An introduction to smart meters

What are smart meters?

Smart meters can be installed in your home to record real time electricity and gas usage in households and businesses. It sends data straight to energy companies, meaning less fuss for the homeowner, as they no longer have to take and report meter readings.

Some energy suppliers offer ‘time of use tariffs’, which vary energy prices depending on how much demand there is at different times of the day. In theory, smart meters track costs to help you run appliances more efficiently. At a time when many predict an impending energy crisis, saving as much as possible can only be a good thing.

Take-up of these meters has been increasing for a few years. They are fast becoming the norm and will be installed by energy suppliers as standard by 2020. However, they are optional.

What do smart meters cost?

There is no installation cost, but homeowners are expected to pay for maintenance, which will be added automatically to their energy bills. The cost of this is estimated at £215 over 5 years. However, you could potentially save much more than this on your bills thanks to easier monitoring and the opportunity to make use of time of use tariffs.

Can I install a smart meter myself?

No – your energy company will send out an installer – it should only take an hour to do. Once the meter has been installed you should be up and running with hopefully no hiccups to your existing supply.

Are they easy to read?

Should be! Most smart meters also come with a smart energy monitor, with a screen showing you real-time information. Providers can also show more info online, such as graphs to help you better interpret data. In time there will be more software and hardware providers that will be able to read this data and interpret if for you, so that you can actually have all this information on your mobile telephone or tablet device.

I am on a pre-payment meter. Can I get a smart meter?

Yes, even if you are on a pre-payment meter, it won’t affect your entitlement to get a smart meter installed. Once you have a smart meter in place it should make it easy for payments to top-up your pre-payment meter. Energy suppliers that are fitting smart meters are claiming that they will be able top-up pre-payment balances online or using a specific mobile app.

Pros

  • makes it easier to switch energy provider – you can easily send them data to get advice on the best tariff for you.
  • allows the billplayer to track spending
  • no more estimated bills/overcharging
  • You can see daily info, so easier to interpret/might put you off using so much heating etc.
  • Some say it could help turn the national grid into a smart grid – meaning they manage electricity supply for when there are surges of demand – good for preventing possible future blackouts..
  • could help people’s awareness of how much energy they use – therefore possibly reduce usage

Cons

  • You have to pay for maintenance
  • Possible inconvenience during installation (although this should take an hour)

British-Gas smart meter tariffs

British Gas are offering ‘free-electricity’ consumption over the weekends if you have the smart meter installed under them. Please note: this information is correct as of 1st July 2016 and is subject to change.