What is a smart meter?
Confused about smart meters? Find out what they are, how they work and more.
What is a smart meter?
A smart meter helps you stay on top of your energy bills by showing you how much gas and electricity you’re using. It also sends readings to your energy supplier automatically, giving you one less job to do, and making your bills more accurate.
A smart meter is a small electronic device that keeps track of your energy usage. It’s designed to replace household gas and electricity meters. The meter is connected to the internet via a secure national network, and automatically submits smart meter readings to your energy supplier. This puts an end to estimated bills, so you’ll only pay for the energy you actually use. What’s more, you don’t have to take readings yourself because the meter does the work for you.
How do smart meters work?
Smart meters work by gathering information about the amount of gas and electricity you use, almost in real time, and sending it to your energy supplier. They also display the information, so you can keep an eye on how much you’re using.
Most smart meters will show you how much energy you’ve used in kilowatt hours, as well as the amount you’ve spent in pounds. This is usually updated every half hour, every day. You might find your smart energy meter also comes with a budgeting feature that lets you set goals for your energy consumption - this can be particularly useful if you’re looking to cut down the amount you use.
How to arrange smart meter installation
Your supplier will contact you to ask if you’d like to have a smart meter installed and, if so, you just need to make an appointment with them. You’ll need to be at home when the smart meter is installed, and your power may be off for around twenty minutes or so.
If your supplier has already offered you a smart meter in the past, and you declined, you’ll usually be able to book an appointment on their website. Smart meter installation is free, so you won’t have to pay a penny for the meter or its installation, and you can still switch to a new supplier once your smart meter is up and running.
Most suppliers are already in the process of rolling out smart meters, but there may be a reason why you might not be able to get a smart meter yet. For instance, if the mobile network in your area is weak, or if you have a type of meter that isn’t supported yet, like a prepayment or Economy 7 meter.
If your meter is very new, you may have to wait a little longer to be offered a smart meter, and if your meter is difficult to access, your supplier may not offer you an ordinary appointment.
Lots of companies are rolling their smart meters out by region, so if you haven’t been offered a smart meter installation yet, it may be because they haven’t started on your area yet.
Can you switch energy supplier if you have a smart meter installed?
You can always switch energy suppliers, but you may find that your smart meter becomes ‘dumb’, depending on the type of smart meter you have installed.
SMETS 1 type meters communicate via 3G, which means it’s unlikely their signal will be picked up by a new supplier after you switch, so they’ll revert to being ‘dumb’ meters. This means they won’t be able to send data to your new supplier, so you’ll have to take the meter readings manually. But, you’ll still be able to see information about your usage on the in-home display.
Because the actual energy costs are specific to your supplier, you may not be able to get this information.
SMETS 2 meters use a central network, so they should be able to send information to suppliers. It might need a software change or update, and then you should be able to use it as normal.
Before you get a smart meter installed, it’s worth asking if it will be compatible with a number of suppliers. If not, it’s probably worth waiting and getting one that is.
Are smart meters compatible for businesses?
If you run a small business, or maybe even run your business from home, installing a smart meter is a great way to monitor your usage and help cut your business energy bills. Get in touch with your supplier to find out more about getting a smart meter installed at your place of work.
How to switch energy supplier
If you want to cut the cost of your energy bills, switching supplier is the simplest way to save money.
To get a start on your energy price comparison, simply click the COMPARE button at the top or bottom of the page. For more information on how to switch, check out our energy switching guide.