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What is a smart meter and how will it save me money?

Smart MeterA smart meter is a cunning little gizmo that accurately monitors your energy usage. It uses GPRS technology to keep your supplier abreast of your usage in real time.

In turn, you can check out how your gas and electricity consumption is going via the web. Isn’t technology wonderful?

So what’s so good about a smart meter?

There are two principal advantages to having a smart meter. One is that, because your billing centre will be regularly updated on your energy use, your bills will always be accurate and not estimates.

The other is that by keeping close tabs on how much energy you’re using, it will be possible to reduce your consumption accordingly. You could even save as much as 15% on your bills, according to statutory body Consumer Focus.

How can I monitor energy usage?

After the data is sent to your supplier, it will be expressed in a digestible format on the net. You will be able to see your usage expressed in a variety of ways, such as kWh, cost and even in terms of your carbon footprint.

As such, the customer can take better control of their energy usage, and it becomes a lot easier to reduce waste. To find out more about driving down your bills, read our guide on how to reduce your gas and electricity usage.

How much does a smart meter cost?

Supplier First Utility installs them as standard, and for free in some areas in the UK.  Most suppliers don’t install these meters yet, but Ofgem want to have smart meters in every home by 2020.

It only takes about an hour to do (or closer to two if you have dual fuel). Plus the smart meter is compatible with all energy companies since it can also be read by hand, so it doesn’t matter if you switch supplier.

Are there any disadvantages to installing a smart meter?

If you like being surprised by your bills, then you may be disappointed by the transparency afforded by a meter. However, if you’re a normal, sensible human being then the chances are that you’ll find it really useful.

How does it differ from an energy monitor?

An energy monitor is similar in principle, in that it lets you keep track of your energy usage in real time. The difference is that you attach a clip supplied to your electricity meter – no specialist training required – and then it transmits to a wireless digital display unit, which can be placed anywhere in your home.

And as it’s portable, you can move it round freely to meet any changing Feng Shui requirements. A smart meter – on the other hand – needs to be installed by a trained engineer, and cannot come with you if and when you move house.

photo: EdinburghGreens

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