What Are Energy Smart Meters? Should You Have Them?

smart meter disadvantages

Smart meters are next generation meters that send automatic readings to your energy supplier.

By 2025, every home in the UK should be offered a smart meter as part of a nationwide roll-out.

Here is all the important information you need to know regarding smart meters.

What is a smart meter?

Smart meters are essentially a replacement for standard gas and electricity meters and will automatically track meter readings and submit this to your energy supplier.

This means less work and more accurate bills for you! 

smart meter

How does a smart meter work?

A secure national communication network called the DCC is used by smart meters to automatically send your energy usage to your energy supplier.

You would usually have to give regular and manual meter readings to your supplier to ensure they do not estimate your usage.

However, with smart meters, usage will be wirelessly submitted to your supplier.

All smart meters also come with an in-home display unit, meaning you can also track your usage throughout the month. 

How will this affect my meter readings?

Your energy supplier typically bills you based on your energy usage. Due to this, it is always recommended giving your supplier regular meter readings, as this will ensure you are always charged accurately based on your usage.

If this doesn’t happen, your energy supplier would estimate your energy usage for the month, and this may lead to you being under or over charged.

Smart meters will mean your energy usage is automatically passed over to your energy supplier. 

This means less effort and more accurate energy bills! 

smart meter top up

Do I have to have a smart meter?

At the current moment in time, smart meters are not compulsory, and there is no obligation for you to have one installed in your home. So you do not have to get one if you don’t want too.

However, the government is striving for every household to have a smart meter installed before June 2021 and have asked energy suppliers to ‘take all reasonable steps’ to install smart meters in all homes and businesses before this deadline.

In March 2019, the government also introduced a new rule called the New and Replacement Obligation, which meant that energy suppliers must take ‘all reasonable steps’ to install smart meters when they are replacing old or broken meters, or installing a new meter for the first time in a property.

However, you are still able to refuse a smart meter if you don’t want one. Do keep in mind however, that some tariff’s with energy suppliers may require you to have a smart meter installed, so it is important you refer to the terms and conditions of tariffs before you agree to switch over. 

Is there only one type of smart meter?

No, there are currently two types of smart meters in use throughout the UK.

First generation smart meters / SMET1S1

The first generation of smart meters that were introduced are called SMET1 and can temporarily lose smart functionality when you switch energy suppliers, meaning you will have to manually provide meter readings to your new suppliers. However, your in-home display will still provide real time updates on your energy usage!

This does not mean you cannot switch suppliers however!

A future remote upgrade is also planned to make all SMETS1 meters compatible for all suppliers.

Second generation smart meters / SMET2S2

All new installations of smart meters should be SMET 2’s and these newer models are fully compatible with the DCC, meaning there should be no issues regarding switching energy suppliers, as long as the supplier can handle smart meters.

How do I know if I have a SMETS1 or SMETS2?

The initial rollout of SMETS2 meters only started in 2018, so if your meter was installed before then, you most likely have a SMETS1 meter.

The best way to find out what generation of smart meter you have is by contacting your energy supplier, who will be able to check.

What are the benefits of having a smart meter?

Having a smart meter means more accurate energy bills for yourself. This also means you don’t have to remember to provide meter readings to your supplier or have someone come and read your smart meter.

With the in-home display unit, you can also have a greater visibility on your energy usage, and hence can control how much or less you use.

This is useful if you have a prepayment meter, as your usage will affect the credit you have remaining!

Having a greater visibility of your energy usage also means you can make smarter decisions regarding saving energy and money, as well as not having to worry about final meter readings when you switch energy suppliers!

Are there any disadvantages to having a smart meter?

Your smart meters may go ‘dumb’ and lose their smart functionality if you switch away from the suppliers that installed them or if your new supplier isn’t able to serve them.

This would mean your meter wouldn’t be able to send meter readings directly to your supplier and may mean you would have to revert back to manually sending your supplier meter readings.

Smart meters are suitable for the majority of property types, but there are some exceptions. If you are located in a rural area, a high-rise block of flats or your energy meters are located far apart, your smart meters may struggle to communicate with each other.

Smart meters also depend on the signal of mobile networks, so if you live in an area with poor internet connection, your smart meters may also struggle to communicate your energy supplier.

Read our detailed breakdown on the advantages and disadvantages of smart meters here

How much does a smart meter cost?

There is no extra upfront cost for having a smart meter installed, as this will be covered within your energy bill.

The government stated in 2019 that smart meter costs are recovered from energy supplier’s entire customer service bases, just as traditional metering.

Will a smart meter save me money?

Installing a smart meter won’t save you money itself but will provide greater visibility and insight into your energy usage, meaning you can think about reducing this for future energy bills.

Since your smart meter automatically sends usage to your current suppliers, your energy bills should be a lot more accurate.

The in-home display unit that your new smart meter comes will also provide an insight into your current usage, which would be helpful to highlight ways you can be more energy efficient.

save money on energy

Are smart meters safe?

All smart meters are subject to the same safety regulations and testing procedures of any in-home technologies’ devices, such as mobile phones and baby monitors according to the BEIS (Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy).

They are also covered by UK and EU safety legislation, meaning they have undergone rigorous testing. According to the Smart Energy GB, the smart meters used throughout the UK also exceed every UK and EU safety standard.

Smart meters emit low radio frequency emissions, and this is just like any other wireless device.

This allows meters to accurately track the household usage accurately, and pass this information to the energy supplier. 

Can I still switch if I have a smart meter?

Yes!

Once the nationwide rollout of smart meters has been completed, smart meters should make the process of switching energy supplier a lot easier, as the meter should be able to send usage and meter details to the new energy supplier.

However, in the short term, smart meters may slow down the process of switching. The National Audit Office found that in 2018, over 70% of first generational smart meters lost smart functionality when customers switched energy suppliers.

Your smart meter would lose functionality if your new energy supplier can not operate your smart meter.

However, by June 2021, any installed first generation smart meters should have been upgraded remotely, so that all energy suppliers can operate them. Any meters that can not be upgraded will be replaced.

Due to this, if you do have a first generation smart meter and want to switch energy suppliers, there may be a chance that your meter will stop being smart.

Can I switch with Look After My Bills if I have a smart meter?

You certainly can!

As an energy switching company, we know auto-switching is the simplest way to save money on your energy every year.

We want to make sure you’re always on a great deal and ensure the switching process is as easy as can be.

That’s why we love the second generation of smart meters – they support our mission in doing all the hard work for you.

In the same way we switch you automatically, SMETS 2 meters send your meter reading automatically to your supplier- giving you more time for the things that matter the most!

To make sure our customer can make the best savings without complication, you can let us know if you have a smart meter in our sign up form.

We work with a variety of suppliers, big and small. 

Some of our suppliers aren’t yet able to support smart meters so your smart meter may temporarily lose smart functionality when we switch you.

But don’t worry, the smart meter will still be able to record your usage and your In Home Display should continue to display your energy usage. 

We’ve also got an informative guide to help you read your smart meter here