Everything you need to know about smart meters

Smart meters are being rolled out in homes across the country - find out more about how your smart meter installation is changing your life.

Disclaimer: The information on this page was last updated on 23/12/2022, 13:24:48

Millions of homes across the country are upgrading to smart meters as a part of the Government’s ambitious plan to increase energy efficiency and cut down on carbon emissions. But what’s all the fuss about?

What is a smart meter?

A smart meter is the newest energy meter to enter the market. Just like traditional gas and electricity meters, they measure your energy consumption to calculate your bill.

The big difference and selling point of a smart meter is that it takes meter readings and sends them to your energy provider automatically at regular intervals. This is great because it means you’ll never forget a reading and won’t have to worry about receiving estimated bills or paying for more energy than you use.

When you get a smart meter, you’ll also be given a small in-home display unit which shows you how much energy you’re using in real-time and how much you’re spending. When it’s left in a prominent place, it makes you more conscious of your energy use and when you can cut down. If you currently have a prepayment meter, it will also show you how much credit you have left on your meter so it’s easy to see when you need to top up.

How do smart meters work?

A smart meter replaces your current energy meter to read your energy usage and send it over to your energy provider automatically so you don’t have to.

Your smart meter connects to a secure, nationwide network, similar to a phone network. First-generation smart meters (smets1) use the mobile phone network, however, the second-generation (smets2) now use an independent network specifically for smart meters which covers over 99% of the country.

Smets1 meters are slowly being upgraded to smets2 meters for convenience and better service. With a smets2 meter, your meter will be more likely to stay smart when you switch as.

Rollout and progress

Smart meters are being rolled out across the UK at an impressive rate by energy providers – over 21 million smart meters have already been installed in homes and small businesses. The Committee on Climate Change says that this rollout could decrease the cost of the UK’s net-zero goal by up to £16 billion.

The graph below shows how many smart meters have been installed between 2012 and 2020.

Where are they being installed?

In March 2020, over 19,000 smart meters were being installed daily, however, this dropped significantly due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Because of this drop, the Government is urging providers to have smart meters installed in at least 85% of homes by June 2025.

Which providers are installing smart meters?

Providers are required to offer all of their customers a smart meter for gas and electricity by June 2025, however, not all providers currently offer smart meters.

Click your provider below to find out how to have your smart meter installed.

Provider SMETS1 SMETS2
British Gas
EDF Energy
Scottish Power
Shell Energy
Octopus Energy
OVO Energy
Utility Warehouse
Bristol Energy
Co-Operative Energy

What happens to my smart meter if I switch providers?

Switching providers when you have a smart meter can be tricky, especially now there are two different types of smart meter. Because most providers favour smets2 now, switching with a smets1 meter might come with some problems.

Switching from a smets1 meter to a provider who uses smets2

Because a lot of providers have installed smets1 meters in the past, or still are, your smart meter might stay smart when you switch. Most of the ‘Big Six’ companies should still support smets1 meters, however, you should get in touch with your new provider to find out if your meter will stay smart.

If you already have a smets2 meter, you should be able to switch providers with no problem. There might be a temporary period where it loses its smart features while you switch, but it should fix itself quickly.

What is dumb mode and how can I make my meter smart again?

If your new provider doesn’t support the same type of smart meter as your old provider, or you decide you don’t want a smart meter any more, your meter might revert to ‘dumb mode’. If your meter is in dumb mode, it will lose most of its smart features and you will have to manually submit meter readings again. Your in-home display will still work as normal.

First-generation smets1 meters are set to be upgraded and connected to the same network as the smets2 meters by the end of 2021. Once the upgrade is completed, your smart meter’s smart features will return automatically. Meters in dumb mode will be connected first to revert them back to normal.

If you don’t want to wait until then, your supplier should be able to upgrade or change your meter for you. If not, you could try switching providers to one which will support your meter.

How to top up a smart prepayment meter

Now that smart meters are becoming more and more popular, many larger providers have started supporting smart prepayment meters which are topped up in a very different, but much easier, way.

With a smart prepayment meter, you won’t have to worry about going out to the shop to top up any more. You won’t even have to worry about misplacing your top-up key or card. Most providers let you top up through the app or online from the comfort of your home.

If you can’t get online, some PayPoint outlets also support smart top-ups, however, not all do so check before you buy your top-up.

Alternatively, most providers have an automated top-up phone line dedicated for their smart prepayment customers. You’ll have to have your account number and card details at the ready when you do this.

How to read a smart meter

Even though your smart meter takes and sends readings automatically, you might still want to take your own readings to make sure you’re being billed correctly or your in-home display stops working. Here’s a breakdown of how to read the different types of smart meter.

If you have a smart meter with a keypad…

  1. Press 9 on the keypad
  2. Your electricity reading will be the 8 digits followed by kWh
  3. Your gas reading will be the digits followed by m3

If you have a smart meter with A and B buttons…

  1. Press A
  2. For your electricity reading, keep pressing A until the screen reads ‘total act import’. The number below is your electricity reading.
  3. For your gas reading, keep pressing A until the screen reads ‘meter index’. The number below is your gas reading.

If you have a smart electricity meter with two buttons…

  1. Press the display button
  2. Keep pressing the button until you get to the number followed by kWh – this is your electricity reading

If you have a smart electricity meter with three buttons…

  1. Press the middle button
  2. The number below IMP is your electricity reading
  3. If you have a two-rate meter, R1 means rate 1, R2 means rate 2, and T means total.

Why is my smart meter beeping?

It can be frustrating when electronics beep at you, not only because it’s relentless, but also because you don’t know why it’s doing it. If you could just work out why it’s beeping, you might be able to fix it! Here are a few common reasons it might be beeping and how to stop it.

As with many electronics, the beeping noise could be a signal that your in-home display is running low on battery. This is a super simple fix – all you have to do is plug it back into the wall to charge. The display uses so little electricity that it might be worth leaving it plugged in at all times to avoid having to worry about running low on battery.

You can set daily, weekly, and monthly budgets for your smart meter to keep your energy use and spending down. When you reach or go over your budget, your smart meter might alert you with a beeping noise. Some smart meters come with preset budgets, so this could be the case even if you haven’t set one up. You can change the budget through your in-home display, whether it’s to better suit your needs or just to stop the beeping!

If you have a smart prepayment meter, it might be beeping because you’re running low on credit. This beeping is normally a reminder for you to top up or it could be letting you know that your emergency credit is ready to be used. Don’t make a habit out of waiting until it beeps to top up, however, as some smart meters use your emergency credit automatically when you run out.

How to make the most of your in-home display

Your in-home display (IHD) is a small, portable screen that can tell you a number of different things about your energy usage and habits. In-home displays come free with your smart meter and are a handy way to keep an eye on your spending.

If you keep your IHD in a prominent place in your home, regularly seeing your energy usage tends to make you more conscious of your spending. Simple graphics, light indicators, and consumption costs mean that your usage is easier to understand than having numbers on a meter. You can see where you’re using high amounts of energy and when you can make changes to bring your carbon emissions down. You can even set daily budgets and see where you can cut back to spend less or if you’re regularly spending more than you’re using.

Do I need a smart meter?

While most people will benefit from a smart meter, it’s not compulsory to have one. Providers have to offer one to every household but you can choose not to have one installed. Because they’re the preferred meter type by providers and the Government, some providers might offer discounts on their tariffs for those with a smart meter.

While you don’t need to have a smart meter, there are a lot of reasons you might want to:

  • Meter readings are sent to your provider automatically so you don’t have to worry about submitting them yourself
  • You can view your energy usage in easy-to-understand ways on your in-home display
  • It encourages you to improve your consumption habits as your awareness increases, saving you money and having a positive impact on the environment
  • Your bills will be 100% accurate, eliminating the need for estimated bills and paying for more than you’re using
  • You can view your credit in a more accessible place on your prepayment smart meter’s IHD
  • There is a wider range of cheaper tariffs available
Give accurate, automatic meter readings ⚡️

Did you know that with a smart meter you may never have to submit a meter reading again! 100% accurate bills, all the time. Give us a call to find out more about automatic meter readings.

020 3992 7717

Are smart meters dangerous?

There’s a lot of theories that smart meters are dangerous in a number of different ways. However, there is no evidence to back up any of these claims. Smart meters are rigorously tested and far exceed the British and EU safety regulations and are one of the safest pieces of technology in your home.

Is the Government using smart meters to spy on us?

This is something that a lot of people are paranoid about, especially with the Government’s enthusiasm to install smart meters in everyone’s homes, but there is no way anyone is spying on anyone through their smart meter.

Your smart meter doesn’t even know your name, let alone anything you do! All it does is read how much gas or electricity you use, not which appliances are using it, not when you’re having a shower, it doesn’t know what you’re doing at all.

Do the network signals make us sick?

Smart meters use radio waves to send your meter readings to your energy provider wirelessly, and some people worry that this might be bad for our health. Radio waves have been used for decades for different transmissions, such as television and radio broadcasts, mobile phones, and WiFi signals. The radio waves that smart meters emit is one million times lower than international health guideline levels and emit a fraction of the radiation than the mobile phones we carry with us daily.

Can hackers turn off my energy supply through my smart meter?

Unlike other smart devices, your smart meter doesn’t connect to the internet or WiFi connection; it communicates through a secure, private network designed by GCHQ. This means that there is no chance of hackers controlling anything or reading any personal data through your smart meter.

Anyway, why would a hacker want to turn off your energy supply?

How to book your smart meter installation

If your energy provider hasn’t already offered you a smart meter, you can request one simply by giving them a call. You won’t have to pay upfront for your smart meter – just like current meters, it will be paid for through everyone’s energy bills.

Get in touch with us at Utility Switchboard and we’ll help upgrade your meter.

020 3992 7717

How the smart meter installation process works

Before your smart meter installation, your energy provider will get in contact to arrange a date and time for the installation. They’ll walk you through the process and what to expect both during and after installation.

When the engineer arrives, they will do a visual inspection to make sure that all of your appliances are working before installing the new meter. Then they’ll take a final reading from your old meter to make sure your account is up-to-date.

Installing your smart meter should take around 1-2 hours, and your electricity and/or gas supply will have to be switched off for a short period of time while your meters are being changed over. They’ll let you know when they’re about to so you won’t have to worry about suddenly losing supply or having things turn off while you’re using them.

When the installation is complete, your engineer will explain how your smart meter and in-home display work and make sure you understand how to use them before they leave. They can also give you some helpful tips on how to save energy around the home. They’re not allowed to try and sell you other products while installing your smart meter, but they have a lot of knowledge on energy-efficiency.

So what are you waiting for? Get your smart meter installed today.

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