All you need to know about energy smart meters

Heard about energy smart meters? Here’s all you need to know.

We’re not referring to the gizmos you can buy to tell you how much energy you’re using to boil the kettle. These are the official smart meters that are due to be installed in 25 million homes across the UK by 2020.
5 reasons to switch energy supplier

That’s around 50 million meters in total – there are separate ones for gas and electricity.

Their job is to show exactly how much energy you’re using at any given moment, and what it’s costing, in real time.

Accurate billing

Crucially, these meters send on-the-button data direct from your meter to your energy supplier, so you get a 100% accurate bill.

No more estimates. No risk of over-spending from quarter to quarter. No sudden shock catch-up payments if you’ve used more than you’ve paid for.

And no more scrabbling around in the dust and cobwebs to get a meter reading of your own – or letting a stranger into the house to do it.

That said, installation isn’t compulsory, so you’re at liberty to refuse.

But if you’re on a pre-payment meter, it will have to be updated to the new kit.

With prepay, your smart meter will show how much credit you have left, and when it’s going to run out.

Nationwide roll-out

Energy suppliers are undertaking the installation roll-out – British Gas has already started, with 600,000 meters installed.

Other firms are following suit, and the project will get fully underway in 2015. Expect to see more of cartoon character Gaz and Leccy as the publicity machine whirrs into action. 

The cost of the whole exercise is coming from our energy bills. But it’s not an isolated item on the bill, and refusing to have a meter installed won’t save you any money.

Screen gems

Smart meters come with a display screen. This will show you…

  • …how much gas and electricity you’ve used in the last day, month or year
  • …exactly what it cost in pounds and pence.

If you want, and if you have a meter with the necessary functions, you can use your display screen to…

  • …see how much energy it takes to make a cup of tea or do the laundry
  • …use the traffic light system to see if you’re using more energy than you expect.

The smart meter also communicates directly with your energy suppliers. It…

  • ...sends digital meter readings to your gas and electricity companies, automatically.
  • …automatically updates if you change suppliers or tariffs.

Ease of use

You’ll be given plenty of warning before your meters are fitted – the engineer won’t just rock up and ask to start work.

And if you want, you can request for them to be fitted, rather than waiting for your supplier to make an appointment.

When your meters are fitted – usually where the old ones were – the engineer will show you how to use them.

You’ll also be offered a smart meter display. This is a portable screen you can use to see how much you’re spending on energy at any given moment.

This won’t cost extra. In fact, your energy supplier is not allowed to make any charges in connection with the installation.

Smart moves

Sacha Deshmukh, chief executive of Smart Energy GB, which was created by the governement to increase public awareness of and engagement with smart meters, said: “We’ve spent the last year talking to people around the country about their experience of buying gas and electricity. Time and again we hear about an information gap when it comes to energy bills – with many people expressing a need for more information to help them buy and use energy differently.

“With smart meters, visits by meter readers and estimated billing will be things of the past because the smart meter will automatically send the energy supplier all the information it needs to issue you with a fully accurate bill. You’ll have all the information you need to find out if you’re on the right tariff or with the right supplier."

It pays to switch without delay!

Smart meters will be a welcome addition to Britain’s energy infrastructure. But it would be a mistake to wait until yours is installed before looking for a better energy deal.

If you’re among the majority of households that have never switched energy supplier, you’re probably paying more than you need to. There’s likely to be a much better deal on offer that could reduce your annual outgoings by a significant amount.

In fact, you could save up to £180 a year on your bills!

If you’ve switched to a fixed tariff in the past, make sure you know when it’s due to end and look for your next deal. If your current tariff has exit fees, you’ll need to wait until six weeks before it is due to end before making your move.

The best place to compare energy prices is our comparison channel – you’ll get a quote within 5 minutes (have a copy of your bill to hand) and you can then initiate the switch, with the firm you’re moving to taking on the admin work involved.

Remember – there’s no need to change pipes or wires, or have any work done at your property, and there'll be no interruption to your supply. The same gas and electricity will power your home – simply the supplier’s name on the bill (and the amount you pay) will change.

Please note: any rates or deals mentioned in this article were available at the time of writing. Click on a highlighted product and apply direct.

* 51% could save at least £180, MoneySuperMarket Data, June 2014

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