What is a smart meter?
Smart meters are the newest way to monitor your gas and electric use and have become available at no cost to homeowners. Energy suppliers are rolling the new meters out across the UK and it’s the Government’s ambition for everyone to have one fitted in the next few years.
The main benefits of a smart meter are:
- Automatic meter readings – your readings are sent directly to your supplier, so you don’t have to check and send them.
- An end to estimated bills – you’re only charged for what you use. Suppliers no longer need to estimate your monthly costs and reimburse/ ask for the remainder.
- In-home usage display – this is an optional wireless unit that monitors your energy consumption. It displays what you’ve used in pounds and pence, in realtime.
How can I get one?
The likelihood is that in the next few years, you’ll be offered one. But there are ways to speed the process up if you’d like to start benefitting from one sooner.
The first thing to check is whether your energy supplier is currently installing smart meters in your area, which you can find out by calling them or looking on their website.
They may say yes immediately or put you on a waiting list. If they say it’s not possible, you can always switch suppliers. When you switch, the new supplier may provide you with smart meters automatically.
It’s a good idea to switch suppliers every year to make sure you’re on the best tariff anyway, to keep your bills down. Switching to receive smart meters provides double the incentive!
When might I not be eligible for free smart meters?
The circumstances in which your energy supplier may not fit a smart meter, include:
- You have an Economy 7 thermostat
- You use storage heaters
- You live in an area with poor signal strength
- You prepay your energy costs
However, the criteria are different for each energy supplier. What’s a problem to one company might not be to another and they may be subject to annual change. To be sure, always get in touch with your supplier directly or take a look on their website for up-to-date information.
What happens if I switch supplier after having smart meters installed?
If you get your smart meters through your energy supplier, they will go ‘dumb’ if you switch. This means you will still be able to view your usage, but your meters won’t automatically send readings to your new supplier and you’ll have to resume sending the readings manually.
But, don’t let this put you off! The combined savings from regularly switching energy suppliers and tracking your usage will save you £100s per year.
The fitting process
Having a smart meter fitted is a straightforward process. You’ll often be asked to book online or your supplier will tell you when the installation is arranged for. It should only take around 2 hours to fit and your gas and/or electric will need to be switched off during this time.
Following the installation, they will explain how your smart meters work and may offer some safety or efficiency advice. There’s nothing for you to do after this point, apart from monitor how much energy you’re using and see if you can reduce it wherever possible.
Is a smart meter the same as a smart thermostat?
No, these are two different things. Smart thermostats – such as the Nest Learning Smart Thermostat – allow you to monitor and control your heating remotely. You can adjust the temperate and turn your heating off and on via an app on your phone or tablet.
Smart thermostats can’t send your meter readings to your energy suppliers. Instead, they are designed to reduce your bills by giving you more control over your central heating. For more information on smart technology, read our blog ‘Does a smart thermostat save you money?’
We hope this has provided a useful overview of smart meters and how they can be accessed. If you’d like any advice on your central heating system and how it can be improved, arrange a free survey and one of our engineers will visit your home.