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Switch Squid Breakdown: Smart Meters & How They Work

Sep 1st 2021

Everyone will eventually have a Smart Meter by 2025. Read on to find the finer details.

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By Craig welsh | Content Writer

Following a nationwide initiative to reach Net-Zero carbon emissions by 2050, every household in the UK should be equipped with a smart meter by June 2025.

Find out what a smart meter is and how it functions and how it affects you in this guide.

Smart meters: Overview and function

The next generation of meters for gas and electricity are smart meters and provide a vast array of features that can help you cut costs and carbon emissions.

Not only can you keep track of your usage with your In-Home Display but in most cases, you can view this information on your online account making it easy to access wherever you are.

Smart meters work automatically and send details of your energy consumption via a mobile internet connection to your supplier via a secure national communication network (known as the DCC).

This frees up the time taken to send meter reads and mitigates the chance of being incorrectly billed or being affected by estimated billing.

 

Advantages of smart meters

Let’s take a look at the pro’s of Smart metering:

Full accuracy of bills. Smart meters eliminate estimated bills, which is one of their key advantages. You won’t have to supply meter readings or have a stranger enter your home to check your meter. Plus, you’ll only be charged for the energy you consume.

A clear picture of how you use your energy. You can see your household’s energy habits and insight data with the smart meter display. If you have a prepayment meter, this is very beneficial because you can see how your usage affects your top-up credit amounts and can provide forecasting data. You can make smarter decisions to save energy and money by changing bad habits, like leaving on lights, which in turn can reduce costs and your carbon footprint.

Reaching carbon emission reduction goals. As part of Britain’s goal to build a smart grid, smart meters have been critical in achieving this. Now waste energy is visible to network operators and we can tackle issues as to why and where waste occurs.

Some disadvantages of Smart Metering

Like all technology, there can be some issues:

Loss of smart functionality. The biggest disadvantage of smart meters is that their smart capability can be lost if you change suppliers. However, if you refuse to switch because you are afraid of losing the benefits of your smart meter, you may miss out on any savings you may get by switching suppliers. If you have a first-generation SMETS1 smart meter rather than a newer SMETS2 meter, you’re more likely to lose functionality (see below).

Signal. A smart meter is equipped with a SIM card, like a mobile phone. If you live in a poor signal area, you may face issues with reads not entirely matching up or may see estimated reads. If you live in a weak phone signal area, please keep an eye on your bills to check reads tally up.

SMETS1 Smart Meters

SMETS1 smart meters (first generation) The initial generation of smart meters (named SMETS1), may lose smart capability when switching from the supplier that installed it. If you have a SMETS1 smart meter, you can still switch, however, your smart meter may stop sending data to your new supplier in some situations, forcing you to return to supplying meter readings.

A  plan is actively underway to upgrade these SMETS1 meters so that they are multi-supplier compatible. The upgrade is done remotely without the need for an installer’s visit. 

The consumption data will still be sent to the In-home display (as the issue lies with sending the information to the supplier) so you will still be able to track usage etc as before switching.

Eventually, this issue will be fully remedied.

SMETS2 Smart Meters

SMETS2 smart meters (second generation) Newer versions of smart meters have been developed to connect to a central network called the Data Communications Company (DCC).

The DCC is a nationwide network that suppliers and network operators use to connect with the meter at the customer’s address.

As there is a central network, having a SMETS2 meter is a lot more straightforward to deal with when switching suppliers. The transition is easily taken care of and your supplies will switch seemlessly.

 

 

Prepayment smart meters

Smart meters are available for prepayment customers.

Smart meters provide prepayment customers with more flexible payment options as is possible to top-up through supplier apps.

 

 

Cost

There are no direct or upfront costs associated with having a smart meter installed.

This is because it is part of the government’s goal to reached carbon Net-Zero by 2050.

The cost of smart meter installations is covered by a mixture of funding from the government, suppliers and network operators.

A small amount of your bill will be also be taken into consideration for smart metering.

Reading your Smart meter

Although smart meters have a major advantage of directly notifying the energy supplier of the meter reading, as a customer, you might still need to know how to read a smart meter if your meter has lost its smart capabilities or if you require a reading for any other reason.

By selecting the ‘meter reading’ option from the menu, you will be able to view your smart meter reading on your in-home display.

There is another option for you if you fail to see the meter reading on your in-home display or wish to take a reading directly from your smart meter.

You can contact your supplier through a phone call and they’ll walk you through the process of meter reading, as it varies according to the type of meter you are using.

Smart meters that are easily accessible for the blind

The Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) has developed an accessible in-home energy display smart meter in collaboration with Energy UK and geo, an energy technology company.

This smart meter has a number of accessibility features to assist people with disabilities to better understand and control their energy consumption. It has received the RNIB Tried and Tested accreditation, indicating that it passes the minimum requirements for use by blind and partially sighted individuals.

Various companies, including Bristol Energy, EDF Energy, E.ON, Pure Planet, and Shell Energy, can provide the displays.

• All of the features of a regular smart meter are included with accessible smart meters, as well as the following functions:
○ Text-to-speech feature with volume control
○ Buttons that vibrate to prove they have been switched on
○ Three different colored LEDs show how much electricity is being used
○ A large typeface and an LED button for replaying speech
○ TFT screen with a high contrast color scheme that is ideal for people with visual impairments and color blindness.

Customers do not need to pay for these accessible meters, but they may not be available in your area depending on your supplier’s accessible meter availability and overall smart meter roll-out plans. You can contact your supplier to see if they can provide you with an accessible meter.

Tenants and landlords can use smart meters

  • In a rental setting, tenants are also allowed to have smart meters. You have the right to request a smart meter from your supplier without your landlord’s permission as long as you are the account holder for the energy bills.

Nevertheless, Ofgem suggests that it is best to inform your landlord before installing a smart meter in a rental house. Some tenancy agreements state that structural changes to the property require the landlord’s authorization.

If your landlord owns the energy account and pays the gas and electricity bills directly, it is up to him or her to decide whether or not to install a smart meter in their rented property.
Smart meters for landlords are subject to the same laws. It is your choice whether to put a smart meter in your rented house if you are a landlord who pays the energy bills. Your tenants have the right to request that a smart meter be installed if they make payments by themselves.

Smart meters and solar panels

Some solar-panel-owning homes have stated that their supplier’s smart meter is no longer able to handle them, or that tracking usage and generated energy is difficult.

If you have solar panels, be sure to let your supplier know when they contact you regarding installation.

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