Understanding Your Rights Concerning Smart Meters
Are Smart Meters Compulsory?
With many energy companies offering to install smart meters in homes across the UK, you may be wondering are smart meters compulsory? Maybe you've been offered a smart meter by your energy supplier but are unsure what smart meters are and what they do. Well, we've created a handy guide to try and answer the basic questions you want answering about smart meters.
What is a Smart Meter?
A smart meter is a digital device which gives you an accurate reading of how much gas and electricity you have used, as well as how much money you have spent. The smart meter displays this information on an electronic device and sends the recorded data to your energy supplier.
Although the smart meter replaces the standard energy meter, it essentially fulfils the same purpose. However, smart meters are considered to be much more accurate and reliable than a traditional meter as they give you a real-time update of how much energy you have used and how much it has cost. This is the 'smart' element of a smart meter.
Are Smart Meters Compulsory?
Smart meters are not compulsory. Despite a big push from the Government for energy suppliers to install smart meters in homes, you are not legally required to have a smart meter installed in your house or flat, as of yet. Therefore, you can refuse to have a smart meter if you do not want one. So, you are free to keep your current energy meter or your prepayment meter.
However, due to pressure from the Government for energy companies to install a certain amount of smart meters by 2024, energy suppliers may be less willing to install old meters over smart meters. Nonetheless, you can still refuse to have one installed.
Alternatively, you can have a smart meter installed but can ask for its communications to be switched off. This way, it works exactly like a standard meter and is a good option for those who are unsure whether they want a smart meter.
What Does a Smart Meter Do?
A smart meter works in the same way as your standard energy meter - it takes readings of how much gas and electricity you have used, but it has added benefits. The electronic display allows you to see how much money you have spent on energy hourly, daily and monthly. The information taken from a smart meter is then sent to your supplier, which means you do not have to take the reading yourself.
Is it Worth Getting a Smart Meter?
Although smart meters are not compulsory, it still may be worth getting one regardless. There are several positives associated with having a smart meter that standard meters and prepayment meters cannot fulfil.
As already mentioned, smart meters are very accurate and give you a real-time update showing how much energy you've used and how much it has cost. This accuracy helps put an end to 'estimated usage' charges, which means with a smart meter, you will only be charged for the energy you have used. However, standard meters are still subject to 'estimated usage', and customers can only see how much money they have spent at the end of the month.
Smart meters also give customers access to a greater variety of tariffs than a household with a standard energy meter. So, if you are looking to change supplier, you are likely to save more money and find a better tariff with a smart meter installed. With a standard energy meter, you are much more limited in choice.
As the information from your smart meter is sent directly to your supplier, you do not require someone to come around to provide meter readings. As a result, you save money as you do not have to pay for a person to read your meter for you.
How Much Does it Cost?
Many companies suggest that smart meters are 'free'. However, this is not strictly true. To have a smart meter installed, you do not have to make any payment upfront. Instead, you pay for your smart meter through your energy bills. Similar to standard meters, you pay for your maintenance and cost of the meter through your bills.
Can I Have a Smart Meter with a Prepayment Meter?
Smart meters can be configured to work exactly like a prepayment meter. So, if you are a prepayment customer, you can have a smart meter.
For prepayment customers, the smart meter display will show you how much credit you have left on your balance, which is useful for knowing when you next need to top-up.
Smart meters also allow for an automatic top-up so that you won't run out of power overnight or when you're away from the property. You can top-up online meaning you won't have to go to a shop when it's raining to fill your meter; you can top it up from the comfort of your own home.
How Do I Get One?
If you've decided that you want to get a smart meter, the best point of call is to contact your energy supplier. They will be able to give you information such as whether the area you're living in is eligible and whether your home is suitable for the installation. Your supplier will also be able to answer any other questions or queries you have. The supplier will then be likely to book in an appointment for your smart meter installation at a time that suits you.
If you are unsure about a smart meter, remember always to ask questions. You are not obliged to have a smart meter, so you are within your rights to refuse installation if an energy supplier gets in contact with you.
- Smart meters are not compulsory and are not required by law. You are within your rights to refuse a smart meter.
- If you are considering getting a smart meter, do your research. Check out sites such as which.co.uk, ofgem.gov.uk and citizensadvice.org.uk for more information on smart meters.
- Remember to ask your supplier any questions you have about smart meters if you are considering getting one installed.