The UK government is pushing ahead with the smart meter rollout, with plans to have a smart meter fitted in every home and business by 2020. What does this mean for you, and what are the pros and cons of getting a smart meter fitted?
What is a smart meter?
A smart meter is a next-generation gas or electricity meter. They can communicate wirelessly with your energy supplier and offer more accurate bills. They also come with an in-home display – a small device that displays your energy usage and spending.
Benefits of smart meters
- No more estimated bills
With traditional gas and electricity meters, you would be responsible for taking meter readings and submitting them to your energy company on a regular basis. If you didn’t do this, your usage would have to be estimated and your bills would be inaccurate. Smart meters, however, transmit your usage information regularly and accurately to your energy company. This means that your user data is always accurate, and you only pay for the energy you have actually used.
- Usage visibility
When you have a smart meter fitted, you will usually receive an in-home display for free. This small device has a screen that displays the amount of energy you are using in near real-time. This allows you as a tenant or homeowner to identify when you use the most energy and make changes to your lifestyle & habits accordingly.
- Easier for pre-pay customers
Many people have to pre-pay for their gas or electricity using a card, key or tokens. Smart meters allow you to do this remotely either on the phone, through an app or via SMS – this is much more convenient than having to head out to the shops every time you need to top up.
- Building the ‘smart grid’
Energy companies hope to use data from smart meters to build an accurate picture of where and when the most energy is used. This will allow them to purchase energy more efficiently and drive down prices.
Disadvantages of smart meters
- Privacy concerns
Some people are concerned about the amount of data smart meters can gather and what could happen if it fell into the wrong hands. Although smart meters don’t transmit any personal information, in theory, criminals could use look at usage patterns to determine when people won’t be home.
- Health concerns
There has been some speculation that the radio waves from smart meters can be harmful to your health – however, this has been thoroughly debunked by this government report.
- Do they really save you money?
Strictly speaking, smart meters do not make your energy any cheaper. They simply display how much energy you are using at any given time – it’s up to you to use that data to make the necessary changes to save money. To really get the most out of your smart meter, you should do some research and find the cheapest energy supplier in your area.
- Switching can sometimes be tricky
If you have a first-generation smart meter and you decide to switch energy companies, the meter may not be compatible with your new supplier. This isn’t a problem however if you have a newer second-gen version. If you are unsure, speak to your current supplier before making the switch.
Whether or not you get a smart meter fitted is ultimately up to you. We hope that this article will help you avoid some common pitfalls and get the most out of your new meter!