Smart Meters are an advanced type of smart energy meter. Fitted to your electricity supply, the smart meter is in constant contact with your energy supplier sending readings automatically so you don’t have to. Thanks to smart meters, your bills are accurate rather than estimated and you always just pay for the energy you use, rather than what you have been ‘estimated’ to use. With a smart energy meter you can monitor your energy usage in real time through an innovative monitor in your home which is connected wirelessly to the smart meter. You can find out more about smart meters here.

As the roll out of smart meters continues across the country with the UK on course to achieve the target of 80% of homes being fitted with a smart meter by 2020 I am taking a little bit of time to look at how ‘smart’ a smart meter really is. So, how do smart meters work and what do you need to know about them?

Just like a traditional meter, smart meters measure and record the total energy you use in your home.The ‘smart’ element comes in as they use radio waves (like your mobile phone or WiFi) to send the information they collect back to our energy supplier. This allows your supplier to collect readings remotely.

There are a couple of main components in this system:

1.     The Home Area Network, or HAN, links your smart meter fitted to your energy supply with an in-home display. This smart display lets you view your energy usage in real time. It tells you when you are using energy and how much it is costing you.

2.     A communications module. This facilitates communication between your meter and utility company so that there’s no need for anyone to come to your home and check things. 

Your smart meter send your usage data back in short, intermittent bursts whilst the in-home display also shows historical energy consumption, allowing you to measure your current energy usage against previous usage.

Both the major energy companies and the government, who are rolling out smart meters together, they have the following benefits:

➢     A smart meter can provide you with accurate, and real time information about your homes energy usage.

➢     Help energy consumers make more informed choices and behaviours with regards to their energy usage/ behaviour.

➢     Gives you the option to be more flexible with your heating settings.

➢     Ends estimated billing, after installing a smart meter you will only pay for the energy you use so there are no more nasty surprises.

As mentioned before, offering smart meters to customers across the UK will be mandatory. At the same time, the roll out will also include strict consumer protection rules designed to ensure the safety of customer data. There will be rules around:

➢     Access to consumer data and privacy.

➢     Consumer data security.

➢     Technical standards for in home monitors and smart meters.

➢     Meeting the needs of vulnerable customers.

➢     Installers will not be able to sell to consumers during installation visits, unless the customer has given prior consent. 

Individual smart meters cost around £215, though there will be no upfront costs for having your smart meter installed. Instead you will pay a little extra through your energy bills as you do now with your current meter.

There are reasons why you might not want to install a smart meter in your home. If you decide you don’t want to have a smart meter, you can refuse one. Though energy companies must take all reasonable steps to install a smart meter in each home, you can refuse entry and refuse the installation of a smart meter.

If you don’t want a smart meter in your home, contact your energy supplier and let them know. Instead they will either replace your current meter with a newer ‘dumb’ meter or a smart meter which is set to work in ‘dumb’ mode. This means that the communications mode is switched off and no data will be communicated back to your supplier.

As smart meters have been rolled across the country they have come in for criticism. It has been estimated that the average saving for a dual fuel bill will be just £26 a year. These new meters won’t save you money in and of themselves. Rather, the idea behind them is to give you information to encourage changes in your behaviour which will lead you to reduce energy bills.