- A third (31%) of smart meter owners have encountered issues with their devices since their unit was installed – from meters ‘going dumb’ to displays breaking
- One in five (20%) households say they have been offered first generation ‘SMETS1’ meters since March, despite the Government and Ofgem saying they should be installing second generation ‘SMETS2’ devices after this date
- Over half of homes (53%) believe their supplier didn’t fully explain the benefits of their meter prior to installation, although this marks an improvement on 61% who didn’t receive a full explanation last year
- Despite this, 29% say that owning a smart meter has helped decrease their energy bills, up from 16% in 2018
- uSwitch calls on suppliers to explain smart meters more clearly to their customers and only offer them second generation smart meters.
With just over a year to go until the deadline passes for installing smart meters across the UK, around four million smart meter owners are running into problems with their devices, according to new data from uSwitch.com, the price comparison and switching service.
More than a third (31%) of households with smart meters have reported device issues since installation, with problems ranging from smart displays not working (39%) and devices ‘going dumb’ after switching (32%), to meters ceasing to function entirely (13%). And a third (33%) of households with second generation “SMETS2” meters – which were not expected to experience technical problems – have also encountered issues since they were installed.
Disconcertingly, one in five (20%) smart meter owners say they have been offered a first generation smart meter device (SMETS1) since March. Energy suppliers haven’t been able to count SMETS1 meters towards their installation targets since this date and should be rolling out second generation SMETS2 meters instead, as these devices are supposed to remain in smart mode no matter which energy supplier a household switches to.
The majority of smart meter owners (53%) are also still in the dark about their benefits, with over half saying that their supplier didn’t fully explain the advantages of owning one before it was installed – but knowledge has improved since last year when 61% didn’t receive a proper explanation.
More than a fifth (22%) of homes still report feeling pressured by their supplier into taking a smart meter, though this is fewer than the 30% who felt this way in 2018. 5% said their supplier tried to install a meter without their permission, but this is a reduction on the 11% experiencing this a year ago.
Despite these problems, 29% of homes say that owning a smart meter has helped reduce energy bills, up from 16% last year. Two thirds of households (67%) also say that their device has made them more aware of how much energy they use, compared to just under a third (28%) in 2018.
This awareness has helped galvanise better energy saving habits in some areas: 38% say they now turn off lights when they aren’t in the room compared to 33% in 2018, and 22% now wash clothes at a lower temperature, up from 18% last year. In fact, smart meter owners say changing their habits has helped them save around £108 a year on average.
Rik Smith, energy expert at uSwitch.com, says: “While it’s great to see smart meters improving energy habits and helping consumers to save on their bills, there are still far too many issues with the rollout which are damaging consumer confidence in the whole scheme.
“There is a real opportunity to build more confidence in smart meters now, if households are given the right information to make the most of their new device, and if and they’re only offered a second generation meter which shouldn’t go dumb if someone switches supplier.
“But people say that they’re still being offered first generation meters, despite the legacy of them going wrong and the risk they will go dumb when someone changes to a different provider. The lack of clarity around when these SMETS1 devices will work seamlessly with multiple suppliers is losing the scheme the advocates it desperately needs. Energy companies should only be offering second generation meters to their customers, which will give them peace of mind that it should stay smart if they switch.”