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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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