Smart meters are a new kind of gas and electricity meter that allow you to monitor your energy consumption in real time. They use a secure national communications network provided by the ‘Data Communications Company’ (DCC) to send your real time consumption securely to your energy supplier. There is also a portable in-home display (IHD) that also allows you to view your consumption in pounds and pence.
How do they work?
Smart meters consist of two main components, these are as follows:
- Two new meters: one gas and one electric to replace your old ones.
- An easy to read in-home display that allows you to check your reading from wherever you wish in your house.
When your smart meter is installed, the installation engineer will ensure the correct setup and configuration of your new meters. You will then begin to see real time data appear on your in-house display.
Your setup will be split into two key areas: the room in which your meters were before; and wherever you wish to place your in-house display. As shown in the image above, your new meters will most likely be placed where your old ones were, be that under the stairs or in a cupboard. The difference is, you should never have to observe them or take note of them ever again. No more meter readings, no more estimated bills, everything is live.
Understanding your in-house display
Your in-house display can help you to curb or expand your energy usage by making you aware of how much you are really using. Unnecessary anxieties can form around gas and electricity usage, especially in winter when we need to use the central heating. Knowing exactly how much you are spending can stop you worrying about turning any of your appliances on and put you back in control of your monthly spend.
Above you can see a typical in-house display. Although each energy supplier has their own design, the basics remain the same. The above example is using a predetermined budget, which gives you the percentage of which you have used throughout the day. It then denotes the amount in pounds and pence that you have spent within the day. You can also change this setting to display other time frames, such as your billing month.
Regional take up in Great Britain
The latest OFGEM figures (2017) say that a total 7,674,000 residential smart meters and 939,700 non-residential have been installed across the country so far. This totals a massive 8.61 million operational smart meters. But, which areas are most interested in smart meters?
Here we can see that Scotland is the most interested in switching to smart meters, whereas Yorkshire & Humber are the least interested. There are a number of reasons why this could be, be those socio-economic, or just the people that were asked within that survey.
Let’s break this down even further and look into the demographics behind which the above statistics apply. Below you will see a list of demographic subcategories and their interest in smart meters:
* Anyone with a sufferer within the household
What are the benefits?
You may be thinking that it’s all well and good ‘upgrading’ to a smart meter, but what are the real benefits of having one? Do you really care that much about your gas and electricity usage? Well, for many people, energy bills are a huge issue. The amount of people living in fuel poverty is growing in Great Britain, much like the rest of Europe, and smart meters are helping millions of households across the world stay in control.
Here are some of the many benefits that come with having a smart meter:
- Give confidence about one’s ability to afford to use certain appliances, such as heating in the winter. If you are guessing how much it costs, you may be worried about turning it on.
- Conversely, making people realise about how much they are using so they can cut down on certain appliances.
- Eliminates estimated bills and the need to submit meter readings. All bills will be completely accurate and up to date.
- Will eventually make it quicker and easier to switch energy supplier.
- Smart meters work really well with smart grid technology and enhance the energy management features of home battery walls and solar panels. With power network infrastructure moving towards increased automation, smart meters are part of our future.
Are they bad for your health?
Many groups have lashed out against the deployment of smart meters, branding them ‘harmful’ and ‘dangerous’. Although, there is no conclusion to this debate, the fact is that smart meters emit much less radiation than mobile phones and other such devices. If you were to decline a smart meter for this reason, you should probably think about getting rid of your mobile phone, too.
Although radiofrequency (RF) waves, can be cancerogenic in some capacities, the amount emitted by smart meters would not be the cause. We live in a society full of hidden waves that penetrate our bodies every second, so the addition of a smart meter should not make any kind of difference to your chances of contracting any kind of illness.
How to get a smart meter?
Smart meters are completely free, regardless of the tariff or supplier that you are with.
Getting your smart meter is simple, but is not the same for everyone. Each individual supplier has their own smart meter design and fitting process. However, they are all completely free, which is great news for anyone interested.
Some companies will have an option to book your smart meter fitting online; however, the quickest way to get sorted is by giving your supplier a call. Below you will find contact details for all major energy suppliers that are part of the smart meter rollout scheme. If your supplier is not in there, please visit their website to seek more details.
The Big Six
These are the six largest energy companies in the UK with a staggering 80% combined market share. They include household names like British Gas, Scottish Power and Npower. These companies jumped in head first into the smart meter game early on and have suffered from being early adopters when it comes to the smart meter rollout. Suppliers like EDF, SSE and E.on are not immune to teething issues either, which have slowed down the rollout so far.
See smaller suppliers
There are other smaller suppliers that offer smart meters, so if your supplier is not on the above list, please follow the below link to find customer service contact information and find out more information for your provider.
Smart Meter Versions: SMETS 1 vs SMETS 2Currently if you are getting a smart meter put in, it will be a first generation model which is limited in terms of being compatible when moving over to a different energy company. A second generation of smart meters, called SMETS2, recently finished the testing phase and big six companies, like British Gas, are just starting to roll them out gradually. They are a newer model that is ready to connect to a secure network shared between all suppliers, allowing them to make switching tariff and company easier. If you have an earlier type of smart meter, do not fret as it is very likely your energy provider will be able to update it to the new standard via an automated software upgrade which avoids needing a replacement.
What happens if you switch supplier?
What happens if you have a smart meter installed by one company and then decide to switch to another company? Well, nothing: you are protected by OFGEM regulations. Smart meters must be installed for free on a non-commitment basis. If you wish to switch thereafter you are free to do so just as you would before.
Don’t worry about the fact you have x company’s design, they all work on the same network and will continue to work as normal as long as your new company is smart meter ready. All big six companies, and many of the smaller suppliers, are smart meter ready, but require you to sign up to a tariff that is compatible with smart meters.
If you switch to a tariff that does not allow smart meters, your smart meter will go into ‘dumb mode’, which is pretty much the same as how your old meter would have worked; however, your in-house display will still be operational. The only difference is that it will not calculate your usage into pounds and pence, you will just see it in kWh.
Switching to Smart Prepayment (PAYG)Smart prepayment tariffs make topping up from your phone and even transferring credit from one meter to another possible. If you have a smart meter in your home, it is likely to you can switch to a convenient smart tariff with a simple phone call. If you are tired of losing your electric key or running to a shop in the middle of winter, there are prepayment suppliers that will put in a smart meter for free. You can speak to an energy adviser by calling 01704 325069 to make it happen.
Do I need to have a smart meter installed in 2019?
OFGEM, the energy supply regulator, has unequivocally stated that smart meters are not obligatory, which means you are within your rights to refuse one.
The government has changed what was once a hard deadline to get all households in line by 2020 to more of a goal. This softening in smart meter policy is good news for those who don’t want smart meters in their homes.
There is bad news on the horizon, however. Last April, The Daily Mail looked into energy suppliers’ strategies during the rollout. Here at Selectra, we disagree that offering promotional vouchers so people update their meters counts as a bullying tactic, but there are definite legitimate concerns about customers being:
- Charged more because they don’t have smart meters to access certain exclusive tariffs. However, this can be easily remedied by switching to a provider with fairer pricing.
- Harassed after the supplier was asked to stop contacting a household.
- Lied to about fines or fees for not accepting a smart meter.
- Forced to accept smart meter installation appointments against their will.
The Bottom Line - How do I legally refuse a smart meter?Refusing a smart meter will require you to be increasingly eagle-eyed. This is especially the case if you are coming off a fixed rate tariff and your supplier is keen to put you on one of them newfangled smart meter tariffs. You need to be firm about your refusal to have a smart meter installed. When speaking with your supplier, you may need to remind them that OFGEM asserts your rights to refuse smart meters. Additionally, since smart meters depend on mobile phone style signals, you could claim to have terrible wireless reception in your home - a white lie that could save you some hassle. Bottom line: Know your rights and if all else fails, threaten to take your business elsewhere. Remember the customer is always right.