When it comes to organising our spending – knowledge is power and nowhere is this more relevant than in our energy expenditure.
This is why smart meters have proven so monumentally popular in recent years – the more accurate information you have about your energy usage, the more likely you are to budget your usage accordingly.
A smart metre is, as the name suggests, a meter that is able to measure how much gas and electricity you’re using. Whereas a traditional thermostat might be able to tell you how warm your home is, it can’t tell you exactly how much energy it has cost to fuel that heat.
A smart meter, meanwhile, is able to not only offer exact information regarding your energy usage but can also be controlled remotely from your smartphone.
Should I get one?
As long as your energy provider is offering to install it then you might think there are very few reasons not to upgrade to a smart meter. However, there are certain facts you might want to be aware of before taking the plunge.
Also, remember that the smart meter roller scheme currently being instigated by the UK government is not mandatory. At least not at the time of writing.
Accuracy – Your gas meter and electricity meter will automatically send information to your provider, never again will you need to root around in a dank cupboard with a torch, and as long as you’re paying monthly then you only pay for exactly what you’re using.
Best of all, with an in-home display, you’re also told not only how much energy you’re using but how much it’s costing you in pounds and pence.
Exclusive tariffs – Most of the big providers will offer exclusive tariffs to their smart meter customers which are usually more desirable than their traditional tariffs.
Free installation – As providers are so eager for their customers to switch, you might find yourself being offered free installation.
This is being rolled out area-by-area by most suppliers but you should be able to register your interest online and help move the process along.
Encouragement – Smart meters give you the opportunity to make the most of your energy. Being able to see exactly how much you’re spending on your energy bills in real-time will encourage you and your family to improve your energy usage. This will be beneficial not only to your bank balance but to the environment too.
Compatibility – Some early smart meter adopters have found their meters to be incompatible with new suppliers, meaning having a smart meter installed with your current suppliers might make it more difficult to switch suppliers in the future.
Not 100% – Most energy providers still encourage their customers to pay annually, which means they are still paying for estimated usage.
Those estimates might be more accurate, but many users could still end up with hundreds of pounds worth of credit on their accounts. And that’s before we even touch on the possibility of meter errors leading to misleading information.
Poor signal – If you have a poor mobile phone signal in your area then chances are you will also struggle to get a decent smart meter reception. This could lead to difficulties including inaccurate results.
Security risk – As with all IoT (internet of things) devices, smart meters can potentially be hacked into by malicious sources. Not only that, but smart meters can also potentially be infected with viruses that can jump from meter to meter. Note that data mined from your smart meter could also be used to target you with ads.
The government is aiming for smart meters to be installed in 85% of homes by 2024, which is a big task, but certainly not unreachable. The truth is, however, that they might not be the right fit for everyone.
We would advise consulting a gas and electrics expert if you are still on the fence, but if you have weighed the pros and cons above and decided to go ahead and join the wave of the future, the next step is as simple as contacting your provider.