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What are smart meters, will they actually save you money and will you be forced to get one installed?

Everything you need to know about smart meters

We all know gas and electricity is expensive. In fact, other than rent or mortgage payments, energy bills are one of the largest expenses for any household.

Naturally, we’re all interested in ways to save on these bills, which is why the government has set a target of installing a smart meter in every UK household by 2020.

But what are smart meters, will they actually save you money and will you be forced to get one installed?

What are smart meters?

Smart meters are a digital version of your current gas and electricity meter, with two main differences.

First, it displays in pounds and pence how much you’ve spent on energy.

Second, it sends meter readings directly to your supplier. There is no need for someone to come around and read the meter, or for you to supply your own readings. This means you will no longer get inaccurate estimated bills.

How do they work?

All smart meters use a national wireless communication network to send information to your energy supplier.

So, even if you do not have an internet connection in your home, a smart meter will still work.

Does it cost anything to have a smart meter installed?

No. You will not be charged to have a smart meter installed.

Will a smart meter save me money?

It could do, but people disagree about how effective it will be.

Some say seeing how much gas and electricity you use in real-time means people will make better decisions on how they use energy.

Energy companies argue there will be more fundamental savings, by not having to employ meter readers going from house to house.

By understanding better how real people use energy, providers might start to provide new, cheaper tariffs designed around how you use gas and electricity.

However, others say the cost of installing the meters means the savings might be minimal.

While a smart meter can definitely help, the easiest and most effective way to save money on your energy bills is to switch supplier and make sure you don’t end up on an expensive standard variable tariff. 

Do I need to get a smart meter installed?

No. You do not need to have a smart meter installed.

Some people have reported feeling pressured by their energy provider into having one installed, including being told they will be charged more if they don’t have one installed.

Energy companies cannot force you into having a smart meter installed. Simply installing a smart meter will not reduce your energy bill and not getting one installed will not increase your bills.

Will my smart meter still work if I switch energy supplier?

This depends on what kind of smart meter you have.

The first-generation smart meters (called SMETS1), which most people have, will require an upgrade if you switch supplier to provide meter readings. However, it will still accurately display how much energy you are using.

Newer, second-generation (SMETS2) smart meters will work with all suppliers with no issues. 

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  • Jason Thompson / 17 May

    Smart Meters are a fraud, all you get is a display which tells you, the consumer how much electric/gas you are using. It will not help you save money or budget the only advantage to smart meters is your supplier has immediate access to your usage data - in short they benefit more than you do. being billed monthly a consumer can decide how much to pay off their usage, if a consumer sets there rate at say £22 pcm and the provider decides its £35pcm then based on your usage they will tell you what to pay. in these days of austerity most of us like to defer payments where we can - so do the big six. If fuel companies monitor a consumers usage you can bet they will ensure direct debits are set to put them in credit. So how does this help the consumer , in a word NOT at all. Our new provider has provided us with a digital display which shows us exactly whats on the meter and can be positioned up to 20m away, im sure i can walk 20m to read a meter without wasting electricity on an LCD display. where is the web page, how can i monitor, record and analyse my usage, i cant. so tell me again why do i want a smart meter. What consumers way is a way of looking at their data/historical data and saying to themselves right where am i using the most power how can i adjust my lifestyle to save on use, why have i got such huge bills, what day did i use so much which spiked my bill. We are told these meters offer us this but they don't. despite rhetoric there are still very few meters which are transferable between suppliers despite being told the only way to save money is to constantly switch provider and play on the fuel market.
    Consumers need to get smart and tell our suppliers to go back and think again what this roll out is supposed to be, until such times don't bother with a thick-o-meter there not smart.
    Unfortunately we cant pick the meter we want or the services we expect from it, its simply a tool for big brother to monitor our usage.