A simples guide

A guide to smart meters

Smart meters are replacing our traditional dialled electricity and gas meters. In a government-led initiative, suppliers are required to install these new meters to their customers by the end of 2020. All 53 million of them! 

Why are they different?

Unlike traditional meters, the new ones use mobile signal to allow them to send meter readings to your supplier without you having to do anything.

In addition, the meter will wirelessly send energy usage information to an in-home display. With real-time information about how much gas and electricity you’re using, it’s hoped that you’ll be able to improve your consumption and as a result save money.

smart meter

What are the benefits of having a new smart meter?

  • •With real-time information, you’ll know exactly how much energy you’re using. Expressed in pounds and pence, you’ll be able to see exactly what it costs to make that cup of tea or run the dishwasher (just remember all those things that constantly run like your fridge or a TV on standby will also be factored in).
  • Armed with this information, you’ll be able to take immediate steps to reduce your consumption and reduce your bills if you think something’s using up too much energy. As a result, you’ll also be greener and reduce your emissions.
  • No more knocks on the door to take meter readings. No more cards through the door asking you to read your own meter. No more estimated bills.
  • The new meters are free to consumers.
  • Prepayment customers will also get some additional benefits such as a possibility of new and flexible ways to top-up, a balance displayed on the in-home display, and the potential to auto top-up so you’ll never run out of power and be left in the dark.
  • It’ll be easier to switch in the long run. More on that later.

Are customers protected during the changeover?

The government is guaranteeing certain safeguards during the changeover:

  • Installers must provide energy efficiency information as part of their visit. That shouldn’t include talking about their products unless they get your permission first.
  • There will be no sales during the engineers visit to change your meter.
  • Your data will not be shared with third parties unless you give consent.
  • If you do choose to share with comparison sites such as ours, we can let you know if you could save by switching.

What are the costs?

There is no direct charge to consumers as suppliers are legally obliged to roll the meters out. You won’t be expected to pay for your meter and the suppliers should save money by cutting overheads for meter readings and calls taken to cover at least some of the costs.

There is nothing to stop the energy companies increasing their prices to offset the extra cost so by comparing your tariff on a more regular basis you can make sure you’re on the most competitive deal.. That said, the energy companies will save money too after the roll-out as checking meters will be a thing of the past. Whatever happens though, it’s more important than ever to compare tariffs and make sure you’re getting the best deal.

How do I get a new meter?

Well you can just wait if you like. At some point, you’ll be contacted by your supplier. Some suppliers have already started the roll out and if you don’t want to wait contact your energy supplier for more information about their timetable and plans. But at some point suppliers will be in contact to let you know their plans if not. The latest updates so far are:

  • British Gas has started upgrading customers across the UK. To start with the focus is on most homes. Flats, high rise buildings and homes with Economy 7 or prepay meters can’t upgrade just yet.
  • EDF is rolling them out region by region, refining the installation experience as they go. They expect the roll out to accelerate in the second half of 2016.
  • E.ON are currently fitting smart meters as part of a regional roll out programme.
  • First Utility are replacing meters for existing customers as their traditional meters come to the end of their lives. Alternatively they may be able to offer them on request.
  • nPower are installing the new meters on a small but increasing scale. They expect the roll out to accelerate from late 2016.
  • OVO are installing smart meters for all their customers. They’re rolling out area by area as well as offering them to new pay as you go customers.
  • Scottish Power installed a small number of meters in 2015 to test customers experience and expect a wider scale rollout during 2016.
  • SSE has started upgrading customers as part of a phased regional rollout.

Can I still switch supplier with one?

Yes, you should be able to and those supporting the roll-out state that in the long term, the changeover process should get even easier. Currently there’s a little administration around final meter readings as you agree the changeover date. With the new smart meters, it will be very easy to see what the final bill due to the old supplier is.

However, as we’re currently in the upgrade period consumers will need to be a little bit careful. As suppliers are at different stages of roll out, if you already have a smart meter, you’d need to check that your new supplier is able to maintain the service after you switch over. There may be a few teething problems at first but if you switch today you’ll have another few months for them to work through this before you’ll be looking to switch again.

So if you’re keen to save money with a smart meter, you may also want to check out energy deals to see if you could knock a few pennies off your energy bill with a new provider. Why not start comparing today?