We’ve all gotten those dreaded notifications: the texts or emails from our gas and electric supplier asking us for our current meter readings.
The companies ask for these readings because they need to know how much gas and electric you used since the last reports.
They do this by calculating the difference between the current numbers and the last reported numbers. And while there are more difficult things in life, getting asked to report meter readings every month can be a pain, especially if you electric meter or gas meter is located in a hard to reach spot (my electric meter, for example, is actually located in another flat in the building I’m in, so I need to bother my neighbors each month. My gas meter is located in an alley only accessible after breaking through huge cobwebs).
And while there are more difficult things in life, getting asked to report meter readings every month can be a pain, especially if you electric meter or gas meter is located in a hard to reach spot (my electric meter, for example, is actually located in another flat in the building I’m in, so I need to bother my neighbors each month. My gas meter is located in an alley only accessible after breaking through huge cobwebs).
My gas meter is located in an alley only accessible after breaking through huge cobwebs).
The good news is gas and electric companies have begun rolling out smart meters. In 2016, 3 million homes were fitted with the devices. And by 2020 it is estimated up to 26 million homes will have them. But just what is a smart meter and should you get one? Here’s everything you need to know.
What is a smart meter?
A smart meter is basically a device (a digital meter) that automatically tracks your energy usage in real time. It then sends this usage reading to your energy provider (gas and electric). This means you’ll never need to manually send them your meter readings again. Everything is automatic. Plus, since the readings are exact and in real time, smart meters mean you’ll no longer get “estimated bills”.
How does a smart meter work?
They work basically like your smartphone. Each smart reader has a wireless connection that beams the real-time readings from the smart meter to the energy supplier. Most smart meters do not rely on a standard Wi-Fi connection, so they continue to work and send data even if your internet goes down.
How much does a smart meter cost?
The great news is there is usually no upfront cost for a smart meter. Your energy supplier will likely give it to you for free and install it for free. However, they usually do tack on an extra annual charge to your bill, but this is small: about £5-6 per year.
Where will my smart meter be installed?
By default, the engineer from your energy company will install the new smart meter right where your old analog meters were. However, you can ask the to install the smart meters in easier to reach locations if you want.
Many people have their smart meters installed in their kitchen or an easy-to-access utility closet. The smart meters usually feature a big digital display where you can see your usage in real time with a quick glance, which is why people like having them where they can be easily accessed.
Will I save money using a smart meter?
Eh, that’s a tough one. But probably “yes”…as time goes on. It is estimated that the average household that had a smart meter installed in 2015 saved only £6 a year.
But considering a smart meter added £5-6 to their annual energy bill, the cost savings was null. However, those savings are likely to grow year by year as people become accustomed to reading their smart meters more. And by 2020 the average smart meter household will save £26 per year and by 2030 that will be £43 per year.
The savings itself doesn’t come from energy prices being cheaper because you have a smart meter, rather the theory is that since smart meters make it easier to monitor how much energy you are actually using at any one time, you’ll adjust your habits to use less.
Which companies offer smart meters?
Pretty much all major energy companies in the UK offer smart meters now, including British Gas, EDF Energy, Eon, First Utility, Npower, Ovo Energy, SSE, Utilita, and Scottish Power.
Amazon has a HUGE range of smart meters, across a variety of price points, that are designed for best in class performance.
NEST is one of the most well-known solutions for automating your home’s energy consumption. Owned by Google, NEST is essentially a monitoring tool that learns your comings and goings and adapts your home’s energy usage accordingly.
It is also one of the most highly-rated products on Amazon with 1424 FIVE STAR reviews and counting. The initial outlay might seem pricey at £199 (down from £219.99), but when you factor in the average savings NEST users make a year – Since 2011, it’s saved over 4 billion kWh of energy in millions of homes worldwide – it kind of pays for itself.
Also: you can control it from your phone, which is great for when you’re in bed, cold, and watching Netflix.