All over the world, energy suppliers are changing old, analogue meters for new smart meters. If everything goes to plan, every home in Britain is due to have been offered a smart meter by 2020.
CashLady answers takes a look at what a smart meter is and how it could save you money.
What is a smart meter?
A smart meter is a new generation gas and electricity meter that will be able to send your meter readings directly to your energy supplier.
Smart meters are a new piece of technology that have been developed so that you will get more accurate gas and electricity bills. They should also help you to understand how and when you are using energy. This could save you money.
How does a smart meter work?
A smart meter works by using two different wireless networks – the HAN (home area network) and the WAN (wide area network).
Your smart meter will be able to communicate wirelessly on the HAN with an in-home display.
Your smart meter will send information about your meter readings to your energy supplier/s through the WAN. This is a secure network and works the same way as your mobile phone to send and receive data.
Do I need wifi?
You do not need a wifi network for your smart meter to work. Your smart meter uses a different type of technology to communicate with your in-home display and your energy supplier.
What will the display screen show me?
On the in-home display you will be able to see how much gas and electricity you are using and how much it is costing you.
The display will show live usage data in kWh as well as live costs in pounds and pence. This will mean that you can see exactly what you are spending on gas and electricity in any given timeframe. You will be able to see how much energy you have used in the last hour or even the last month. You will also be able to see how much it has cost you.
Your smart meter will also let you know if your energy usage is low, medium or high. This will allow you to see if you are using a large amount of electricity in any given time so that you can investigate why this is happening.
If you have a prepay meter, it will also show you how much money you have left on your meter and enable you to see if you are running out of credit.
This live data could not only help you to budget for your energy bills but also allow you to cut down on energy usage. This is by encouraging you to switch off any device that you are not using.
What are the benefits of smart meters?
There are many benefits of changing your current meter to a smart meter:
- You could save money
By better understanding how and when you use electricity or gas you could make some changes to your energy usage. Your in-home display will show you exactly how much gas or electricity you are using at any given moment. This allows you to see exactly what your lifestyle is costing you.
The ability to see your energy usage could make you more aware of how much energy each device in your house costs you. You could decide that, for example, having your TV on mute while you are on the telephone is a waste of electricity.
Suppliers will be able to access much more data on how different homes use energy. This could mean that there could be more tariffs offering cheaper electricity or gas at off-peak times.
- Your bills will be more accurate
Your smart meter will send your meter readings directly to your energy supplier/s. This means that there will not be any more estimated bills where you could end up paying too much money to your supplier.
For many people, having a stranger come into their home to take a meter reading can be stressful. With smart meters, this will now be a thing of the past.
Meter readings will be sent automatically through smart meters.
- It will be much easier for you to switch energy supplier
Want to switch supplier to get a better deal? It will be much quicker to switch supplier with a smart meter because all the information is available immediately.
Will a smart meter cost me money?
Smart meters will not cost you any money. They are free from your energy supplier.
Where can I get a smart meter?
Suppliers across the UK are currently rolling out smart meters. By the end of 2020, every household should have been offered a smart meter.
You can contact your supplier or check the status of your supplier’s meter rollout online. Do this to find out when you can expect to get a smart meter installed.
How are smart meters installed?
Your energy supplier will contact you to arrange a convenient time for your smart meter to be installed. They will let you know how long they expect it to take (usually around 2 hours). You will need to be at home when your supplier comes to install your smart meter.
Your new smart meters will usually go in the same place as your old gas and electricity meters.
The engineer who is installing your smart meter will also offer you a free in-home display. Your in-home display will be wireless so you can put it anywhere in your house. You will only need one in-home display for gas and electricity.
Will I still be able to switch supplier if I have a smart meter?
Yes – in fact, switching with a smart meter will be much faster than switching with an old analogue meter.
I do not want to wait to get a smart meter from my supplier – are there any other options?
If you do not want to wait to be offered a smart meter, there are other options that offer similar benefits.
Smart thermostats are a new way of controlling your heating with a view to making your home more energy efficient. Used correctly, smart thermostats could save you money.
Smart thermostats can be used with smart meters.
How do smart thermostats work?
They work by allowing a wireless thermostat to communicate with your boiler to control your heating. You can then remotely control your thermostat via an app on your smartphone.
Some smart thermostats can even learn your lifestyle and turn your heating on accordingly. For example, your smart thermostat could learn when you are likely to head home from work. Furthermore it could turn your heating on in enough time so that it is warm when you get home.
Some smart thermostats can even use weather forecasts to adjust your heating.
There are a variety of smart thermostats available to buy. Some of the more popular choices include:
- Tado – this smart thermostat requires little user input as it should automatically adapt to your lifestyle. It does this by tracking each person in your household’s movements with their smartphone. This means that the heating should go off when everyone leaves the house and back on again when someone is on their way back from work.
- British Gas’ Hive – unlike Tado, Hive gives you complete control and allows you to manage your heating with your smart phone or tablet.
- Google’s Nest – more like Tado, Google’s Nest should learn your lifestyle and behaviour to efficiently manage your heating by itself.
How much could I save with a smart thermostat?
Some manufacturers of smart thermostats boast huge energy bill savings. Tado, for example, says that it can save you up to 31% on your energy bills.
How much would a smart thermostat cost me?
Including installation (recommended) you are looking at around £250 for a smart thermostat. You should calculate how long this would potentially take you to get back through energy savings.
Having a smart meter can help to save you money by making you more aware of when and how you use energy.
Not only can this knowledge allow you to save money but it will also make people more aware of how much energy they may be wasting.
Smart meters are free. This means that you will not need to calculate how much they cost and how long it would take you to get that money back through energy saving.
Smart meters should be offered to every household in Britain by 2020.
If you want to save energy on your heating bills, it could be worth looking at a smart thermostat. However, unlike free smart meters you will need to calculate their cost against how long it would take you to get that money back.