Smart Meter Q & A

Does everyone have to have one?

Smart meters aren’t compulsory and people can choose not to have one.

What are the benefits of getting a smart meter?

  • Bills will be accurate, not estimated
  • Regular meter readings will be shared directly with your energy supplier through a secure wireless network, meaning no more manual meter readings
  • You will receive an in-home display, which shows exactly how much energy you’re using, as you use it, and what it is costing in pounds and pence
  • In the future switching between suppliers, or between credit and prepay, will be quicker and easier
  • Prepay customers will be able to top up online or via mobile phone

Who installs the smart meter?

The smart meter will be installed by a trained smart meter in staller, at no extra cost to tenant or landlord

What is the process of installation?

  • Before arrival make sure the current meter is accessible
  • On the day, the tenant or a representative of the tenant, must be present throughout the installation, which will take about an hour for each meter. During this time the energy supply will be temporarily cut off
  • Separate smart meters are needed for gas and electricity and these will be installed during the same visit. Only one in-home display will be needed unless the energy supplier is different for gas and electricity
  • The installer will show the tenant how to use the new in-home display
  • If a gas meter is installed, a gas safety check will also be performed
  • Further question about the smart meter and in-home display should go to the energy supplier
  • The in-home display is for information only. Tenants will still receive regular energy bills in the same way they do now, whether that’s in the post or online. Only now they’ll be accurate, without having to submit a manual meter reading

Technical information

  • Smart meters are covered by strict UK and EU product safety laws. These ensure that smart meters all have the same high quality and safety standards, regardless of your energy supplier
  • The smart meters used in Britain have undergone one of the most rigorous safety testing regimes in the world and exceed every UK and EU safety standard. Public Health England, the government’s agency on public health, has said that exposure to radio waves from smart meters is well within guideline levels, and is many times lower than the exposure from other everyday items, like microwaves and TVs
  • Smart meters use an entirely separate, bespoke wireless system. You don’t need Wi-Fi in your home for it to work and it won’t use your Wi-Fi if you have it

In-home display unit

Your in-home display is a handheld digital device that sits in your home. This may be called lots of things – like an IHD or smart meter display. It takes information from your smart meter and shows you in near real time how much energy you’re using in pounds and pence.

And that’s just for starters. Your in-home display has all sorts of features to help you control your energy use and lower your bills. You can see:

  • how much energy you’re using in near real time (it updates at least every 10 seconds for electricity and every half hour for gas) and can show you what it’s costing you in pounds and pence (or if you prefer it, kwh or CO2 emissions)
  • how much energy you’ve used in the last hour, week, and month

For smart meters operating in prepay mode, it will also show:

  • how much credit you have left
  • how much you have on your emergency credit balance
  • your debt balance, if you have one
  • a visual or audio alert if your credit’s getting low

In the future, you may even be able to top-up via your in-home display.

During your smart meter installation, the installer will show you exactly how your in-home display works and set it up for you. The display communicates with your smart meter to show you information about your energy usage. Position it somewhere useful, such as your kitchen or living room, and you can see exactly how much you’re using and what it’s costing at a glance.

Pre-pay meters

With a smart meter, you don’t need a different kind of meter for prepay. With a smart meter in prepay mode, you’ll no longer need to access your meter. You’ll be able to see how much credit you have left via your in-home display and top-up in a number of ways, including online, via telephone or text message, or even with a smartphone app. And you can still top up in person at a local shop/outlet. Credit will be automatically added to your account without any need to put a key or card back into your meter.

Self-generation electricity

Your in-home display will show you information about the electricity you’re buying from your supplier and in the future, may include the energy you’re generating yourself, such as from solar panels.

Data security

  • Name, address and bank details are never stored on the meter, only the energy used. And even this data is transmitted safely, using a dedicated and secure wireless network (not the internet).
  • No third parties will be able to access energy usage data without your consent. For example, you might want to share your information with price comparison sites in order to get the best deal, but you will need to give your consent for this
  • Your supplier will not use any data from your smart meter for sales and marketing purposes, unless you’ve given them permission to do so
  • You’re protected by strict regulations against your energy supplier switching off or disconnecting your gas or electricity supply. This protection remains as strong with smart meters as it is with traditional meters.

What are smart grids?

Smart meters help enable the smart grid, which is a whole new way of running our energy networks. It’s a bit like an internet for gas and electricity and will make us as a nation more secure and help us manage our energy usage.

The energy network we have now was designed for a time when our gas and electricity needs were much simpler. Now, we’re using more energy and have to find ways to reduce our carbon emissions. We need to integrate new technologies, like electric cars and solar and wind energy.

The smart grid has the potential to help us solve lots of Britain’s energy problems. It will:

  • mean we can better match supply and demand
  • help us be more efficient, greener and waste less energy
  • help energy be more secure and reliable
  • mean unexpected power outages can be tackled faster
  • mean we can plan for the number of power stations we’ll need in future with greater accuracy

The smart grid will be much better at integrating green technologies, from electric cars to home rooftop solar panels and heat pumps. In particular, we need the smart grid to help us get the most from variable power sources like wind and solar. For example, smart meters should open the door to flexible pricing that means we can use solar and wind energy when it’s plentiful.