Smart meters are to be installed in every home in the UK by 2020 - but what is a smart meter, and what difference will they make to your electricity bills?
What is a smart meter?
Smart meters are a new kind of energy meter. Smart meters are a replacement for your existing meters and send electronic meter readings to your energy supplier automatically.
There are both gas smart meters and electricity smart meters.
How does a smart meter work?
A smart meter works by communicating directly with your energy supplier, so the company will always have an accurate meter reading and there's no need for you to take a meter reading yourself. Smart meters can work in a variety of different ways - First Utility's smart meters use an in-built SIM card (like the one in your mobile phone) to send the readings, while other suppliers are looking at using long range radio.
What are the benefits of having a smart meter?
There are two main benefits to smart meters:
- no-one has to come round to read your meter.
- your bills will be accurate - no more estimated bills or over or under-paying.
Will a smart meter save me money?
A smart meter itself won't save you money, but it may come with add-ons like an energy monitor or computer software that could.
These extras let you see how much energy you are using at different times of the day, week, month, or year, which could help you to cut your energy usage and your bills by highlighting ways you can be more energy efficient.
Smart meters could also mean lower electricity bills, because they will help energy companies to run more efficiently.
If energy companies have a more accurate picture of how much energy the country uses and when they use it, they will be able to make sure they have the right amount of energy at the right time.
Smart meters could also lead to the creation of innovative new energy tariffs, or personalised plans individually tailored to fit your lifestyle and energy usage.
How do I get a smart meter?
The plan is for smart meters to be in every home by 2020. However, it is still unclear when the roll-out will start, so you may have to wait a while before you get your smart meter.
The Government has stipulated that the mass roll-out of smart meters must begin by 2014.
However, in the meantime, uSwitch has teamed up with independent supplier First Utility to offer one of the first plans on the market for smart meter installation when you switch. Use our gas and electricity price calculator to see how much the tariff would cost you.