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Is it compulsory to have a smart meter installed?

Are smart meters mandatory? Is it the law to have a smart meter? Read our guide to smart meters to find out the pros and cons, when you’re likely to get a smart meter and whether it’s necessary for you to have one in the first place.

Are smart meters mandatory? Is it the law to have a smart meter? Read our guide to smart meters to find out the pros and cons, when you’re likely to get a smart meter and whether it’s necessary for you to have one in the first place.

Sofia Hutson
Utilities expert
minute read
Do you know someone who could benefit from this article?
Posted 8 OCTOBER 2021

Is a smart meter compulsory?

The simple answer is ‘no’. Smart meters are being rolled out across the country, and energy suppliers have been given a deadline by the UK government to install them in all British homes and business by 2024. But you’re not under any legal obligation to have one. 

While energy suppliers have been given annual installation targets to achieve or face potential sanctions, you still have the right to refuse installation. Your smart-meter legal rights also mean you can change your mind and request a smart meter installation at a later date, at no extra cost.

The exception to this rule is if your meter needs replacing or you’re installing a meter for the first time – for example, in new premises. In this case, energy suppliers are required to install a smart meter unless there’s a good reason not to. 

But while you don’t have to have a smart meter, you may want to read on to find out their advantages before making your final decision.

What is a smart meter?

Smart meters are the new generation of gas and electricity meters. They provide real-time readings of your energy use in pounds and pence via an In-Home Display (IHD) linked to your smart meter. 

As part of a government climate change initiative to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, smart meters are being rolled out across Great Britain to replace older energy meters, including prepayment meters.

Most smart meters work by using mobile phone-type signals and other wireless technologies to send your meter readings directly to your energy supplier. 

If you’re wondering how much it costs to install a smart meter, you needn’t worry. Smart meters come at no extra cost to consumers, and the In-Home Display (IHD) isn’t charged separately. The overall cost to power companies of supplying new smart meters and keeping them running is factored into the price of power supplied – just the same as it has been for existing meters – so you won’t see a separate item for it on your bill. 

So if you’re hesitating about having a smart meter fitted because you’re worried about the price, rest assured. You won’t be charged any extra for installing a smart meter. In fact, it could even save you money by helping you reduce your monthly bills. You may even find that you can get a cheaper tariff with a smart meter as some suppliers are doing this to incentivise customer to switch their meter. 

What are the benefits of having a smart meter?

Smart meters give you real-time information on your energy use. You’re only billed for the energy you actually use – rather than getting estimated bills. 

Because they show how much energy you’re using, smart meters can help you manage your energy use, reduce carbon emissions and save money. In fact, according to government figures it’s estimated that owning a smart meter could drive down the cost of your energy bill by up to £250 a year. This could come from you using energy more efficiently based on the information your smart meter gives you, combined with cheaper tariffs. 

Smart meters could be better for people on prepayment meters as well as those getting regular bills. They can show your credit balance so you are less likely to run out of power unexpectedly. You’ll also get more ways to top up, so you may not have to visit a shop which could be especially useful if you run out at night when the shops are shut.

Meanwhile, the government says small businesses with smart meters can collectively save around £1.5 billion each year on their energy bills. 

Smart meters also play a huge role in creating a cleaner energy system. The government estimates that they could significantly reduce carbon emissions by 45 million tonnes countrywide. That’s the equivalent of taking 26 million cars off the road for a year.

The rollout of smart meters is said to represent up to £16 billion in annual savings and will help the UK reach its target of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.  

And since smart meters automatically send meter readings to your energy supplier, you won’t have the hassle of having to read your meter manually or getting somebody come out to do it for you. This also makes the task of switching energy suppliers a lot easier, as you won’t need to submit a final reading.

What are the downsides of having a smart meter?

First-generation smart meters (SMETS1) sometimes don’t keep their ‘smart’ functionality when you switch supplier – so you might have to go back to manually reading your meter.

Fortunately, there’s a plan to remotely upgrade all SMETS1 meters so that they’re compatible with all energy suppliers. This way, they’ll be able to stay smart after you make the switch. If you’ve got one of the new generation of smart meters, they can already work with all suppliers.

Savings also aren’t guaranteed with a smart meter. Smart meters could help you save, but it doesn’t happen automatically. You have to take notice of your daily readings, and make a positive choice to cut back on your energy use.

Get useful tips for saving energy.

One of the requirements of smart meters is that they need replacing once every 10 years, which is more regularly than traditional gas and electricity meters. 

They’re also not flawless – technical faults aren’t unheard of. But if worse came to worst, you’d just need to go back to providing manual meter readings until you got your smart meter fixed or replaced.

How do I know if I have a smart meter?

If you’ve just moved into a new home, you might not be sure if you have a smart meter installed. There are a few ways to check:

  • Look at the meter – smart meters are white with a digital display. Also, look at the serial number on your meter, which will be next to the barcode on the front of the meter box. For electricity smart meters, it will begin with 14P or 15P. For gas smart meters, it will start with G4P.
  • Look at your bill – it may say whether you have a smart meter in the notes section
  • To be absolutely certain, contact your supplier.

    See how to find out who your supplier is

If you’ve been contacted by your supplier saying you no longer need to provide meter readings, then you have a smart meter.

Do I have an energy monitor?

An energy monitor, or in-home display (IHD), shows you how much energy you’re using in your home. Designs vary, but IHDs usually consist of a small screen with a black or white background that shows the amount of energy you’re using and how much it costs. 

If you have a smart meter, the person who lived in your property previously should have left the IHD as it will only work with the smart meter it’s paired with. If you haven’t got an IHD, contact your energy supplier.

How do I know if I have a smart thermostat?

Smart thermostats and smart meters are not the same thing. Smart thermostats allow you to control your heating remotely through an app on your smartphone or tablet, or via home devices like Amazon Echo and Google Home. They can also give you detailed information about how much energy you’re using. You buy a smart thermostat yourself – they’re not given free by suppliers. 

Smart thermostats come in various designs. They’re digital and the name of the smart tech brand may be on them. Brands include Nest and Hive.

If you move into a property with a smart thermostat, the first thing to do is to make sure the previous owner has logged out of their account, then do a factory reset. You’ll then need to set up an account in your own name and download the app to operate the thermostat.

Should I consider a business smart meter? Do I need one for my SME?

There are plenty of advantages in getting a smart meter for your business. 

  • They’re quick and easy to install: Smart meters take very little time to install, causing minimal disruption to your daily business operations. 
  • They provide accurate readings: Smart meters make it easy to track your energy use, removing guesswork when it comes to your bills.
  • They’re potentially money saving and greener: Smart meters could help you lower your energy use. As a result, both your monthly bills and carbon footprint will be reduced. 
  • They save you time: Smart meters take automatic readings of your business’ energy use and send them directly to your energy supplier. This means that you don’t have to take and submit manual readings, leaving you with more time to spend on your business. 

Thinking about getting a smart meter? You might also be wondering about how to get one fitted and how to switch energy suppliers. To find out more, read our guide to smart meters.

How do I get a smart meter removed?

Smart meters have real benefits, but if you’re really not happy with yours, you could ask your supplier to remove it. There may be a cost for this. Alternatively, you could simply ask for the meter’s smart functionality to be switched off.