What Are Smart Meters and Do I Need One?

What Are Smart Meters and Do I Need One?

Posted on December 27, 2021

When someone says Smart Meters, the traditional style meter may come to mind.

The older style of meter would simply give you a running total of the energy that had been used. You usually have one for electric and one for gas.

A Smart Meter will replace each of these meters and are a little different – They will record how much energy (either gas or electric) that has been consumed, as well as the cost of said energy, every half an hour. The readings are then sent to your energy supplier.

In addition to the meter that sends information back to your supplier, you will also be offered an IHD – An In-home Display unit. This small, hand-held device is easy to use and sits inconspicuously in your home, giving you real time information on how much energy you are consuming and how much it is costing you.

As a part of the Smart Meter installation, there will also be a communications hub. This allows the IHD and Smart Meters the ability to communicate with each other. It also means you are linked to the secure national smart meter network.


I Want a Smart Meter – How Do I Get One?

All energy suppliers in England, Scotland and Wales are required to offer their customers a Smart Meter, as outlined by the government.

If you would like a Smart Meter but haven’t yet been offered one, then contact your energy supply. They should be able to arrange for a Smart Meter to be installed for you.


How Much Does a Smart Meter Cost to Install?

You should not be charged to have a Smart Meter installed by your energy supplier.


What Are The Benefits of a Smart Meter?

There are many benefits of having a Smart Meter – Both at a consumer level as well as National.

What are the benefits of a Smart Meter to the Consumer?

Individual consumers can benefit from using a Smart Meter in a number of ways. They put you in complete control of your energy usage. This means that you can choose to adopt more energy efficient measure which can help cut down your bills and offset any price increases.

  • Customers with a Smart Meter won’t have estimated bills. This means they are only charged for the energy they use and can budget better for what energy they use / how much they spend.
  • The IHD that comes with a Smart Meter shows customers how much energy they are using and how much money that is costing. Seeing this information in real time enables customers to use it to change their energy usage, save themselves money, as well as reducing their emissions and helping combat climate change.
  • Smart Meters allow energy suppliers to gain a reading from households without having to send an employee to do it manually. In addition to that, there are less bill queries because costs are not gleaned by estimating. This means that energy suppliers can offer cheaper tariffs to people with Smart Meters installed.
  • Due to Energy Suppliers being sent energy usage regularly, they can also monitor any outages. This means that when customer’s are not being supplied with energy, they can offer support in quicker time.
  • Customers who prepay see further benefits such as being able to top-up remotely from home as well as seeing clearly their credit balance so they are less likely to run out without realising. This means that if they run out of credit during the night or when the shops are shut, they can top-up and not be without power.


What are the benefits of Smart Meters on a National level?

COP26 has featured heavily in the press recently. We are all working on a global scale towards greener practices. We are all involved in the transition to a more reliable, sustainable energy system and Smart Meters are a part of that. The Government reports that data already shows that the cost of delivering this Smart Meter initiative is less than what we are seeing from the benefits.

The amount of information sent back to energy suppliers from all the households with Smart Meters means that in the event of a power cut, engineers are armed with more and better quality information about what caused it. This means they are better equipped to repair the problem, as well as reducing the risk of similar problems occurring in the future.

Much of our energy relies on important fossil fuels, but Smart Meters are helping to reduce this reliance. Smart Meter innovation helps consumers to use energy away from peak times or when there is excess clean energy available. This means they can save money as well as using less fossil fuels. Did you know that some customers have even been paid to use energy on particularly windy days?

Smart Meters can be connected to other devices such as electric cars, smart heating systems and smart appliances like washing machines. The activity of these appliances and devices can be timed to coincide with times when the rates are cheaper. This not only helps save consumers money, but also reduces the impact on our energy grid.


What Happens if I Have a Smart Meter but Want to Switch Energy Supplier?

Having a Smart Meter doesn’t stop you being able to switch energy suppliers.

Some of the first-generation of Smart Meter may need replacing when changing to a new supplier, but consumers are able to change energy suppliers regardless of what type of meter they have.

Some Smart Meters can even make switching energy suppliers easier! They can mean that there is no interruption to energy readings or bill payments. Simple!

The latest generation of Smart Meters that are currently being installed by energy suppliers are connected to a national smart metering communications network right from the outset. This means that they will be compatible with different suppliers as soon as they are installed.

If you already have one of the first-generation Smart Meters, then they will have been connected to the energy suppliers own communication system. This means that when you switch energy supplier, you may lose some of the smart functionality until they are connected to the new provider. They will however continue to record energy usage like a traditional meter would.

All of these first-generation Smart Meters will also be moved onto the national network. You won’t need to take any action – The connection will be done remotely. All Smart Meters which have lost their smart functionality will be prioritised for re-connection.


How Do I Know If I Have a Smart Meter Already?

If you have a meter but you’re not sure if it’s a Smart meter or what type it is, then you can check it using this handy checker tool from Citizen’s Advice. This will tell you what type of Smart Meter you have in your home, and whether it is working in smart mode.

For more information on Smart Meters, protections and links to more information on smart energy you can head over to the Government website here.


With thanks to Smart Energy GB for the image of a Smart Meter.