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All you need to know aboutSmart Meters

Have you ever caught yourself longing for more accurate energy bills? Or maybe you’ve actually said out loud “I wish I could actually see how much electricity I’m using”. If either of these apply to you, a smart meter could be just what you need.

Even the most hands-off energy user will reap the benefits of these nifty little gadgets – so much so, in fact, that every home in Britain will have been offered one by 2020. Dubbed as the “new generation” of energy metering, they’re renowned for saving the average household both time and money.

What is a smart meter?

A SMETS1/SMETS2 meter, or smart meter as it's more commonly known, is essentially an upgrade to your standard prepayment or energy meter. The new smart meter connects to a special Data Communication Company (DDC) network and automatically sends updates to your provider in almost real time (or as often as you ask it to).

This means there's less room for error where your reading is concerned. It also sends the very same information to a handy energy monitor, so you get to see exactly how much you are using without rifling through bills. 

What is the difference between a SMETS1 and a SMETS2 meter?

Smart Metering Equipment Technical Specifications -or SMETS for short- specifies the way in which smart meters work. Many providers who were early adopters of this new energy saving trend opted for SMETS1 meters, these were the first to be produced.

A SMETS1 meter, which would send updates to your supplier at your chosen frequency, works by connecting you to your energy supplier by 3G with the use of a special SIM card.

The trouble with SMETS1 is that it can usually only communicate with other providers who use this type of metering, which could cause trouble should you choose to switch provider.

Then SMETS2 meters came along in 2018 and made SMETS1 seem a little old fashioned in comparison. With SMETS2, your meter communicated with your provider using a government data network that can speak to a more diverse range of energy suppliers. 

What are the benefits of a smart meter?

Smart meters are just, well, smarter than your average meter. From saving money to modernising the way we use energy - it's no wonder so many households are making the switch. 

More control over your usage

With a smart meter you get to see exactly how much energy you're using and how much it's costing you. Those confusing energy bills will become a thing of the past, now you can pick up your handheld tracker whenever you like to take a look, and cut back if needs be. 

Accurate billing

Smart meters mean no more manual meter readings and put an end to nasty surprise energy bills. Since your usage is continuously sent through to your provider ton a regular basis, so you can kiss estimated bills goodbye and rest assured that you're only paying for what you've actually used. 

Easy payment

If you're using a prepayment meter, a smart meter is a real no brainer. You'll no longer have to make that long journey to the shop to top up. Since your smart meter is connected to your online account, you'll be able to top up using your smartphone, laptop or tablet.

Energy efficiency

Since it's easier with a smart meter to see where you're using the most energy, making small changes to reduce your energy consumption is a piece of cake. What's more, thanks to the development of the smart grid, smart meters will become an essential factor in a more energy efficient future. 

How does is collect data?

Digital meter readings are sent to your provider using a secure network on a half hourly, daily or monthly basis, meaning that your provider knows exactly how much energy you're using in almost-real time. You get to choose how often your smart meter sends an update to your supplier, just get in touch with them and they will be able to edit your settings.

Personal data like your contact details or bank details are never stored on the meter itself - so you don't need to worry about third parties contacting you or trying to pinch your data. 

What is my data used for?

Your meter reading is the only data collected and stored by your smart meter device - and only your provider will be able to see this. No data will ever be shared to third parties without your consent, and you'll only ever be contacted about your energy account. 

Is smart heating included?

Smart thermostats give you the ability to adjust your heating remotely using your wireless device - yes that means turning your heating on during your evening commute so you get in to a toasty house. You're also able to control which rooms in your home have heating to save money and energy.

You don't actually need a smart meter to use this service. However not every energy supplier offers smart heating yet, so you'll have to compare providers to see who's hot on this trend. 

Will I have to pay?

As a part of Britain's 2020 smart meter roll-out, it's completely free to have a smart meter installed. 

Can I still switch providers with a smart meter?

You're still able to switch providers, however you may need to revert back to a 'dumb meter' in the interim as some energy suppliers don't yet support SMETS2 meters, only SMETS1.

All this means is that your fancy new interface will react like a traditional meter and you'll need to take manual readings until your meter is reconnected to the DDC network.
It's always wise to double check with your supplier whether your type of meter is compatible with other networks before making the switch.

If this isn't an option for you and you've really got your heart set on becoming smarter about your energy consumption, check out our handy comparison tool (available on Google Play and the App Store) to see which suppliers have the most energy efficient tariffs.