In 2016, the Government published its plans to install smart meters in homes and small businesses across the UK to help the country become better a
In 2016, the Government published its plans to install smart meters in homes and small businesses across the UK to help the country become better at saving energy and money, especially those under financial stress. In 2020, the original plan was revised and it became part of the Government’s Net Zero Strategy which aims to have the UK have net-zero emissions by 2050. It also said the rollout of smart meters will represent up to £16billion in annual savings on energy bills. The push for smart meters now comes as the cost of living crisis rumbles on and the price for wholesale gas has increased due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The UK Government reported that at the end of March 2022, 28.8 million smart meters had been installed in homes and small businesses across the UK.
Ava Kelly, energy saving expert at Energy Helpline said: “The Government believes smart meters will help people reduce their energy consumption, lowering their bills and carbon emissions.”
Ms Kelly said that due to rising costs, measures to help cut the cost of living are “now more important than ever” and that smart meters are also part of the plan “to make the market more efficient”.
In a nutshell, smart meters are a new type of energy meter which display a person’s gas and electricity usage in real-time.
This means that people can see exactly how much they are spending on their energy and how much appliances cost to run.
Smart meters work by calculating energy usage based on automated readings every 30 minutes.
Ms Kelly explained: “By providing suppliers with more accurate data about your usage, you will pay for the energy you actually use, rather than what is estimated.
“You’ll also be able to tell which devices or appliances are using the most energy by examining your smart meter readings.”
Many think smart meters can save people money on their energy bills, and the reason for this narrative is that they help people become more aware of their energy consumption, the expert suggested.
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It is estimated that 85 percent of smart meter owners adjusted their behaviour to reduce energy consumption.
Ms Kelly also said by avoiding estimated bills, householders are ensuring they are only paying for the energy they use.
There are two types known as SMETS 1 and SMETS 2, they represent the first and second generations of the technology. Ms Kelly reiterated that both types are free to install.
To check which smart device a person has, people should check the serial number on their device If the number begins with 19P, then it’s a SMETS 1, if it begins with 19M, it’s a SMETS 2.
Ms Kelly states that the best smart meter to have is the SMET 2 as it uses its own communications systems through a central data network to which all suppliers have access.
She added: “They are preferable to SMETS 1 because when you switch, your new supplier should be able to see your usage and meter readings, and your in-home display should show you your usage with the new supplier’s costs.”
Ms Kelly said that the benefits of using a smart meter are that it’s free and that energy providers do not charge people for the installation as “the set-up costs are already covered by current tariffs”.
She also explained that as a smart meter records the readings every 30 minutes people do not need to submit frequent meter readings and they will also not get “stung by bad estimates”.
She said: “Suppliers also get much more accurate readings, meaning you don’t get charged too much or end up paying too little, only to get an unexpected bill to make up the deficit later.
“You also won’t need to manually take readings from your home or business electricity and gas meters and then submit them to your supplier: smart meters do this automatically.”
So, can smart meters reduce people’s bills significantly?
Ms Kelly said: “The amount the bills reduce by is down to individual behaviour changes, but households who are wasting energy currently could see their bill drop by hundreds of pounds as a result of having a smart meter and adjusting their energy use.
However, Ms Kelly explained that people will need to be aware of peak times when running appliances such as their washing machine and dishwasher as they will inevitably cost more to run.
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She added: “Households may choose to use other methods for things like drying clothes when they see in real time the cost of running a tumble dryer.
“Simple steps such as switching off lights when leaving a room, and being aware of behaviour such as leaving devices on standby rather than switching off at the wall will reduce energy bills.”
If people do this, Ms Kelly said that it won’t take long for people to notice a difference to their bills saying that people will see the difference the next time their bill is produced after installing the meter.
She states that those who transfer to off-peak tariffs can also help cut bills.
Ms Kelly addressed one of the rumours which has circulated about smart meters in the past which is that hackers are targeting them to access personal data and information about people energy use and their account.
She explained: “There are a lot of people who worry about data hacking, and people being able to access their personal information via a smart meter.
“In reality, the data stored is fairly useless even if someone was to hack it, and far more information is stored on your computer.”
Other myths that Ms Kelly wants to dispel from the public mindset is that smart meters do not need internet in order to work which means that people who don’t have internet access can install them.
She also said people do not need to stay with the energy provider that fitted their smart meter. People can move to another provider and if they do then their smart meter will continue to accurately record their energy use the same as before.
However, if the new supplier can’t run the meter in smart mode, people may need to temporarily take manual meter readings, however, this usually won’t be for long.
This would be the only time that people would have to take meter readings if they have a smart meter.
Ms Kelly said that if something was to go wrong with a person’s smart meter the best thing to do is contact the energy provider who installed it, as a person would do the same thing if there was an issue with the meter readings on a person’s bill.
Overall, Ms Kelly says that it is “certainly better to have one than to not” as any device which makes people “more aware” of their energy consumption and “in control” of reducing it and keeping costs down is a good thing.
She explained: “The fact that smart meters are free to get installed makes them an instant benefit to households who can start making savings from day one.
“Unlike a lot of energy-saving measures, like solar panels and air source pumps, where you need to recoup the cost of installation before you see a saving, smart meters have no upfront costs and really put you in the driving seat of your own energy use and therefore energy bills.”