Should I get a smart meter?

Energy regulator, Ofgem, is proposing that smart meters become even more accurate by 2025. The plan is for everyone to be offered a smart meter in the next few years.

Could Ofgem's shakeup to smart meters mean savings on energy?

We explain what smart meters are, and whether you should get one.

Smart meter on kitchen side

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What is a smart meter?

A smart meter tells you how much gas and electricity you’ve used, just like a normal meter.

The difference is that a smart meter sends your energy information to your supplier. This is automatic and uses a secure network.

So, if you decide to get a smart meter, you can say goodbye to estimated bills and hello to only paying for energy you use!

 

Changes to smart meters

At the moment, your smart meter should send your supplier meter readings once a month. The changes proposed by Ofgem mean that your meter could send readings once every 30 minutes.

These changes could mean that smart meters detect people’s energy usage more accurately. As a result, energy suppliers could suggest more accurate energy tariffs. This might work out to be a welcome saving for homes given the energy price cap increased to £2,500 in October. 

Most tariffs at the moment charge a flat rate for energy no matter what time you use it. These more frequent readings could be used to create a ‘time of use’ tariff. This could charge you different amounts for energy at peak and off-peak times. 

Off-peak times could mean using power when it's cheaper for suppliers to buy, for example, in the middle of the day or late at night. Peak times could be in the early evening, when people return from work and start using their power at home. 

Sometimes energy is cheaper to supply to you if it’s sunny or windy too.

You could send half-hourly meter readings now if you have a smart meter. But in 2025 Ofgem wants to use its new authority to make this the default setting for smart meters. 

 

Should I get a smart meter?

Knowing whether to get a smart meter and understanding whether smart meters are good can be tricky. Here's a pros and cons list to help you make a decision:

Pros

  • No more estimated bills
  • Real-time updates on how you’re using your energy
  • Automatic meter readings 
 

Cons

  • There may be a wait to get one installed
  • Some suppliers might not yet offer them
  • If you have an older model, it could lose connection when you switch suppliers
 

How do smart meters work?

Smart meters have 2 parts: the meter itself, and the display unit.

Qualified engineers install the new meters, which replace your existing units. These units send your meter readings to your supplier.

The display unit gives you a real-time update on how much energy you’re using. This is to help you keep your usage in check so you’re not paying too much.

You should be able to see the meter tick up as you boil the kettle or watch TV. This might help you make better use of your energy and save some cash in the process.

Some suppliers also have smart meter apps, which give you a deeper look at how you use your energy. Some even let you budget your use from the app itself.

 

How do I get a smart meter?

The government says that everyone in the UK should have a smart meter by 2025 - but some companies could be behind on their targets due to the pandemic.

But not all suppliers currently offer smart meters. The ones that do are rolling them out bit-by-bit. It's best to get in touch with your energy supplier first to understand what they might be doing.

They should be able to guide you through the process and arrange a date to install the meter.

 

How do I read a smart meter?

You don’t need to take meter readings with a smart meter – your supplier automatically gets these.

But if you’re curious, your display unit should give you all the information you need.

The specifics depend on your particular unit. But most should be able to show you your daily, weekly or monthly energy usage.

 

Are smart meters free?

Yes. There’s no extra charge for having a smart meter installed.

 

What happens to my smart meter when I switch suppliers?

That depends on the type of smart meter you have. There are 2 kinds of smart meter around at the moment - SMETS1 and SMETS2.

SMETS means 'Smart Metering Equipment Technical Specifications'. The ‘1’ in SMETS1 means that this was the first industry standard smart meter. These were rolled out in 2013.

The ‘2’ in SMETS2 is the second version or second generation of smart meter.

If you’re getting a smart meter for the first time, you’ll likely get a SMETS2.

With the newer SMETS2 meter, you should be able to switch supplier without any hassle.

If you have a SMETS1 meter, you might need to send a final meter reading to your supplier yourself.

SMETS1 meters can sometimes lose connection with the network when you switch suppliers.

This is sometimes known as the meter ‘going dumb’. Get in touch with your supplier if you’ve any concerns about this.

 

I’ve got a prepayment meter, can I get a smart meter?

Yes. And you might find it a lot easier to use than your current meter.

If you have a prepayment smart meter, you should have all the perks of a regular smart meter.

You should also be able to see how much you have left since you last topped up. This could minimise the chances of you unexpectedly running out of power.

Your supplier might be able to offer you new ways to top up, so you may not have to visit a shop. You might even be able to set your meter to top up automatically - this could be helpful if you tend to run out late at night when the shops are shut.

If you do end up switching from a prepayment meter to a credit or debit tariff, you don't need to change your smart meter either. 

 

Can I get a smart meter if I’m renting?

If you’re the one paying the energy bills, then yes you can. 

Although you may not need the landlord’s permission to get a smart meter, it might be worth speaking to them before you get one installed. There may be something in your contract that prevents you from getting one fitted.  

If your landlord pays the bills, then it's the landlord's responsibility to request the smart meter themselves.