What are the pros and cons of smart meters?

The switch-over to smart meters is well underway – according to latest government figures, they make up 31% of all meters in the UK. Smart meters can help you reduce your energy use, but are there any downsides?

Let’s look at the pros and cons of having a smart meter.

The switch-over to smart meters is well underway – according to latest government figures, they make up 31% of all meters in the UK. Smart meters can help you reduce your energy use, but are there any downsides?

Let’s look at the pros and cons of having a smart meter.

Peter Earl
From the Energy team
4
minute read
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Posted 5 JANUARY 2021

Smart meter pros

Smart meters have lots of pluses.

No more meter readings
A smart meter will take a reading from your meter and automatically send it to your energy supplier. That means no more scrabbling around in a cupboard with a torch as you try to see the numbers.

It also means your energy supplier won’t need to pay someone to come out and read your meter. What they save in costs could be passed on to you, the customer.

Accurate energy bills
A smart meter will send an accurate reading of your exact energy use to the energy supplier every 30 minutes. This does away with estimated bills – so you’ll only be charged for what you use.

With traditional non-smart meters, if you forget to submit a reading, your energy supplier will estimate your use based on past bills. Estimates can be notoriously inaccurate. With a smart meter you’ll avoid estimates and the shock of a nasty final bill when your tariff comes to an end.

Easily track what you use and spend
Smart meters come with a handy In-Home Display (IHD) unit (IHD) that you can put anywhere, such as on a wall in your kitchen. The display shows you how much energy you’re using in real time.

You can also see exactly how much energy is being used by a particular appliance – for example, each time you put the kettle on. This helps you monitor your energy use. It also helps you work out which appliances are the worst energy guzzlers and which ones are the most energy efficient.

Encourages better energy habits
If you can see how much energy you’re using, you’re more likely to change bad habits and hopefully reduce what you use. This is great for budgeting. Better energy habits could mean cheaper energy bills in the long run.

It can warn you about faulty appliances
A sudden surge in electricity use could mean there’s something wrong with one of your appliances.

Could help reduce your carbon footprint
Being more aware of how much energy you use could steer you towards taking energy-saving steps, helping to cut down on your home’s CO2 emissions.

Access to cheaper tariffs
To encourage more people to switch to smart meters, many energy suppliers are offering exclusive discounts and cheaper tariffs for homes with smart meters.

It’s easier to switch suppliers
As you won’t need to take a final reading, switching suppliers will be easier.

Smart meter cons

Smart meters aren’t compulsory and there are some downsides:

Uses a mobile signal
First-generation smart meters use a mobile-network signal to send data. If you live in an area where the mobile signal is patchy, it will affect your smart meter, too. However, a new dedicated wireless smart-meter network is currently being set up by the Data Communications Company (DCC) to resolve this problem. According to Ofgem, smart-meter communications coverage should reach over 99% of UK households by the end of 2020.

There’s no guarantee you’ll save money
A smart meter will only help you save money if you use it to monitor your energy use and make a positive decision to cut back.

Excessive monitoring
Obsessively checking the display to see how much you’re spending could lead to family friction. It’s impossible to cut out your energy use completely, and it’ll cause problems if you get upset every time someone switches on a light or boils the kettle.

Your meter might not stay smart if you switch suppliers
If you have a first-generation (SMETS1) smart meter installed, it might lose its ‘smart’ functionality when you switch suppliers. This means you might have to go back to manually reading your meter. The plan is to remotely upgrade all SMETS1 meters so that they’re compatible with all energy suppliers. This will enable first-generation smart meters to regain their smart functionality after switching.

If you don’t have a smart meter yet, it may be worth switching suppliers before it’s time to get one installed. With the great range of exclusive tariffs out there, you’ll be sure to find a cheap deal that you’re happy with.

Did you know…

SMETS stands for smart metering equipment technical specification. The first generation of smart meters are SMETS1. The second generation are SMETS2.

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