Smart meters: the advantages and disadvantages

smart meter disadvantages

Smart meters have some crucial advantages if you’re looking to keep your energy bills as low as possible. In fact, if you’re looking to do an energy comparison you’ll find many of the cheaper tariffs require you to already have smart meters, or be prepared to get them installed.

The Government has targeted having an energy smart meter in 80% of homes by 2025, though the rollout has gone a little slower than planned ‒ currently around 57% of all energy meters are smart, according to Government figures.

In this guide we take you through the advantages and the disadvantages of having smart meters. Also see all you need to know about smart meters for more on how they work.

What is a smart meter?

A smart meter replaces the current electricity and/or gas meter you have.

The meter automatically tracks your energy usage, and sends that information to your energy supplier, meaning no more estimated bills.

What is an in-home display?

Smart meters come with an in-home display, which can help you keep an eye on how much you’re spending on your energy use.

It’s not uncommon for our meters to be installed in hard-to-reach places, and chances are you don’t look at it very often. Even if you do, the meter doesn’t really tell you what your energy is costing you.

The in-house display changes that, since it details your energy use in actual pounds and pence. That can be really useful for making money-saving changes to your habits, since you can see how much it costs to run a dishwasher, or how much it costs to boil a kettle.

What does a smart meter look like?

A smart meter looks a lot like the standard gas and electricity meter that you would have already.

Smart meters come in different shapes and sizes however they tend to have buttons which when pressed, will allow you to cycle through the several displays.

Many people confuse the in-home display for a smart meter. The display tends to look different depending on who your supplier is but they all have a large display screen. You can navigate it by pressing buttons or using the touch screen functionality.

Smart meter and in-home display

Stop overpaying for your gas and electricity now!

By ticking here, you agree we can send you occasional emails with incredibly helpful money saving tips.
Our privacy policy outlines how we use your data and where it goes. Please make sure you read it before moving ahead with the enquiry.

What are the advantages of smart meters?

No need to submit meter readings

Smart meters automatically send out readings to your supplier so you don’t have to worry about remembering to submit them monthly. 

You can closely track your usage and spend

The in-home display shows you exactly how much energy you’re using as well as the associated cost. It monitors and encourages good energy habits, which can also help with budgeting.

Accurate bills – no more estimates

The smart meter sends your readings automatically so you will always be billed for what you use.

If you have a standard (non-smart) meter and forget to submit a reading, your supplier will have to estimate how much energy you’ve used over the billing period. They estimate based on the typical amount of energy you have used in the past or how much they think you will use. 

Sometimes the supplier’s estimates are inaccurate, especially if they don’t have a lot of information about your usage, but this is avoided entirely with a smart meter.

Highlights costly appliances

The in-home display shows how much energy you’re using at any given time, allowing you to notice any sudden spikes. This could be down to inefficient or even costly appliances ‒ having that information means you can get them replaced and save money on your energy bills over the long run.

Helping the planet

Smart meters can help us all use less energy, which is obviously good for the environment, while it also puts less pressure on the national grid.

smart meter reducing co2

Greater selection of tariffs on offer

As we move towards a smart future, smart meters are becoming more widespread. Many suppliers favour smart meters and have previously offered exclusive tariffs to households with smart meters.

So having a smart meter may mean you have greater levels of tariff choice when the time comes for energy comparison.

Can take part in schemes where you’re paid to shift your use

Some firms offer to pay customers if they are able to lower their energy usage during peak times. These schemes are only available to those with smart meters.

Easier for those on prepay

If you have a prepayment meter you can also upgrade to a smart meter. With a smart prepay meter you can top up from your smartphone or computer, rather than having to go to a shop. 

The other great thing is that, if you’re eligible, you can easily switch to a credit tariff. A smart meter can be switched between prepay mode and credit mode remotely so your supplier will not need to fit a new meter in your home.

What are the disadvantages of smart meters?

Older smart meters become “dumb” once you switch

If you have a first generation smart meter (SMETS1), your meter may go ‘dumb’ when you switch supplier.

This means that your meter will continue to record your usage however it will lose its smart functionality and it will no longer be able to automatically send your readings to the new supplier. 

Poor signal

First generation smart meters communicate using mobile networks.

In the same way, your mobile signal can sometimes be a bit patchy in some areas, the same applies to smart meters.

If you have a weak mobile signal, it can prevent the meter from sending readings to the supplier

Feeling pressured

Having the cost of your energy use displayed in this way can make you feel under pressure if money is tight. This could lead to making decisions in order to save money which could lead to problems down the line, like not turning the heating on during winter.

Smart meters won’t save you money alone

Smart meters are only going to be effective in helping you save money if you actually make use of the information they display. If you don’t take that on board and make changes to the way that you use energy then there won’t be much impact on the size of your bills.

Are smart meters compulsory?

You don’t have to have a smart meter. While energy suppliers have targets for offering them to everyone, they can’t make you take on.

However, if your existing meter breaks down and needs to be replaced then you may be obliged to have it replaced with a smart meter.

Summary: Smart meter advantages and disadvantages



No need to manually submit readings

If you have SMETS 1, it may lose smart functionality after you switch

Easy to monitor your energy usage and spending using in-home display

Can feel pressured into cutting out energy use in unsafe ways

Accurate bills 

They won’t reduce your bills alone

Can highlight faulty or inefficient appliances

Smart meters may not work if you have a poor signal in your area

Positive impact on the environment


Greater selection of tariffs on offer