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
From the Energy team
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Posted 5 JULY 2021

Is a smart meter compulsory?

The simple answer is ‘no’. Smart meters are being rolled out across the country, and energy suppliers must aim 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 are offering them to all their customers, you 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 and 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 the 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 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. You’ll pay for the cost of your smart meter and its maintenance through your energy bills – just like with traditional gas and electricity meters.

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.

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, it’s estimated that owning a smart meter can drive down the cost of your energy bill by as much as £250 a year.

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 can 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 £16 billion in annual savings and will help the UK reach its target of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.

And as smart meters automatically send meter readings to your energy supplier, you won’t have the hassle of reading your meter manually or having 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 don’t have a smart meter yet and plan to switch suppliers, it’s worth doing so before you get it installed. That way, you won’t have the problem of your smart meter losing its capabilities after installation.

Savings also aren’t guaranteed with a smart meter. Smart meters can 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 meter fixed.

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 can 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.

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