September 17, 2020

Smart Meters: everything you need to know.

Do you have a smart meter or are you thinking of getting a smart meter from British Gas, Eon, EDF, SSE or Npower? Do smart meters save you money on your energy bills? What’s are the pros and cons to having a smart meter? And do I have to get one installed? These are just of few of the questions we will answer for you.

Smart meters: everything you need to know.

Mortgage and rent payments aside, energy bills are the second biggest home expense. And (according to Ofgem) over two million of you are overpaying for your gas and electricity,
You might have considered getting a smart meter for your gas and electricity; we’ll shed some light on what they are, how they work, how accurate they are and if smart meters can save you money on your energy bills.

What is a smart meter?

Smart meters replace the old electricity and gas meters sitting in your cupboards. Smart meters do the same job like the ones you’ve got at the moment, but they automatically send meter readings direct to your energy suppliers. Smart meters are wirelessly connected to a small display unit that can usually be found propped up on a sideboard somewhere. The small display shows you how much energy (gas and electricity) you're using in real-time. With a smart meter, you don’t need to do any readings yourself, and your energy supplier bills you on how much gas and electric you’ve used rather than make estimates. But don't worry if you don't have one - submitting your own readings is so simple (even after switching to different suppliers) - here's our guide on how to read your meter.

Do I need a smart meter?

No. You don’t need a smart meter (despite what you might have heard from energy provider). Installing a smart meter doesn't magically reduce your energy bill and not getting one installed won’t increase your bills. You won't be charged to have a smart meter installed if you choose to have one.

Are smart meters accurate?

A smart meter stores data about your energy use every 30 minutes. Your energy supplier and the energy network—the people that run the pipes and wires that deliver power to your home—can access data to ensure accurate billing. Suppliers can access your daily data unless you object, but have to get your permission to access half-hourly data, or to use your data for marketing purposes. If you give permission, For example, they may provide you with access to your energy consumption data online or through an app, give you advice on the best tariff for you, or offer a smart tariff that charges different amounts at different times.

Will a smart meter save me money?

Look, you’ll still have to pay for how much energy you use. The upside to installing a smart meter is that you get real-time data, meaning you see precisely how much gas and electricity you’re using. This will help you to make better decisions about how to use energy, like not overfilling the kettle to make one drink, or leaving your TV on standby. If energy providers understand how energy is being used, it opens the door to new tariffs designed around your energy usage. Energy suppliers argue that customers will benefit from money saved by not employing meter technicians and engineers. But we’re not convinced. The cost to install smart readers in every home means savings will be limited.
We think that smart meters will help you to be energy efficient, which could lead to savings, but it’s not a long-term solution. The best way to save money on your energy bills is to switch supplier.

Smart meters disadvantages

We love to play devil’s advocate, here is a list of problems you might not be protected from if you choose to install a smart meter.

  1. Data sharing and third party information: suppliers and third parties can use your data to offer you new products and services unless you object. Energy companies can use your data for marketing purposes if you give them permission. It’s not always clear who you’re sharing your data with, so read the small print.
  2. Smart meters cause errors: Errors with meters also mean that wrong information is being sent and acted upon by suppliers.
  3. Your bills still might be estimated: despite installing smart meters, energy providers encourage their customers to pay annually based on a yearly estimate. Meaning that you pay based on an "estimated" use, even if you have a smart meter.
  4. Smart meters and switching suppliers

A smart meter can teach you about your energy habits, but if you want to see real long-term savings, switching energy provider is the best strategy. If you have installed a smart meter and wanted to switch providers, you might lose some of your smart features. That’s because the first generation of smart meters (SMETS 1) send meter readings to suppliers from a SIM card within – there’s no standardised system.

However, first-generation smart meters will be connected to the new national infrastructure this year and newer, second-generation (SMETS2) smart meters will work with all suppliers with no issues. This will give everyone the flexibility to switch between suppliers without losing smart features.

Let's summarise.

At the moment having a smart meter installed isn’t really a good or a bad thing in terms of the impact on your bill. But, if you are looking to reduce how much you spend on energy - keep switching using an auto switching service to change suppliers and this will make more of an impact on your bill.

Don't worry about the whether or not your meter will be compatible or not after switching. Your supply will always remain the same and if you need to take your own meter readings before or after a smart meter has gone 'dumb' it's really simple and takes just a few seconds once you know how, (here's our guide on how to take a meter reading) and this makes sure the supplier is always up to date with your usage so you receive an accurate bill rather than an estimate. You will also get reminders sent if you need to do this.

So keep switching to keep saving and let someone do it for you (we call this Flipping):

Start Saving and Flip your energy with Flipper.

Start Flipping

Join Flipper and never overpay for energy again. We guarantee to save you money or you won't pay a penny.

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