Smart meters – what can they do?
Smart meters are high-tech electricity and gas meters that will replace your existing meter. They will measure your exact gas and electricity use and, most importantly, send all the information back to your energy supplier – meaning no more estimated bills.
The government plans to roll out smart meters to homes across the country at a cost of at least £11 billion, starting in autumn 2015 and finishing in 2020.
How are smart meters different from energy monitors?
Smart meters are much more sophisticated than energy monitors, which simply give you a good estimate of the amount of electricity you are currently using. See What is an energy monitor? to find out more about what energy monitors can and can’t do.
As smart meters transmit regular meter readings to your supplier automatically, they will remove the need for your meter to be read and you should get accurate bills based on your actual usage.
Smart meters also offer additional possibilities for the future – such as improved ‘time-of-day tariffs’ offering cheaper rates at off-peak times to smooth out national energy usage through the day. Plus, they will make it easier to sell your own micro-generated electricity (such as from a solar panel or home wind turbine) to the National Grid.
Importantly, smart meters will actually replace your current meter, whereas energy monitors simply clip on to your power cable.
Will a smart meter show me how much energy I’m using?
A smart meter itself doesn’t tell you much about your energy usage. But when you’re upgraded to a smart meter you’ll also receive a handheld in-home display unit, which will let you see how much gas and electricity you’re using in real time, as well as how much it costs.
For now, you can buy separate energy monitors that monitor your electricity use (most can’t measure your gas use). Best Buy energy monitors start from around £35. Our video explains the differences between a smart meter and an energy monitor.
Smart meters record and send information about energy usage to your energy company
Will smart meters save me money?
While smart meters will mean more accurate bills – and remove the costs of meter readings which are currently added to your bills – they themselves will not save you money.
You’ll only save money on your energy bills if you actively use the information provided to see where you could reduce your energy consumption, and then make an effort to do so.
According to government estimations, the average customer will save £23 a year on their energy bills by 2020 as a result of the roll-out, dependent on households actively changing their energy-usage habits.
Will a smart meter cost me money?
While having a smart meter installed is free, you may incur the cost indirectly through your bills.
At the moment, the roll-out, at an estimated cost of at least £11 billion, is being led by the energy companies with no checks in place to make sure that costs don’t spiral.
This cost will be paid by consumers through their energy bills, so we want to make sure it is as low as possible, which is why we are campaigning to ensure the government reviews the smart meter roll-out. Find our more about the smart-meter roll-out and our smart meter campaign.