Smart home technology was one of the biggest attractions at CES 2017 and whilst the products on offer might not have felt revolutionary, new iterations and incarnations of smart AI such as Alexa being integrated in Amazon Echo mean smart home technology is maturing. Whilst we aren’t all yet running out to the store to buy smart home assistants, smart hair bushes or other gadgets, one piece of smart technology we are installing in growing numbers is the home smart energy meter.

Smart meters were one of the hottest topics in the energy industry. Whilst official statistics are hard to come by, between 2016 & 2018 around 20 million smart meters are being installed across the UK with the installation phase peaking in 2019 before concluding in 2020 with the bulk of UK homes then covered by a smart meter. Whilst this is not being driven by consumer demand (it is a government program) it is enabling more and more of us to get used to having a piece of smart technology around the home, other than the ubiquitousness of smartphones and tablets. Energy providers across the UK have been trialling smart meters across the country before getting stuck into the nitty-gritty of installing them across the world.

Though smart meters are set to bring consumers an abundance of benefits an awful of lot of people are still a little confused as to what smart meters actually are, what they can do and how you can use them to lower your energy usage and bills. To get you ready for your smart meter future, here are some useful pointers.

What are smart meters?

Ok, so at their heart smart meters are the next generation of energy meters being installed across the UK. Over the next few years (if they haven’t already been) your electricity and gas meters will be replaced. They are called ‘smart’ as they are capable of tracking and displaying a greater amount of information. As well as tracking your complete energy usage in real-time it also send a variety of data back to your energy supplier.

Four quick benefits of smart meters:

  1. An end to estimated billing. Smart meters send information to your energy provider meaning they have a real time picture of your energy usage and know every kilowatt you use. This ends estimated bills.
  2. Better energy plans. Seeing where and how you use energy, your supplier can better recommend which energy plan you should be on, based on your usage through the day and night.
  3. Usage information. You and your energy supplier can see real time and historic energy consumption information about your usage and its costs. Keeping track of this can help you to save energy, money and lower your carbon footprint.
  4. Smarter prepaid meters. Smart meters can offer more convenient ways to pre-pay for your energy such as paying through smartphone apps meaning you don’t have to dash to the shops late at night.

How much will my smart meter cost me?

The overall cost of installing and maintaining smart meters is being included in consumer energy bills, in much the same way that your current energy bill includes the running costs of your existing meter. Most of us won’t see any additional costs in our bills from smart meter installation.

Are there any health concerns about Smart Meters?

Smart meters are fully covered by EU and UK safety legislation. This legislation requires smart meter manufacturers to ensure these devices are completely safe to be installed and used in the home. Public Health England has provided information for consumers concerned about installing smart meters and any health implications. Further details may be found at Public Health England.

What if I don’t want a smart meter?

Despite their benefits, some consumers would rather not have a smart meter installed. Smart meters themselves won’t save you money, rather the information they give you enables you to take greater control of your energy usage. Some people feel concerned that their meter could be hacked with personal information being accessed by hackers. Whilst these devices have a high degree of security, no device is ever 100% secure. There are other reasons why people choose not to have a smart meter.

If you choose not to have a smart meter, you can refuse to have one installed. Whilst there is a government target to install them in every home across the country, there is no legal obligation to have a smart meter fitted. Many experts and energy providers do think that there are a wealth of benefits for consumers, such as putting you in the driving seat in terms of your energy usage, costs and carbon usage.

Smart meters are a great way for consumers to get more information about their energy usage and running costs. They can be used as part of a strategy to save energy and save money.

By Russell Bowes

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