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How Do Smart Meters Work?

By Energy Company Numbers on October 25, 2016 in Help and advice
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Utility companies in the UK are currently in the process of replacing wired analogue technology with a new generation of tech designed to measure gas, water, and electricity usage. These devices are known as “smart meters”, and they are considered to be the next big step in the world of utilities, because they are far more innovative than standard meters for gas and electricity. A smart meter, for instance, can send digital meter readings to your energy supplier automatically – without any input from you as the homeowner.

If you’re living in the UK, then you should find that your home is equipped with a smart meter soon, as these solutions are being rolled out across the country as standard by the end of 2020. Of course, although smart meters are being offered as standard, there is no legal obligation that requires you to get one for your property.

Defining the Smart Meter – How Does It Work?

Perhaps the simplest way to describe a smart meter, is as a technological device used to monitor patterns regarding your consumption of energy. Many people consider smart meters to be highly useful in budgeting, as they can offer a real-time insight into your energy usage in terms of pounds and pence. In other words, watching a smart meter could help you to better manage your energy use, reduce wastage, and save money.

Related: Are british gas smart meters free?

In order to transmit readings about your energy use to your supplier, smart meters use a secure network known as the “DCC”. This means that households across the country will no longer have to rely on estimated bills for energy – or be forced to provide their own regular readings. The same system also sends information about your energy use to a display in your home, which shows:

  • How much you have spent
  • Your energy consumption
  • Your energy goals

When and Where are Smart Meters Installed?

The UK government have requested that most smart meters should be installed within small businesses and homes during the next four years. Your energy provider will get in touch with details for its own rollout programme, which should include details of how you can use your meter.

Typically, your energy provider will contact you and arrange for engineer to visit your home and remove your old meters, then replace them with new smart meters. These new meters should sit in the place of your former electricity and gas meters, and if they need to be fitted elsewhere, your permission will need to be granted. Often, modern meters can be replaced quite quickly, whereas older meters might require a longer installation process.

Related: Smart Meters and Data Protection – Should you be worried?

Are Smart Meters Safe and Private?

First and foremost, Public Health for England assures households that there is no evidence implying that the low-frequency waves emitted by smart meters represent a health risk. What’s more, only you and your energy company should be able to access the data recorded on your smart meter. Suppliers must ask for your permission if they want to access data or use your information for marketing.

You will be able to see your energy consumption information on your display within your home, and you’ll also have the opportunity to download more detailed data about your energy use if you want to. On the other hand, your energy company will be able to access the data that is appropriate to carry out essential tasks associated with organising accurate bills.

Are There Benefits to Using Smart Meters?

There’s more to smart meters than the fact that they can eliminate the need for estimated bills, or having to remember to send meter readings at the end of the month. Having a smart meter installed within your home can mean that you get:

A better understanding of how you use energy – The in-home display can allow you to immediately see how you’re using energy, and potentially make changes that will assist in reducing your carbon footprint, lowering your energy bill, and more. This visualisation of your usage habits can be particularly useful to customers of prepayment meters, who will have the chance to better track how their behaviour impacts their available credit, and therefore may be able to make better decisions regarding saving money and energy.

Easier energy switching – Because your information on energy usage is so easy to access, you should be able to switch energy providers very easily – without having to worry about huge costs.

Better energy tariffs – As energy and utility companies collect more data about how exactly households make use of energy, and when they use the most energy, they should be able to consider creating better, more competitive tariffs for usage – with cheaper prices given to those who use their energy out of peak times.

The possibilities that smart meters afford are growing more impressive by the day, as we move closer to universal installation across the country.

Related: Smart meter data – A guide to your rights and choices

About the Author

Energy Company NumbersView all posts by Energy Company Numbers
Energy Company Numbers is a telephone number directory service dedicated to helping UK consumers keep in touch with their energy suppliers.

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