How Do Smart Meters Work?

The price of energy has risen sharply in recent months, and it is looking like it is likely to rise even higher, potentially causing more problems for people when it comes to paying their energy bills. We are all looking to be more cautious about the amount of energy that we are using, but one method that is being suggested to help to reduce the amount of energy that we use – and make us more aware of the energy that we are using, is to get an EPC and also a smart meter.

The government has stated that they hope to have smart meters installed in every household by the end of 2025 (in England, Scotland, and Wales), and they are provided by energy suppliers.

Smart meters give home occupants a running display of how much energy is being used and how much it is costing them over time – in as good as real-time as you can get. This enables the occupiers to get a better understanding of their energy use and look for ways to reduce it.

How Do Gas and Electricity Smart Meters Work?

It is possible to have both a gas smart meter and an electric smart meter, each one displaying your energy use as you use it. They measure the gas used at half-hourly intervals, and the electricity use, almost instantly, both informing you of your energy consumption, as well as automatically updating your meter to the energy companies through a secure national communication network (called a DCC).

The information is sent to your home display, where the house occupants can read it. With a smart meter, there is no more need for you to carry out meter readings or pay for estimated energy bills.

The Benefits of a Smart Meter

As a home occupier, there are several benefits to having smart gas and electricity meters. These include:

  1. Your bills are more accurate – smart meters mean an end to estimations. This means that your gas and electricity bills will be more accurate, and you will only be charged for the energy that you have actually used.
  2. Detailed understanding of usage – one of the main benefits for home occupants is that a smart meter gives you an accurate, detailed account of your energy usage, almost straight away. This gives you the power to be able to control your energy use better, see the impact of what you are doing on your energy consumption, which appliances use the most energy, and enable you to look at ways that you can reduce how much energy you are using.
  3. Energy tariffs – it is sometimes the case that energy companies offer cheaper energy tariffs for customers that have a smart meter – which can make a big difference, especially on top of the potential savings that you could already be making.
  4. Part of a smart grid – the smart grid is bringing the British energy supply system into modern times. It is based on a system that is designed to provide efficient, reliable energy to Britain, whilst remaining as efficient as it possibly can be. By installing a smart meter, you are helping to enable the smart grid.

A smart meter needs to be professionally installed, but your energy company should be able to organise this for you for free.

Switching Energy Suppliers

In theory, switching energy suppliers is possible after you have had your smart meter fitted. However, there are a couple of points that you should bear in mind.

When smart meters were first rolled out in the UK, they were the SMETS1 model. If you have a SMETS1 model smart meter, they can sometimes lose their ‘smart-ness’ if you switch energy suppliers, meaning that it is sometimes the case that the information is not sent through to the new supplier and you might have to revert to the old fashioned meter reading for a time. However, a SMETS1 remote upgrade is being made available meaning that soon you can switch energy providers without a problem.

Your smart meter will, however, still be able to provide you with in-the-moment energy consumption information even if it cannot communicate with the suppliers.

If, on the other hand, you have a newer model – known as the SMETS2 meter which was introduced in 2018, you will be able to automatically switch suppliers without a problem. To find out whether you have a SMETS1 or SMETS2 meter, you will need to contact your energy supplier.

If you rent your property, it is recommended that you advise your landlord when you get your smart meter fitted, regardless of who pays the bills.

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