What are smart meters?
Smart meters are a new generation of meters that record and communicate your gas and electricity usage via wireless technology. By using a combination of digital technology and wireless communications, they’re able to automatically send your electricity and gas readings to your supplier and give you a breakdown of your power consumption at home.
What this means is you’ll be able to see exactly how much gas and electricity you’re using in each hour, week or month. Your meter readings are securely transferred to your supplier, making sure your bills are always accurate. This means that you only pay for what you use and your bills are not based on estimates.
Why change to smart meters?
A lot of the gas and electricity meters installed in homes across the country were designed decades ago. Numerous homes in Britain are still using this out-dated technology, forcing customers to live with the chore of taking manual readings to avoid estimated bills. In response to this, the government has pledged to upgrade our ageing energy system by offering smart meters to households across the country at no additional cost. This scheme will help to bring our national energy system up to date and into the digital age.
Smart Metering Implementation Programme
Installing smart meters is one of the biggest infrastructure projects that the country has seen in recent times. As part of its nationwide replacement programme, the government has tasked energy suppliers with offering a smart meter to every home and small business in England, Scotland and Wales by the end of 2020.1 This smart technology will replace traditional gas and electric meters. Around 400,000 meters are being installed each month, and over 12 million smart and advanced meters are already operating across Great Britain2. It is estimated that smart meters will take £300 million off customer bills by 2020, and these savings could rise to more than £1.2 billion a year by 2030.3
How do I get a smart meter?
If you currently have a traditional meter you’ll have the option to upgrade to a smart meter soon, and we’ll be installing smart meters free of charge. We’ll be rolling out smart meters soon and will be in contact with customers who have shown interest through our contact form, or smart meter register page.
What equipment will I receive?
You will receive two types of equipment as part of your smart installation. The smart meter will replace your existing traditional gas and electric devices, and you will receive one per fuel.
You’ll also receive an ‘In-Home Display’ (IHD), which shows both electricity and gas (if you have compatible smart meters for both fuels). This can be placed anywhere in your home and provides a detailed breakdown of your gas and electricity usage. The device communicates with your smart meter to show how much energy you’re using in near real-time, and an indication of how much it’s costing you in pounds and pence. This information puts you in control of your energy and provides the means to help you save money, reduce your usage, and become more efficient.
Having your costs displayed on an accessible device makes it easier for you to see how much energy you are using each day. You’ll be able to use your IHD to set yourself budgets and energy targets. The display uses coloured traffic lights to show you how much energy you’re consuming: a green light indicates low usage, amber medium, and red high.
Why would I want a smart meter?
There are many benefits to having a smart meter installed, and around 80% of customers say they would recommend them to friends and family4.
Reduce your energy bills
Having a smart meter means you will no longer need to provide your own meter readings to receive an accurate bill. You will also receive a free in-home display (IHD) with your new meter. This device can help you keep on top of your bills and make informed decisions on how to efficiently reduce your energy usage. Changing bad habits becomes a lot easier when the benefits can be seen almost immediately, and 82% of people with smart meters say that they now have a greater understanding of their energy costs and how to reduce their bills5.
A safer Britain
Smart meter installations are also making homes across Britain safer, as they provide an extra opportunity for important safety checks to be carried out on appliances. The smart meter programme is the first time that there has been a nationwide effort to check the safety of gas and electricity in homes across the country.
Tackling climate change
In addition to these positives, replacing traditional gas and electricity meters with smart technology is an important step towards tackling climate change, and laying the foundation for the country’s move to a lower carbon economy.
The importance of smart technology in our everyday lives is only going to grow. Many of us already have smartphones and smart TVs. In the future, an increasing number of smart household gadgets and appliances will be able to talk to smart meters and help reduce energy usage.
How are smart meters connected?
Smart meters don’t use your Wi-Fi connection. In fact, you don’t even need to have Wi-Fi in your home for your smart technology to work. Current generation smart meters contain SIM cards and transfer data directly to your supplier via a wireless network using radio waves. This process is similar to the technology used with mobile phones. Public Health England, the government’s agency on public health, has concluded that smart meters pose no danger to your wellbeing. The exposure to radio waves from a smart meter is in fact far lower than other everyday devices such as TVs and microwaves.
The system that gathers information from smart meters is made up of two main radio parts. The home area network (HAN) sends information to the In-Home Display and allows the smart electricity meter to talk to the smart gas meter, and the wide area network (WAN) communicates information between the meter and the supplier.
These networks are secure, helped by a high-level security system developed by leading experts in industry and government. No personal information is stored on your smart meter, and third parties will not be able to access your data for sales or marketing purposes without your consent.
The Data Communications Company
At present, not all suppliers use the same system communication network, so if you switch it may be difficult for a new supplier to automatically receive your meter readings and you may lose some smart functionality. However, the energy industry is in the process of implementing a single communication system for smart meters, the Data Communications Company. The DCC uses a secure national network, ensuring that when you switch, your smart meter will continue to communicate with your new supplier.
The first generation of smart meters, known as SMETS1, may lose some smart functionality when customers change supplier. The latest generation of smart meters, known as SMETS2, are operated through the DCC network, meaning that customers with these meters will retain their smart functionality regardless of who their energy supplier is. At the same time, DCC is working with energy suppliers to enrol all SMETS1 meters into their network. This means that everyone should be able to keep their smart benefits if they decide to switch supplier.