The government aims to offer a smart meter to every home in Great Britain by 2020. But what exactly is a smart meter, and how can you benefit from it?
In a government effort to battle greenhouse gas emissions, smart meters have been introduced to help households reduce the amount of energy they use. And as a result, save money on their gas and electricity bills.
What is a smart meter?
It's a replacement for your traditional gas and electricity meter that tells you how much energy you’ve used. But a smart meter can also tell you when you've used it and how much it costs.
Smart Energy GB is the national campaign for the smart meter rollout. Their aim is to raise awareness and offer guidance around the initiative across England, Scotland and Wales.
Any account holder who pays energy bills is entitled to one from their energy supplier, and installation is free of charge. If you're renting but the bills are addressed to you, you won't need your landlord's permission to get a smart meter fitted, but it's a good idea to let them know you're upgrading.
If your bills are included with your rent, it's worth speaking to your landlord about changing to a smart meter. As it can be a good way of giving you, your housemates and your landlord a better view of your gas and electricity usage.
Smart meters eliminate the need for manual meter readings and can help you keep track of the energy you’re using.
They’re also available to those on a prepay/pay-as-you-go meter, and there are more flexible ways to top-up via your smartphone or tablet.
How do they work?
If you opt for a smart meter, you'll also get a smart meter display screen installed at no extra cost. The display screen is a handheld device that tells you your gas and electricity usage in near real time, in pounds and pence.
The cost is spread evenly across everyone's bills, just as the cost of maintaining a traditional meter is currently. Smart meters come free of charge and the cost of getting a smart meter will never be itemised on your bill.
Smart meters are installed with a secure wireless network to communicate meter readings with your supplier.
The network is overseen by energy regulator Ofgem and there are strict data security regulations in place so you can rest assured knowing that you’re data is safe.
According to recent research, 80% of those with smart meters have taken at least one step to reduce the amount of energy they use around the home.
Having a smart meter installed can give you more control over how you use energy. The near real time usage might encourage you to make small changes to help reduce your gas and electricity bills.
Turning off a TV that’s usually on standby, installing thermostatic radiator valves or only boiling the amount of water you need for your cuppa, can all reduce energy waste.
This also means that your bills no longer need to be estimated as your supplier will have access to your energy usage on an hourly, daily or monthly basis.
So you won’t have to worry about owing your supplier money or being billed more than you’ve used.
This smart technology means that energy companies are able to understand how you consume energy in your home, and tailor their tariffs to suit you.
The government claims that having a smart meter will also make it easier to switch suppliers to save money on your bills.
Most gas and electricity companies have a dedicated team that can answer any questions you may have about getting a smart meter.
And it’s worth knowing that even though the government wants them in every home by 2020, you’re under no obligation to get one installed.
Ok, so you’ve decided to take the plunge and get a smart meter. What next?
Your energy supplier is responsible for fitting your meter. If you have separate suppliers for your gas and electricity, you’ll need to speak to both companies.
Once you’ve arranged a time and a date with your supplier, a trained specialist will visit your home to carry out the installation.
The smart meter initiative is ongoing until 2020 and various suppliers are at different stages of the project, so it’s not guaranteed that you’ll be able to get one installed straight away.
For example, British Gas is installing smart meters across Great Britain, but isn’t yet able to install in high-rise buildings or accommodate prepay customers.
To find out more about the installation process, take a look at the Smart Energy GB website.