Have you ever wondered why most UK energy providers determinedly offer smart meters to every consumer? Some companies even offer them at no additional cost! This is because by June 2025, every residential consumer in the UK is expected to be offered a smart meter as part of a nationwide roll-out. The government has extremely high hopes for everyone in Scotland, Wales, and England to switch into smart meters to create a smarter energy grid.
A lot of energy consumers—both residential and commercial—are still faced with inaccurate billing, some of which are stealthily overcharged by their suppliers.
The difference between a traditional meter and a smart meter is the way they measure the amount of gas and electricity that is being used. By its name you can easily tell that smart meters are much more modernized and technologically advanced as opposed to the former. Additionally, smart meters directly pass on real-time updates and other information on usage to energy suppliers. This is great because you can keep a closer eye on your consumption.
Smart meters are great for energy users that are on a strict budget since they can easily determine when they use the most energy. That way, it’ll help them consider whether they’d like to move to a better tariff, lessen their consumption, or create a concrete plan to save more on energy. In fact, one can do a lot of things with just the right information.
If you ask a customer who upgraded to a smart meter about their experience so far, they will most likely tell you that they paid their bills in confidence, because they know everything that is written on their bill contains accurate and up-to-date information only.
Smart meters are a great repellant for estimated bills and manual meter readings – two things that can lead to overcharging.
Scroll down for a more detailed explanation on how smart meters work, their pros and cons, how to avail one, and why these types of meters can help small businesses save thousands on energy.
Let’s start with the basics: How do smart meters work?
Like we’ve previously stated, smart meters act as an official replacement for standard meters which require manual readings that are to be submitted to a designated supplier prior to billing. This old school method makes consumers rely on estimated bills, which can be quite dodgy since not everyone can provide regular readings.
A customer’s usage is wirelessly sent to an energy supplier through a secure national communication network (or the DCC) which typically is used by a smart meter. This makes it easier for energy companies to provide accurate billings. On top of that, smart meters are much easier to check since they come with in-home displays that provide the customer with real-time information such as the amount of kWh they’ve consumed.
Why are smart meters good for small businesses?
Smart meters are great for small businesses because they help consumers gain a little bit of control over their usage as it is much easier to track their costs.
With the help of this type of meter, utility bills will be a lot more accurate. In addition to that, business owners will be able to identify their peak hours (or when they use the most energy) in a day. WIth this type of information, they’ll be able to create a solution that could reduce their energy usage.
According to the Department for Business, Energy, & Industrial Strategy, 21.5 million smart and advanced meters were installed in Great Britain as of June 30, 2020, of which 40% of them were non-domestic customers.
Pros and cons of smart meters
Everything in the world comes with pros and cons, that includes smart meters!
Advantages to having a smart meter
Below we’ve listed a bunch of smart meter pros that are based on the Government-backed campaign Smart Energy GB’s take on smart meter benefits:
- Accurate bills – With the help of smart meters, estimated billing will be a thing of the past. Customers no longer have to worry about providing regular meter readings or having someone sent to their homes to have their meter read (which could cost an extra). Smart meters quickly relay accurate information based on your usage directly to your energy supplier, hence the accurate billing.
- In-house monitors that will help customers familiarize themselves with their consumption – Smart Meters come with in-home displays to make it a lot convenient for customers to monitor their usage. It gives accurate and real time readings in pounds and pence, and kilowatt hours (kWh). After a while, you will be able to notice your consumption habits and track your usage on the daily. It shows how much gas and electric credit a consumer has left on their meter as well, which can be helpful with budgeting too. With smart meters, smarter decisions can be made!
- Score great deals that are exclusive to smart meter users – Many energy suppliers offer great (and oftentimes cheaper) energy deals to customers that have a smart meter or are interested in having one installed.
Disadvantages that come with smart meters
- The installation takes awhile – While this might seem like a surface-level disadvantage, quite a few people aren’t really comfortable with the idea of having their meters installed by a professional or having a stranger come into their premises. On top of that, the entire installation process typically takes a couple of hours, in which you may temporarily lose power until the installation is done.
- Switching away from the supplier that has installed your meter could potentially “dumb” down your smart meter (dumb mode) – This doesn’t happen frequently, but it is however possible. Smart meters can lose their “intelligent” functionality once you decide to move to a different supplier.
Are smart meters expensive?
Smart meters can be installed by your energy supplier at zero cost. It is absorbed into your supplier’s operational costs. Same goes for installations and maintenance; there are no upfront costs.
Is it possible to switch energy suppliers even when I have a smart meter?
Yes, it is possible. HOWEVER, it can be a little more tedious and complex than it sounds.
According to Ofgem, the more people with smart meters, the better the benefits. Which brings us to SMETS, which stands for “Smart Metering Equipment Technical Specifications”. SMETS pertains to the 2 different versions that Smart Meters come in, namely SMETS1 (or First Generation smart meters) and SMETS2 (Second generation smart meters).
People who have had a smart meter installed before 2018 currently have a SMETS1 smart meter. Customers that still have a SMETS1 smart meter are encouraged to switch to SMETS2, first, as their meter is already bound to lose its smart functionality and delay data sending to their new supplier. If this happens, the customer will unfortunately be reverted to manually reading their meters and having their bills estimated like the old-fashioned way.
SMETS2 smart meter owners, on the other hand, are people who have had their smart meters installed in 2018 onwards. This is a newer model which can provide ZERO complications with switching.
How can I tell if I have a SMETS1 or SMETS2 smart meter?
Like we mentioned previously, people who had their smart meters installed before 2018 probably have SMETS1 Smart Meter (first-generation meter). SMETS2 (second-generation meters) are newer models that rolled out in 2018 and distributed onwards.
However, some energy suppliers are still trying to use up their stocks of first-generation meters, regardless of how recent your smart meter installation is. So it’s always best to contact your supplier (or whoever installed your smart meter) and ask them what type of smart meter you have.
Will I be able to save more money on a smart meter?
Of course! Smart meters even help consumers determine when they are using the most energy in a day. It can encourage people to come up with early solutions that could reduce their energy costs. Estimated billing is usually what hikes up a consumer’s bill; smart meters have fortunately brought an end to that. This type of meter offers consumers a lot of insight into how they can lower their bills, Additionally, its accurate billing just provides the reassurance that people actually pay for what they consume, nothing more, nothing less.
All smart meters come with an in-home display that shows how much energy someone is using during different times of the day, week, month, and year.
A slew of energy suppliers offer discounted tariffs and cheaper deals for people who have a smart meter or are looking to have one installed, to encourage faster roll-out of the meters.
I want a smart meter. Where are they available?
Everyone is actually being encouraged to get and/or offered a smart meter from their respective energy provider. So if you haven’t been offered a new meter by your supplier, it would be best to contact them and inquire.
However, it is worth noting that some people might not be able to avail a smart meter due to the way their property is built or the lack of availability in their region.
Do I have to have a smart meter?
Probably not. A smart meter won’t automatically be installed within your premises without your consent. In fact, you’re not obliged to have a smart meter installed! So it is impossible for you not to know whether you have a smart meter or not.
However, should you have any concerns or questions regarding smart meters, do not hesitate to discuss them with your current supplier. You can discuss any concerns you have about smart meters with your supplier.
Are smart meters safe?
A lot of people are concerned with the radio waves emitted by smart meters.
However, an agency of the UK Department of Health called Public Health England (PHE) was able to piece together a series of evidence that could reassure smart meter users that these radio waves won’t put anyone’s health at risk. In fact, a cell phone is much riskier as far as radio waves exposure goes.
Just like any other in-home devices, every smart meter has undergone the same safety regulations and rigorous testing which have surpassed every UK and EU safety standards.
Are smart meters easy to read?
Yes. If you’re wondering how to read a smart meter, it’s not really too complicated! Actually, unlike traditional meters, you aren’t really required to provide meter readings to your supplier regularly, since the smart meter itself does it for you. Although it would be a logical move to have your meter checked once or twice a year to avoid any complications such as loss of smart functionality where the meter fails to take a reading.
If you’re looking to read your smart meter to monitor your energy consumption, you can easily do just that using the in-home display that came with your smart meter.
Should you have any concerns regarding your in-home display–whether it’s faulty or the option to “read meter” is nowhere to be found–contact your supplier. They will happily walk you through the process or replace the device with a brand new one.
I want to switch to a business smart meter
Now that’s great! A lot of small businesses already have smart meters installed in their premises.
Normally, most business energy contracts run between 1 – 3 years, depending on the supplier. So if you’re on a fixed contract with any supplier, make sure you’re about to hit its end date to avoid penalties. Remember, opting out early from your contract could lead to costly exit fees.
If you’re currently within your ‘switching window’, switching to a business smart meter will be a breeze on your end.
Before making any changes, we suggest that you shop around for the best deals in the market that could benefit your business in the long run. It’s important to compare business energy prices from a wide selection of electricity and gas suppliers, both leading and independent.
Make sure you have the following details:
- Where your business is situated (postcode)
- Your current energy supplier
- A copy of your most recent utility bill