Smart meters replace your existing gas and electricity meters to measure how much energy you use.
They send this data wirelessly straight to your energy supplier. You don’t need WiFi or a broadband connection in your home in order for it to work.
Smart meters take your readings for you, so there’s no need to take meter readings each month and you will no longer receive estimated bills.
They come with an ‘In-Home Device’ (or IHD) which shows you the same thing it shows your energy provider: how much energy you are using and how much it costs. This updates in real-time for your energy usage, and every half hour for gas. IHDs do not control your energy - they are simply screens for visualising your usage.
The government has asked energy companies to make every effort to offer them in all homes as part of a push to connect up the grid so that energy companies can improve their systems.
You can get a Smart Meter by contacting your energy supplier and they can arrange for an engineer to fit one for free.
Smart prepayment meters (also known as Smart Pay-As-You-Go meters and smart pre-pay meters) have all the same features as a smart meter while also allowing you to pre-buy your energy.
You will be able to see how much credit you have left on your In-Home Display as well as in your energy company’s app (if they have one).
Smart prepayment meters usually have smart features that make electricity and gas top-ups easier. You can usually top up online or on your energy company’s app and your credit will be added remotely to the smart meter. You can also usually top up at any PayPoint or PayZone.
💡 Smart meters
Smart meters will give you more accurate meter readings. That means no more estimated bills.
They make you more aware of the energy that you’re using and, provided that you act on this information, they should encourage you to be more energy efficient.
Having the energy costs in pounds and pence brings the cost of energy to front of mind. Since the smart meter basically works in real-time, each time that you boil the kettle, each time that you put on a wash or cook food, you'll see what it costs you.
Energy should get cheaper as more people sign up to smart meters. According to the government, smart meters are expected to cut an average of £250 from dual-fuel tariffs between 2013 and 2034. This is because energy companies will be able to cut costs (largely by making to need fewer home visits and receiving fewer customer enquiries) which should translate to lower costs for customers.
💷 Smart prepayment meters
Smart pre-payment meters could be a wise idea for people who are on a tight budget or for people who want more control over their energy payments.
Since you're paying for your energy before you use it, you won't be at risk of going over what you can afford. This doesn't mean that if you run out of money you'll have to go without heating; energy suppliers are required to offer emergency credit to customers who are struggling to top-up their prepayment meter. This could be if a customer cannot afford to top-up or if they are unable to get to their local shop.
This emergency credit is a form of debt that you will need to repay so you should only use this as a last option, though it does mean that you will not have to go without gas or electricity.
If you are already in debt with an energy company, they can load your debt on to the prepayment meter. Each time that you top up, a small amount of your payment will go towards chipping away at your debt.