10 smart meter benefits: including a few you might not have thought of

We reveal 10 reasons why it might be time to get smart.

Are you unsure about making the switch to a smart meter? Besides saving you money, the smart meter benefits also include saving you energy and reducing the nation’s carbon footprint, plus they have many other advantages that can make your life easier.

Smart meters are replacing the old-style gas and electricity meters and are being rolled out to households across the UK. There are currently 33 million in homes and small businesses across Britain, and 58% of the energy meters in the UK are now smart, according to Smart Energy GB, a not-for-profit organisation promoting smart meter benefits in the UK.

If you’re among the 42% of households still waiting for one, read our guide to their benefits.

Woman holding a smart meter in home display against a kitchen worktopCredit: Smart Energy GB

1. Helping the nation become carbon neutral

Achieving net zero by 2050

Smart meters aren’t just about tracking energy usage at home. As part of the wider picture, having one can help the UK achieve its target of becoming carbon neutral by 2050.

Smart meters enable energy suppliers to gain a real-time picture of how much energy is being used, so that they can source energy more efficiently. They are also helping to reduce our reliance on imported fossil fuels, as smart tariff incentives allow consumers to use energy off-peak to level out demand or when excess clean electricity is available.

Victoria Bacon, PR direct at Smart Energy GB, says: “From the moment your smart meter is installed, you are helping to reduce our carbon emissions as a nation. With a truly smart energy system, we can better match supply with demand and integrate more renewable energy sources such as wind and solar into the system. These forms of generating energy create less air pollution and emit significantly less CO2 into the atmosphere.”

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2. Monitoring what you use

Being smart with energy

Smart meters come with a portable in-home display that can help monitor the energy you use and show how much it’s costing you. Although not compulsory to use, it is a handy tool.

The in-home display will allow you to see energy readings for the current day, week, month or year, and your usage updates regularly – every 10 seconds for electricity and every 30 minutes for gas. This means you can track how much certain appliances are costing you to run, such as an oven or electric heater.

Smart meter and in-home display unit on white backgroundCredit: Smart Energy GB

By having a greater understanding of your energy usage, you can change your energy behaviour to help cut back on the energy you use and therefore the money you spend.

Citizens Advice suggests setting a budget for your energy use so you receive an alert if you go over the amount. Then you can find ways to reduce your usage or swap to an energy-saving setting on your appliances, if they have them. For instance, you could compare the cost of running your dishwasher on a standard wash cycle to an eco programme to see what you can save.

“Having this information can help you make small changes to your energy use, adding to bigger savings,” says Bacon. “Simply by having a smart meter and using it to adjust their energy use, people believe they can reduce their bills by an average of £366.24 over the course of a year.”

3. Save with smart off-peak tariffs

Time of use tariffs

Unlike Economy 7 meters (which provide cheap hours of electricity overnight), one of the smart meter benefits is that they allow you to get an off-peak tariff without having an additional “night-time” meter fitted.

They are also sometimes known as “time of use tariffs” that charge you different rates for your electricity depending on the time of day.

Discover more about how to embrace your smart meter and avoid using energy during peak times,

4. Smart meters are free to install

No upfront cost

With the cost-of-living crisis, it’s good to know that there’s no upfront cost involved with having a smart meter installed. Instead, the price is absorbed into everyone’s energy bill – just as it was with traditional energy meters.

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A smart meter being installer by an installerCredit: Smart Energy GB

What to expect during the installation
When installing your new smart meter, your installer will need access to your current one, and you can expect the installation to take one hour per smart meter. If you are having both your gas and electricity meters changed at the same time, it will take about two hours.

All installers are qualified and have to meet standards set out in the Smart Metering Installation Schedule, so you can be assured that the installation is safe.

5. Forget about reading your meter

Automatic updates go direct to your supplier

When swapping to a smart meter, you’ll no longer need to take manual readings. “An automatic reading will be sent to your energy supplier via the secure smart data network, which is solely for smart meters,” explains Bacon.

You can now forget about crawling into the cupboard under the stairs to read your meter or braving the elements to read an outside meter.

Your energy supplier will also save on the costs of sending someone out to read your meter, and you won’t have to worry about ensuring you’re in.

6. You can say goodbye to estimated readings

Accurate monitoring for better billing

At a time when we are all counting the pennies, a smart meter has the benefit of providing our energy supplier with our real-time usage. “Smart meters provide accurate monthly bills, rather than estimates, which help you make sure you’re only paying for the energy you use,” says Bacon.

Piggy bank sat beside a smart meter in-home displayCredit: Shutterstock/Janis Abolins

If you forget to submit a meter reading with an old-style meter, your supplier will send you a bill based on your previous usage. In the instance of your household shrinking or expanding, and your energy needs changing, an estimated bill is unlikely to be accurate. And with the current high energy prices, you could be faced with a nasty shock when you do receive an accurate bill.

7. Supply problems are detected easily

Timely support

Energy suppliers will be able to track any issues, such as when power cuts have occurred. Power Networks, which supplies power across London, the South East and East of England, states on its website: “We can get the right help to you more quickly during power cuts, as we automatically know when your power has gone off without you having to contact us, and we can sometimes resolve the issue over the phone.”

8. Switching supplier is easy

Changing energy supplier is easy with a SMET2

It’s easy to switch supplier if you have a SMETS2 – these are the second generation of smart meters, which operate with in-home energy displays and automatically send meter readings to your supplier. Suppliers began installing SMETS2 meters in 2018, so if yours was installed before then, you probably have a SMETS1 meter and it may need upgrading to allow you to switch suppliers. Initially SMETS1 meters used a different communications system to SMETS2, which are operated by the Data Communications Company.

Do you need to do anything to upgrade your smart meter? “The upgrade is happening automatically, without consumers needing to take any action,” says Bacon. “Many SMETS1 meters have already been upgraded to the secure network, with the remainder continuing at pace.”

Citizens Advice can help

Citizens Advice says, “Before you switch [supplier], it’s a good idea to check if your meter will work in ‘smart mode’ after switching. Smart mode means your meter automatically sends readings to your supplier.”

But what does it mean if it doesn’t work in smart mode? You’ll need to send regular meter readings to your supplier yourself.

9. Your details are secure

Meter readings are sent over a secure network

Data forwarded to your energy supplier from your smart meter is not sent over the internet. Instead, smart meters have their own network (as mentioned above) that only authorised bodies, such as energy suppliers and network companies, can access. Top cyber-security experts, including the Government and GCHQ, designed the system to ensure that security best practice has been incorporated at every stage.

There is no question of details, such as your name or address, being shared. “You own the data on a smart meter,” says Bacon. “Your supplier cannot use this for sales and marketing unless you’ve given them permission to do so. Only your supplier can access your data, and they can’t share it without your consent.”

10. Convenience for pre-payment customers

Easy top-up and monitoring when credit is low

If you’re a pre-payment customer with an analogue meter, swapping to a smart meter means you can say goodbye to popping to the shops whenever you need to top up. And rather than struggling to reach your meter, which is likely in an awkward place to access, you can top up on a website, app, phone or text, depending on your supplier, all from the comfort of your sofa.

Another benefit is using the in-home display, which will allow you to easily monitor when you are running low on credit. Bacon explains: “As meters can be located in difficult-to-reach places, if you have a traditional analogue meter, you may only know you have run out of credit when the lights go out.

“Emergency credit and other support are also often easier to access on a smart pre-pay meter. For example, the £400 Energy Bill Support Scheme discount instalments were automatically added to prepay smart meters. If you were on an analogue pre-pay meter, you had to redeem these vouchers manually.”

An In-house smart meter display sitting on a side table beside a sofaCredit: Smart Energy GB

What are the disadvantages of a smart meter?

And do I have to have one?

Smart meters are being rolled out across the country and your supplier will get in touch with you when you can get one, but you can also request one.

Do you have to have a smart meter? They are not compulsory. However, if you don’t accept a smart meter, you may find it harder to access cheaper tariffs, as these might only be available to smart meter users.

The downsides of having a smart meter

  1. A smart meter won’t help you save money on its own. You have to be proactive and engage with how you are using energy by monitoring your in-home display. This way you can see where energy could possibly be saved.
  2. If you’re moving into a new-build home, a smart meter will be installed automatically and you won’t have a choice.
  3. The first generation of smart meters, known as SMETS1s, don’t function as well as the latest version (SMETS2) if you change supplier. However, you can contact your supplier for an upgrade.
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Camilla Sharman

Written by Camilla Sharman she/her

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With her 30 years of experience, Camilla Sharman has covered a wide range of sectors within the business and consumer industries both as a feature, content, and freelance writer.  As a business journalist, Camilla has researched articles for many different sectors from the jewellery industry to finance and tech, charities, and the arts. Whatever she’s covered, she enjoys delving deep and learning the ins and out of different topics, then conveying her research within engaging content that informs the reader.