There’s been plenty of information on the news over the last few years about smart meters and whether they’re worth it. While for some households they work well, for others they can be a burden and a nuisance.

A smart meter is ‘smart’ because it is able to directly communicate your energy consumption to your energy supplier without the need for meter readings. These devices not only calculate your energy usage but they can show you in real time what you’re using. For example, if you flick the kettle on, the electricity usage on your smart meter would rise. Most smart meters will show your electricity and gas consumption, with an option to have a display unit that tells you how much you’ve spent in the last 24 hours.

Are smart meters compulsory?

It’s likely that you’ve received multiple emails and letters to say that you are eligible to have a smart meter installed. However, it isn’t compulsory and you can turn down the offer if you don’t want one.

These devices are being offered because the government wants as many homes and small businesses as possible to have them installed. Therefore, it’s down to the energy suppliers to offer smart meters and installation free of charge. The data that smart meters collect can be used to gain more accurate information around energy usage in the UK and how a more efficient supply network could be created. Some suppliers may even offer you an incentive to convince you to have a meter installed. This could include competitive pricing, such as a one-year 10 per cent discount on your energy.

The government originally laid out a target of 50 million meters to be installed by 2020, the government has now pushed back the deadline for smart energy meter rollout by four years until 2024.

What are the benefits of a smart meter?

If you’re still considering whether to get a smart meter or not, we’ve listed some of their benefits below to help you make your mind up.

As previously mentioned, your meter readings are sent to your energy supplier automatically. This means you no longer need to take manual readings yourself and it reduces the risk that you’ll forget to send your consumption over. It also means that you won’t have your energy supplier knocking on your door to read the meter themselves. You don’t have to worry about a thing, as the smart meter can handle it all for you.

With a smart device, you’ll have much more control over your energy consumption and could even use it to save money on your bills. Having a smart meter might encourage you to turn lights off, reduce your heating temperature or take shorter showers.  A smart meter will also encourage you to notice your daily gas and electricity consumption. Your energy bills will be more accurate too, rather than an energy supplier assuming an estimated average and billing you accordingly they will know your actual energy consumption. This should minimise the risk of either underpaying or overpaying for your energy usage.

Most smart meters come with a display screen that allows you to view any alerts, track your spending and see your usage in near real time. For most devices, electricity can be viewed in real time, whereas gas usage takes around 30 minutes to update on your device. It can still give you a good idea of how much you’re using. There’s usually an option to add a daily spend budget too. The meter will alert you when you’ve reached your budget for the day so that you don’t overspend. 

Can you have a smart meter with solar panels?

You can have a smart meter installed with solar panels, however some people and energy companies have reported issues. There have been problems with measuring the amount of electricity generated and some energy companies have said they’ve had issues installing the smart meters in homes with solar panels.

These problems were mainly solved with the introduction of the second generation of smart meters. The new generation use more advanced technology and are able to track the energy you get from your supplier and not the electricity that is created on site from your panels. In the future, smart meters could be able to work out how much electricity is being generated from your property, but this technology isn’t available yet.

If you have a first generation smart meter and want to have solar panels installed, you should be able to upgrade to a second generation device.

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