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What is a Smart Meter?

Nick Geary
By: Nick Geary
Updated: 6th July 2022

In house display unit used by Scottish Power
Smart meters are the next generation of gas and electricity meters. They provide real time information and eliminate the need for manual readings by communicating directly with energy suppliers.

Since the government outlined plans to install them in every home across the UK by 2020, smart meters have been a hot topic of conversation and debate. We've put together a guide to the most frequently asked questions and what the smart meter rollout could mean for you.

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How does a smart meter work?

Smart meters provide real time information on how much power you are consuming and send this data directly to your energy supplier through wireless technology. The meters look similar to traditional ones, but with the added feature of a digital display that shows your energy usage. You will receive one smart meter for electricity and another for gas (if you have it) plus a communication hub which may be integrated into the meter itself.

Benefits of smart meters?

Smart meters can show accurate consumption as frequently as every hour in kWh, pounds and pence. Being able to see exactly how much energy you are using in near real time will make it easier to spot any areas where you could use less and potentially save money. This usage information is sent directly to your energy provider, meaning you will receive more accurate bills which are not estimated - you will only pay for what you have used.

This also means you won't have to manually read your meter and send this information to your supplier (or arrange to have your meter read). With energy bills being a big concern for many homeowners, this could be a much needed development in the way we manage and pay for power.

How much do smart meters cost?

Having a smart meter installed in your home has no upfront cost. Homeowners currently pay for the cost of their meter and its maintenance through their bills and this process will remain the same for smart meters.

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Why are smart meters rolling out?

The smart meter rollout is a part of the EU's Energy Efficiency Directive. The government is aiming to modernise how we use gas and electricity, giving consumers more control over usage. This should also help towards reducing the UK's carbon emissions, with households consuming energy more efficiently and wasting less.

As of 2018, around 12 million smart meters have been installed around the UK, including a the home of a member of the Boiler Guide team. Find out about their experience when Scottish Power installed a smart meter into their home.

Who will install the meter?

Your energy supplier will carry out the installation of your smart meter and this should take between 1-2 hours on average. They should also explain to you how to use your smart meter effectively. Some suppliers are already installing smart meters, whilst others will be rolling them out over the next few years. If you want to learn more about when you might receive a smart meter you can get in touch with your energy supplier for details.

Do I have to install a smart meter?

With the government aiming to install smart meters into most homes by 2020, you will be offered one but they aren’t compulsory. However, the benefit of seeing the energy being used around your home in real time could help to lower your energy bills, making them well worth considering.

Are smart meters safe?

There has been speculation about the safety of smart meters in the media since their announcement, with the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) stating that smart meters are covered by UK and EU product safety legislation (which requires manufacturers to ensure any product placed on the market is safe). The biggest concern expressed by the public is over the radio waves used by the devices to communicate the information they collect but again, Public Health England has said that the evidence to date suggests that there is no risk to health posed by the radio waves produced by smart meters.

Monitoring your energy usage with a smart meter and adjusting your consumption habits is just one way to cut down your bills. Switching to a new style condensing boiler can also save you money by recycling heat that would otherwise have been lost. You can get up to 3 free, no-obligation quotes for a new energy efficient boiler today with Boiler Guide.

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Nick Geary

About the author

Nick Geary

Nick has a wide range of experience writing about conventional and renewable heating solutions, and is always increasing his knowledge by researching any new heating technologies on the horizon.

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