By 2020, every British home and small business will have been offered a smart meter (gov.co.uk). These could replace the more familiar gas and electricity meters that are used to calculate your energy bills.
Using a smart meter could enable you to monitor your own energy usage and may lead to you being better informed when choosing your supplier and tariff.
What is a smart meter?
Smart meters automatically send electronic readings to your energy supplier, potentially saving you time and allowing you to avoid estimated readings. They also allow you to track how much energy you are using in real time, showing you in pounds and pence how much you are spending via a handy display.
How does a smart meter work?
A smart meter could replace your existing energy meter. Your energy consumption is tracked by the smart meter and shared with you via an app or device in your home. This information is also sent wirelessly to your energy supplier, thus avoiding the need for a visit from a meter reader or for you to provide manual readings. Many smart meters come with an in-home display which could reveal your energy consumption, how much it has cost you and, in some cases, your energy goals (this allows you to budget and reduce your energy consumption if required). They only take an hour or two to install and are usually placed in the same location as your old meter.
Why should I get a smart meter?
New smart meters have 3 main benefits:
- Accuracy - Smart meters’ ability to communicate directly to energy suppliers could mean the end of estimated bills. With a new smart meter, you’ll only pay for the energy you use.
- Hassle-free - With a new smart meter you no longer have to submit meter readings yourself or wait for an engineer to come to your home.
- Transparency - New smart meters provide a real-time data display which can help you understand your usage and how your bills are calculated.
Pros and cons of smart meters
There are a number of advantages and disadvantages to having a smart meter installed:
- Smart meters could offer a more efficient way of getting information about your energy usage in real time.
- You could use this detailed information to adjust your habits to lower your fuel bills.
- Your bills could be more accurate as they’ll be no need for estimations.
- More careful fuel usage could be beneficial for the environment.
- Power cuts are usually resolved faster.
- Having a smart meter alone will not save you money, it’s what you do with the information it gives you that counts
- Although having a smart meter fitted is usually free, the cost of it is typically passed on to you through your energy bills.
- It could be hard to verify the accuracy of the new meter.
- Customers may be concerned about the protection of personal data.
- There may be some compatibility issues if you have solar panels.