As people are becoming more conscious about their electricity bills, particularly at a time of rising costs, more UK households are switching to smart meters. These devices, connected via a wireless network, allow you to control your gas and electricity use - information that is also shared with your energy provider. In this guide, we’ll look at the types of smart meters available, how they work, the benefits, and costs involved.
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Smart meters are devices that record and monitor your gas and electricity usage in real time and give accurate data to avoid you receiving unexpectedly high energy bills. They have been introduced in the UK over the past few years to replace the traditional gas and electricity meters - usually located in a cupboard under your stairs - in which a representative from your energy supplier had to come to your home and take the estimated reading.
The smart meter contains two main elements:
The meter: a secure, smart data network connected via wireless connection that sends information about your energy usage to your supplier;
In-home display (IHD): a monitor - which looks like a tablet device - on which you can see your energy use and make alterations as you need.
What does a smart meter look like? Smart meters look fairly similar to traditional gas or electricity meters. They will be located in a cupboard or under the stairs and have buttons on them so you can scroll through and see different information on a small screen. In addition, you will also have an IHD, which looks like a tablet device.
How do smart meters work?
Smart meters work in a similar way to mobile phones - by using a wireless network connection. Your gas smart meter, electricity smart meter, and in-home device are in ‘contact’ with each other exchanging information.
In simple terms, the electricity smart meter is connected to the mains and monitors how much electricity you are using in real time. Gas smart meters tend to be battery powered and give readings at intermittent periods throughout the day. The smart meter is also connected to the wider Data Communications Company (DCC) network, which basically means your energy supplier also has access to your energy data recordings.
Does a smart meter need WIFI?No. Your smart meter does not need a WIFI connection, and will not be connected to the WIFI even if you have it installed in your home. Smart meters communicate with the IHD via a secure national network which is designed solely for their use.
What types of smart meters exist?
The Government started rolling out smart meters around 10 years ago, and today, there are two types of smart meters: SMETS1 and SMETS2 smart meters. SMETS stands for Smart Metering Equipment Technical Specification. According to Which.co.uk, when the initial roll-out of smart meters occurred more than 15 million were installed in homes across the nation.
However, a technical issue with the first generation of meters (SMETS1) meant they lost their smart functions when customers switched energy suppliers - meaning a new generation of upgrades smart meters (SMETS2) had to be developed. Households that have SMETS1 can have the problem solved and regain smart capabilities if they switch providers. But there may be a small period of time where meter readings need to be taken manually.
How do I know if my smart meter is SMETS1 or SMETS2?Smart meters have serial numbers on them and looking at that it may be possible to tell what type you have. If it starts with 19P, it is likely to be a SMETS1, while if it begins with 19M, it is probably a SMETS2 meter. However, Energy Review advises that if you are unsure about which type of smart meter you have, the best bet is to contact your energy supplier to confirm.