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Smart Meter Guide - Everything You Need To Know

Smart meters are a new generation of energy meters that have started rolling out across the UK by energy suppliers as part of a government programme to help households better understand their energy consumption.

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What Is A Smart Meter?

Smart Meters are a new generation of gas and electricity meters that communicate securely with other devices and automatically send readings to your energy supplier. Compatible smart home devices include an in-home display and your energy supplier’s systems wirelessly.

This means that you can monitor your gas and electricity usage more accurately and see what you are using in pounds and pence. This is easily accessible on your in-home display (IHD).

It also means that your energy usage is sent regularly and automatically to your energy supplier so there will be no need to submit meter readings, no more estimated bills, more accurate billing, and no more meter reading visits.

The smart meter package consists of separate electricity and gas meters, a communications hub, and a portable in-home display device. The smart meter will record your energy usage every 30 minutes and will enable energy suppliers to offer tariffs that meet your energy needs better. Whilst allowing billing to be more accurate, it also allows you to control usage and save money.

All smart metering equipment is usually provided by your supplier free of charge. With smart functionality, you will get more accurate bills and be able to view usage in near real-time.

In April 2024 there were almost 30.5 million smart meters installed across the DCC network.

Types of Smart Meters

There are two types of smart meters in use - these are the first-generation SMETS1 and the second-generation SMETS2.

SMETS1 Smart Meter

The SMETS1 Smart Meter was the first generation of smart meter and launched in 2011 in the UK. SMETS1 require a software upgrade to continue sharing usage data with an energy supplier in the event of you switching to a new supplier. Without this upgrade, they lose the ability to share your energy usage information and you will need to share meter readings with your new energy supplier. In April 2024, there were 11.5-million SMETS1 smart meters installed in the UK.

SMETS2 Smart Meter

SMETS2 is the newer generation of smart meters, and this generation was launched in 2018. SMETS2 continue to share your gas and electricity usage wit your new supplier. In April 2024, there were 18.9-million SMETS2 smart meters installed in the UK.

How Much Does It Cost To Have A Smart Meter Installed?

Smart Meters are usually free! There is no cost to the customer for having a smart meter installed. The cost of the smart meter is included in the energy bills as part of the energy suppliers’ costs, as has previously been the case for meter replacements and maintenance.

Do I Have to Get a Smart Meter?

No, you do not have to get a smart meter installed if you do not want to. The government believes that all customers will be better off with a smart meter and has made sure they are available to all customers but has not made it compulsory.

If you choose not to have a smart meter you can change your mind in the future. There will be different energy tariffs available in the future that will be based on smart meters so if you do not have one you may not be able to benefit from these tariffs which may be cheaper.

Once a smart meter has been installed it will not be possible to change it to a standard meter as the energy suppliers will not be installing the standard meters anymore. It may be possible to have a smart meter but have the communications element switched off.

How To Install A Smart Meter

Getting a smart meter is fairly straightforward. The first port of call is to contact your supplier and ask if they are rolling them out for your area. This information may also be available on their website or they may simply contact you to offer one. They will then arrange an appointment to have the meter fitted by one of their trained employees.

  • Your electricity and gas will need to be turned off for around 30 minutes each while the fitting takes place.
  • It will take around 2-3 hours to install both meters.
  • You should ensure there is easy access to the meters during installation.
  • You will need to be home as the installer will talk you through how it works and show you how to use the home display unit if there is one.

Can I Switch Energy Suppliers Once I Have a Smart Meter Installed?

Having a smart meter installed does not tie you to your energy supplier and there is no obligation to stay with them for a fixed amount of time after it has been installed.

If you are a homeowner or business owner and you decide to change to an energy supplier that does not currently offer smart meters, you can still switch to them, but you will need to submit meter readings manually until they can receive them automatically.

However, if you have a first-generation smart meter this may not be compatible with all energy suppliers as a lot have configured their systems for second-generation smart meters.

If this is the case, you may need to submit meter readings manually until the national infrastructure is updated later in 2019 to accept first-generation smart meters. Some very early smart meters may not meet the technical specifications required and you may need to get the meter exchanged.

In mid-2018, more energy suppliers began installing second-generation smart meters which communicate to energy suppliers through the Data and Communications Company’s national infrastructure and not directly to the energy supplier. Second-generation smart meters are compatible with all energy suppliers.

Which Suppliers Provide Smart Meters?

As of early 2018, 7.7 million smart meters have already been rolled out across the UK, but many more are needed in homes and businesses. The Big Six are leading the way with some making more progress than others.

  • British Gas – This supplier is one of the first to start the rollout of the second-generation smart meters with several trials taking place already. British Gas is leading the way with around half of their customer base taking up the offer of a smart meter. They have installed four million so far.
  • E.on – E.on has a customer base of 4.6 million, but has only installed 750,000 meters so far, but they are trying to increase uptake by offering cheaper deals to those customers who have one installed.
  • EDF – This company has only a 10% uptake, with 300,000 of their 3 million customers getting a smart meter so far. However, the boss of the company has been quoted as saying that the quality of the meters is poor and this is affecting public confidence.
  • Scottish Power – Around 500,000 customers have been supplied with a meter despite half of the company’s 5.3 million customers being offered one. They have also been critical of the quality to date.
  • SSE – 600,000 customers have had a meter installed – just a fraction of their 7.7 million customers. They too are waiting for the later models to become more widespread before they carry out the majority of their installations.
  • npower – npower has only just started small-scale installations of new smart meters and wants to expand the rollout from next year. However, their likely merger with SSE could see this changing.
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