control over what your energy supplier can do with it, including whether or not they can share it with third parties. However, as with all technology, there are concerns about potential hacking or interception.
Smart meters use radio waves to send readings to your energy supplier, causing some concern, but you can be assured that the current evidence suggests no risk is posed to your health. All smart meters used in the country have undergone strict safety tests according to UK and EU regulations.
Although having a smart meter installed incurs no extra charge (see above), some consumers are worried that the cost of the new technology will ultimately result in higher energy bills for everyone.
Nope. Your energy company is obliged to contact you and offer a smart meter, but you have the right to refuse it if you want to.
Yes, you’ll retain your right to switch suppliers whenever you want. However, your smart meter might not retain all its functionality, or you might have to get a replacement display screen. Your new supplier should be able to advise you on how exactly to proceed.