A Guide to Energy Smart Meters

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Gas and electricity metering systems in the UK are set to be revolutionised in the next few years. As part of a government initiative, new ‘smart’ meters will be installed in every household in the UK by the year 2020.

What is a Smart Meter?

Smart meters are very much like the energy meters currently in use in UK households, but with two major differences; they can send accurate meter readings directly to energy providers, and they allow consumers to closely monitor energy usage. Both electricity and gas smart meters will be available.

Why Should I Have a Smart Meter?

Smart meters can only benefit you: they cost nothing to install and can save you money by helping to reduce energy bills as you become more aware of your energy usage. Smart meters eliminate the need for estimated bills, as they send readings directly and automatically to energy suppliers through wireless technology. With no more potentially inaccurate, estimated readings, you can be assured that you will never be over/undercharged on your utility bills again.

Smart meters also function as usage monitors in the same way as a ‘home energy monitor’ does. Installing a gas and electricity smart meter in your home will allow you to view your energy usage weekly, daily, even hourly, on a digital display within your home. With an increased awareness of your energy usage, many consumers may find that they actually use less energy with a smart meter, helping to save money each month.

How Much Do Smart Meters Cost?

There is no initial cost for smart meter installation and having one could actually end up saving you money however the cost to install is essentially being covered through all of our energy bills. As with all gas and electricity meters, running and maintenance costs are included in the price of a consumer’s energy bill. This means that the installation and running of a smart meter is of no extra or upfront cost to you.

Can I Get a Smart Meter?

All utility consumers are entitled to a smart meter in their home, regardless of whether you use prepayment or credit energy meters. It is the responsibility of the energy supplier to install smart meters in consumers’ homes. Most energy providers, however, do not currently support smart meter technology, and will not be distributing and installing smart meters until 2015. But, there are a few suppliers (mostly the BIG) that have already begun smart meter installations across the UK. Contact your supplier for more information.

If your energy supplier does not currently support the use of smart meters, you can always consider purchasing an energy monitor until the 2015 smart meter rollout for around £20. Energy monitors operate in the same way as smart meters, in the sense that their digital display allows consumers to view real time data and monitor exactly how much energy they are using. Unlike smart metering systems, though, energy monitors do not communicate meter readings to suppliers.

By allowing you to monitor your energy usage more closely, energy monitors help you to reduce your gas and electricity usage, and therefore the cost of your energy bills.

Am I Tied to the Company That Installs my Smart Meter?

No, having a smart meter installed with one energy supplier won’t stop you switching to another company whenever you want. Even if you switch to a supplier that doesn’t yet support or use smart meter technology, your smart meter is still usable and will just function as an old-type standard meter. It is even thought that, in the future, smart meters will actually make the process of switching energy suppliers easier and much faster. It is predicted that smart meters will be able to connect to and transmit information to a new energy provider directly and efficiently.

What is the Smart Meter Rollout?

The smart meter rollout is a UK government initiative that sees standard gas and electricity meters replaced with smart meters in accordance with the EU’s Energy Efficiency Directive. The rollout, which is due to begin in 2015, requires all energy providers to install smart meters in customers’ homes.

For information about smart meters and business energy, click here

By: Hannah Corbett - Home Energy Expert
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