Is It Time To Go Smart?

Smart meters are a bit of a buzzword right now. If you’re based in the UK, you’ve probably had the email from your energy provider asking you to make the booking for your free smart meter. 

I am going to talk you through what happens when you click that booking ‘button’, debunk some common myths around the smart network and look at the benefits for you and the environment.

The installation process

Smart installation takes around two hours to complete. During the process, your gas and electricity will be turned off for around 20 minutes. If you have electricity and gas, the distance between your meters should be 10 metres or less, otherwise the gas meter readings are unlikely to be picked up by the comms hub that sits on top of the electricity meter.

The engineer will then commission your meters, and if all goes to plan, leave you an In Home Display showing your energy data in real time. Pretty cool right?

In the very rare event that your installation doesn’t go smoothly, the engineer or your provider will be able to provide assistance.

Most installers will now only install the new generation – SMETS2 meters. The benefit of these meters is that they continue to work even if you switch suppliers. Older smart meters, known as SMETS1 meters, are only smart with the supplier who installs them so be sure to ask what kind of meter is being installed.

Interested in a smart meter installation but worried about COVID and lockdown restrictions? Smart installations are still going on during COVID restrictions so you should consult your providers to make sure you are prepared for the installation. This could involve leaving your door open or making sure it is possible to ensure social distancing. 

Why get a smart meter in the first place?

Smart meters are handy for understanding your usage. With a smart meter, you will know exactly how much it costs to boil your kettle or leave your lights on. This makes you more conscious of your usage. Smart meters also send monthly meter readings. So say goodbye to lying on the cold floor and trying to read the tiny numbers on your gas meter and hello to accurate monthly bills!

It’s important to understand that smart meters in and of themselves do not reduce the cost of your electricity. Instead, what smart meters do is provide information on how you use energy in your household. Being aware of your energy consumption makes it easier to make behavioural changes as you will have a visual reminder of what you are using and how much it is costing you, in real time. 

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) believes that by making people more conscious of their energy consumption, smart meters will save the average household around £43 a year on their energy bills by 2030. Sounds good to me.

How are these meters linked to meeting climate goals? 

As customers become more aware of their usage and reduce the amount of energy they use on a daily basis, greenhouse gas emissions decrease. Research by Delta-ee on behalf of Smart Energy GB says that smart meters will contribute to a 25 percent CO2 saving in homes by 2035. 

A smarter energy system will also allow suppliers to forecast energy demand and source greener energy to meet that demand, making them greener from the get go. BEIS calculated that 26 percent of the UK’s carbon emissions were from energy supply in 2018. 

Decarbonising our energy grid would dramatically reduce the nation’s carbon footprint, and smart meters play an important role in that. Suppliers are now required by the government to take all reasonable steps to roll out smart meters to all of their domestic customers by 30 June 2021. 

Are smart meters secure?

As with any new technology, security is always a good question. Smart meters do not contain any personal information, they just record your energy usage. The meters readings are sent over a mobile or radio wide area network (WAN), and data is sent to your home over a secure wireless home area network (HAN). Both are secure networks.

The National Cyber Security Centre has shared information about the security behind smart meter systems on their website and have deemed it secure.

If you’ve got your installation and your In Home Display is not working as it should or the monthly reads aren’t going through, get in touch with your energy provider so they can investigate. Your meters should be commissioned and join the smart network without a problem. Your provider will be able to see if the meters have had any issues connecting to the network.

So should you get a smart meter installed?

The roll out of smart meters to all domestic energy users is inevitable and there are many benefits to having them installed. You are helping to decarbonise the energy grid, potentially lowering your bills and eliminating the need to submit those monthly meter reads. With this in mind, it could be worth making the switch to smart sooner rather than later.

Melisa Gooding is passionate about fighting the climate crisis through innovation and collaboration. After an undergraduate in geography from the University of Exeter and studying the circular economy with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation she wants to accelerate the transition to a carbon free future. Her experience includes working for a renewable energy company, volunteering for a community solar project and upcycling. She seeks to communicate her knowledge and experiences around sustainability simply and effectively.

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