Time to get a smart meter

Smart meters are getting smarter, so now could be the time to get one installed

Homeowner checking current energy costs on smart meter in the kitchen of her home

The moment may soon be here to say “yes” to a smart energy meter.

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This device sends data to your supplier so it knows exactly how much electricity and gas you use every half hour.

That means you can have bills that are accurate instead of estimated. Your usage is also displayed on a small device called an In Home Display (IHD), which shows in real time how much energy you are using and what it costs.

The Government hopes it will encourage people to use less.

In future, smart meters will allow what are called time-of-use tariffs to allow suppliers to charge more at peak times and less when demand is low.

That should make it cheaper, for example, to charge an electric car overnight. It could also mean that it is not possible to charge a car when demand is heavy.

These tariffs could also mean that cooking breakfast before work will be more expensive than cooking it mid-morning. Two developments have tipped the balance towards accepting a smart meter.

First, the only meters that should now be fitted are second generation – called SMETS2. They can switch from one supplier to another without losing their smart functionality.

The older SMETS1 meters did not allow this and the latest figures up to the end of September show that more than three million of those fitted have now gone “dumb”. In other words, they still have to be read manually by the householder or a meter reader.

Upgrading them to allow switching is still in a trial phase. If you do decide to have a smart meter, check if it is SMETS2 and say no if it isn’t.

Secondly, many suppliers now offer their cheapest tariffs only to people who have a smart meter or cannot have one for technical reasons. They exclude those who refuse one. These exclusive smart meter tariffs are allowed by the regulator Ofgem.

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Many people are still suspicious of smart meters and the claims made for them. I am one of them.  The £13.5 billion programme will benefit energy suppliers and network operators more than customers and they may not pass the savings on.