Smart Water Meter: Your Simple Guide
Are you looking to lower your water bills or increase your efficiency? Uncertain if having a smart water meter installed is the right choice for you? In this guide, we will cover what smart water meters are, what they do, and how they could potentially help you to gain control over your usage. Read on to find out more.
What Are Smart Water Meters?
Smart water meters (also known as water smart meters) record your water usage and send your water readings to your supplier automatically. They contain the same technology that smart energy meters use to send automatic electric and gas readings to your energy supplier
The primary feature of a smart water meter is its ability to send automatic meter readings. This means that you can do away with the hassle of having to access the often awkward space in which your meter is located or remember when you need to take and submit readings to your water supplier, thus making managing your utility billing simpler.
Additionally, having a smart water meter enables you to closely monitor how much water you are using, which can be viewed via your online account with your water supplier. This often comes in the form of hourly (or even more frequent) breakdowns showing the units of water used and the monetary value of your usage.
It is suggested that on average, having a smart water meter installed in your home can increase your water usage efficiency by up to 12% *. Increasing your water efficiency can certainly help you lower your utility bills and help the environment by reducing your consumption, thus allowing more water to be used for irrigation or to rejuvenate natural streams and rivers.
If you want to check how your current water bill compares to the current national average, see our guide the UK's average water bill.
*Source - Thames Water
How Does A Smart Meter Work?
While smart water meters serve the same purpose as a traditional water meter, there are several key differences between traditional meters and smart water meters:
- A traditional water meter requires you to take manual meter readings, and submit them to your supplier by calling them, inputting them on your online account, or even by sending them through the post.
- A smart water meter submits automatic readings frequently throughout the day without you having to lift a finger.
- A smart water meter also has a digital display instead of a traditional dial so you can see how much water you're using at any given time.
- Where the meter serial number would be located above the meter reading on a traditional meter, on a smart water meter this may be located above a barcode, which is often below the meter reading.
Take a read through our water meter guide to learn more about traditional water meters.
Will A Smart Water Meter Benefit Me?
Like anything, a smart water meter will have its advantages and disadvantages depending on your circumstances. In general however, smart water meters tend to benefit customers who already benefit from metering at the property.
In fact, the disadvantages of a smart water meter generally involve technical issues that do not allow it to use its smart functionality, but it would continue to operate as a traditional water meter.
Here is a table outlining some of the advantages and disadvantages of having a smart water meter installed:
|Provides frequent meter readings that are automatically sent||Potentially the machine can fail to send readings if it is damaged or cannot connect|
|Easy to monitor usage and increase efficiency||Uses electricity to operate, and so may fractionally increase your energy bills|
|Free Installation||The installation and activation is not immediate and may take several visits|
|Helps to find leaks quicker, as usage spikes can be immediately detected||May increase bills for some households who were on unmetered supply|
How Much Does A Smart Water Meter Cost?
Smart water meters are offered as a free installation by water companies. If you choose to habe one installed, you will not be charged for the installation. If you are in a region where a water meter is compulsory, it is even more likely that these will be free. Both energy and water smart meters are part of the government's transition to greener utilities.
Will A Smart Water Meter Save Me Money?
This depends on if you currently have an unmetered or metered property.
Unmetered homes are billed according to their rateable value. This is based on several factors such as the size of the property, the area and the availability of local services. It is used to create an estimated usage value, which is then applied to their bill. Larger families often find this beneficial as they aren’t billed according to their exact usage. If they have a water meter installed, they may see their bills increase as their exact usage is then taken into account.
If your home is already metered, then you will be familiar with being billed according to accurate usage data. Smart meters will send your readings to your supplier with increased frequency and enable you to see your usage data in live time. By having access to your smart water meters data, you can make adjustments to increase your efficiency and decrease your bills.
The Consumer Council for Water (CCW) has a great water rates calculator that can help you decide if getting a smart water meter will help you save on your water bills.
By entering the following details, their calculator will give you a simple summary of your projected expenditure and savings if you switched to a water meter:
- Your current water supplier
- Your sewerage supplier
- Water usage data (Number of people in the household, how many showers are taken per week etc
- Which services do you wish to calculate - water charges and/or sewerage charges
- What you are currently charged annually
- Inputting your postcode to assist in identifying where water meter installations are most sought
How To Read A Smart Water Meter
Your smart water meter will automatically send your meter readings to your supplier. However, it's a good idea to take a meter reading every so often and especially when you move to a new property. This is to ensure that your water provider is opening and closing your account with the correct readings.
You can also compare the meter readings that are shown on your bills against what your meter shows to check its accuracy. In very rare instances, smart meters may glitch or misread. Therefore, keeping a record of when you took a meter reading and what its value was can be beneficial as a safety net.
Taking a meter reading is a very simple thing to do. Your smart water meter will display up to five digits in black, followed by two or three digits after a decimal point. The only digits that you need are the five black digits, and you can discard the ones after the decimal point (suppliers only measure and bill according to complete units of use).
These can then be submitted to your provider either via inputting them in the appropriate section in your online account, by calling them, or even by posting them to your supplier.
What Does A Smart Water Meter Look Like?
A smart water meter will generally be circular and have a digital display in the centre. Often they are white with a blue outline (especially if it is a Kamstrup model), although they could just be white.
Where your smart meter is located will vary depending on your property type. Generally, they are installed at the earliest point that the water pipes enter an individual property, which for flats would be in the kitchen next to the water stop tap, and for semi-detached or detached houses, these would usually be located in the garden or the garage.
If your water meter is outside, this will be found in a small box in the ground. You may need a tool such as a screwdriver to help you remove the lid. Once you open the box, you should be able to see your smart meter. Your smart water meter may also be covered in a rubber frost-proof cover. After you remove this, you will find your meter’s screen displaying your meter readings.
Are Smart Water Meters Compulsory?
The short answer is that it depends. While there are three methods of metering for your water (Unmetered/Rateable Value, Metered and Smart Metered), some suppliers do require their customers to have a specific form of metering.
Thames Water and Anglian Water require that their customers have smart water meters installed. The primary purposes for this are cited as increasing water usage efficiency and decreasing the strain on water-stressed regions, thus helping the environment. Smart meters and their installation come with no additional installation cost, but they are paid for through standing charges, much like standard water meters or energy meters.
Southern Water requests that their customers have a water meter installed. However, they do not specify if they require this to be a traditional or smart water meter.
The remaining suppliers allow their customers to be on any of the three methods. However, they are likely to encourage metering and smart water meters as a way to increase the reliability and accuracy of bills and to increase the efficiency of water being used in homes.
To understand more about how the type of meter you have affects your rates, take a read through our simple water rates guide.
How Do I Get A Smart Water Meter Installed?
Although smart water meter installations come at no extra cost, they do come with a few minor hurdles that you should be prepared for.
Providers will often email or write to households informing them that they are installing in the area. These emails and letters will have a reference number with which you can manage your appointment (if the meter will be installed inside your property) and prepare for any necessary steps you may need to take.
Additionally, you can make contact with your supplier to request a smart water meter installation without having received this notification, although you may have to wait depending on availability.
If the smart water meter is installed in your garden, then an engineer may need to make a couple of visits if your home does not already have a traditional water meter. The first visit will be to survey the area and install the meter box, and the second visit (which may be several weeks later) is to install the smart meter itself.
Suppliers do not require you to be present for external installations, but they do ask that you make your garden safe and accessible for the engineers.
Your water supply may be turned off for up to half an hour while the installation is underway (so make sure to top up your kettle beforehand!), and you will receive a message within the following 90 days to inform you when your smart meter is active and operational.
If you are uncertain of who to contact regarding a smart water meter installation or other water-related queries, using our water directory will help you to identify your supplier. You can also discover other great tips on how to get the most out of your water.
Can I Choose Where I Want My Smart Water Meter?
You may be able to place a request for a specific position before your installation. However, the engineers are limited by the location of the water pipes in your home, and so they may not always be able to comply with requests.
If you need further accommodation due to a disability or access issues, for example, this should be discussed with your supplier in advance so that they can provide further advice or make additional accommodations.
Can I Have My Smart Water Meter Removed?
If you have had a water meter installed and you feel that it is not beneficial for yourself, you can request that it be removed. After your installation and depending on the supplier, you have a one or two year period in which you can change your mind and request its removal without incurring any cost to yourself.
If you request its removal after your supplier’s grace period, your water supplier may decline, or there may be a charge for de-installation.
Smart Water Meter Problems If you are having a problem with your water company over the installation of a smart water meter and you are disatisfied with their response, contact the CCW to take your complaint further. Do not contact the water regulator Ofwat as they will be unable to help you.
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Can I Get A Smart Water Meter For Business?
Yes! If you are running a business, having a smart water meter installed will help to tick one more task off your list because you won’t have to remember to take and submit meter readings.
With a smart water meter, you will be able to see exactly when your business is experiencing high volume water usage, how you can expect this to be represented in your next water bill, and you will only be charged for exactly the amount of water that you have used.
Are Smart Water Meters Safe?
Though smart meters for both energy and water do emit radio waves, these have a low frequency (25mW’s on average) and emit a much smaller volume than even mobile phones (2,000mW’s on average) for example.
Public Health England has advised that smart meters do not pose a health risk. Additionally, all data collected will be held in a secure database by your supplier, which will comply with The Data Protection Act.