Smart meters are a new version of your household electricity meter. But do you have to accept one if your energy supplier offers you one?
Can I refuse a smart meter?
Britain has set itself an ambitious target of fitting every home with smart meters by 2020.
Now the official roll-out has started, energy companies have been asked to take 'all reasonable steps' to install smart meters in every home, however you still have the right to refuse a smart meter.
But be aware that if your energy company has contacted you to change your energy meter to a smart meter because your current meter needs replacing (i.e. it's too old), then you should get it replaced as it could be a safety hazard not to.
If you really don't want a smart meter, tell your supplier and they will probably offer to install a 'dumb' meter or set up a smart meter to work in 'dumb' mode with all the communications switched off.
If your energy company has contacted you to change to a smart meter because your current meter needs replacing, it could be a safety hazard not to. But if you really don't want a smart meter, tell your supplier and they will probably offer to install a smart meter set up to work with all the communications switched off.
Concerns with smart meters
Here are some of the concerns people have about smart meters and the roll-out:
- Estimated cost While there will be no upfront charge to customers being transferred to a smart meter, the cost of installing smart meters in the national roll-out is estimated at £11bn. There are concerns that this will ultimately be passed on to customers through their energy bills
- Security & privacy Who can see your consumption data and what can they do with it?
- Health Concerns about radio frequencies and electromagnetic radiation produced. The evidence to date suggests exposure to radio waves produced by smart meters doesn't pose a risk to your health. Public Health England provides advice and information on the health implications of smart meters, which can be found on the PHE website
What makes the meter 'smart'?
? Smart meters record your household energy use
? They provide information about the energy you use directly to you or your supplier without anyone having to read the meter
? This should mean no more estimated bills, so you’ll only be paying for the gas and electricity you actually use
What if I accepted a smart meter before the roll-out?
Energy companies are currently installing first generation smart meters. These are called SMETS1 meters.
These early SMETS1 meters are currently unable to connect to the central data body, called the Data Communication Company (DCC), however they will eventually be brought into the DCC network during the national roll-out.
Government and industry groups say SMETS1 meters will be connected to the DCC network remotely and won't require a visit from a technician.
Second-generation smart meters are able to connect to the DCC network already and are called SMETS2. It is expected these will be rolled out in mid-late 2017.
If you got a smart meter before the official roll-out or are considering getting a smart meter before SMETS2 meters are available, you may want to be aware of the following:
- If you want to switch supplier, your new supplier might not be able to operate your meter in ‘smart’ mode. This may mean your meter will have to be put in 'dumb' mode and as a result, you will need to revert to taking meter readings
- Your supplier may need to upgrade your meter between 2017 and 2020 if the smart meter installed is not compliant with the official roll-out specification
- Smart meter installers are under obligation to offer you an in-home display (IHD) and to set this up to meet your needs should you want one
Read our guide on how smart meters work for more information.
Can I still switch suppliers with a smart meter?
In the short term, smart meters could be a barrier to switching suppliers.
If you get a smart meter installed which is not a SMETS2 meter, you may have to get your meter switched to 'dumb' mode. So, if you want to switch to a supplier which may not be able to support your smart meter, your smart meter will be switched to operate like a traditional meter.
If this happens, you'd have to take manual readings taken again until your smart meter is connected to the DCC network at some point during the roll-out.
Long term, it is hoped that smart meters will ultimately make switching suppliers easier and quicker. A smart meter can be instructed to send information about your energy usage to a new energy company instantaneously.
Once the roll-out process is complete and all smart meters are compatible and connected to the DCC, you should be able to see which provider is offering you the best deal based on your energy usage. Ofgem has introduced rules for smart meters, which includes a requirement that a supplier installing a smart meter must inform you if you might lose meter functionality when changing supplier.
Will a smart meter fit in my property?
Smart meters should generally be suitable for most property types, but there are exceptions – for example, if you live in a high-rise flat with a meter in the basement. For more information on this, contact your supplier.
If you rent your property and your gas and electricity bills are addressed to you rather than your landlord, you don’t need your landlord’s permission to get a smart meter (although you should inform them). If your landlord pays the bills, you should check with them first before arranging your smart meter installation.
Typically, your new smart meter goes exactly where your traditional gas and electricity meters were.
However, it is worth asking about this when you book your smart meter installation. If they need to be fitted elsewhere, your smart meter installer will ask you first.
What protection do I have with my smart meter?
There are a number of consumer protection provisions you should have as part of your smart meter installation.
There must be no sales during the installation visit and installers must provide energy efficiency advice as part of the visit. They also need your permission in advance of the visit if they are planning to talk about their own products.
If your installer tries to upsell you, or fails to provide energy efficiency advice as part of the visit, they are in breach of these rules and you should notify your energy supplier.
You will also have a choice about how your energy consumption data is used, apart from where it is required for billing and other regulated purposes.
Can I decide what data is shared?
Your energy company, and the energy networks, can access appropriate data remotely to enable them to send you accurate bills and carry out other essential tasks.
It is up to you to decide how much data your energy supplier collects from your smart meter, e.g. monthly, daily or half-hourly. If you do not inform your supplier of your preferences, they can collect a daily meter read.
You can also decide whether your supplier can use your meter reads for sales and marketing purposes.
You will also be able to share data with third parties (such as switching sites) if you want them to give you advice on the best tariff for you.
How you access information about your energy use and get the most benefit from it is also a choice you can make. You are also allowed to change your mind about any of your choices at any time.
If you are worried about the data your smart meter collects, read our guide on what data your smart meter is allowed to collect about you.
For more information on making any of the choices above or any other questions about your data, contact your energy supplier.
How to get a smart meter
Everyone is entitled to a smart meter, and your energy supplier will contact you between now and 2020 to arrange your installation. Some of us may have to wait longer than others, but you can ask your supplier to see if you can get yours fitted now.
Before you are supplied with a smart meter, your energy supplier should contact you to arrange a time and date that suits you.
They should also tell you:
- What to expect
- How long the installation will take
- If there are any steps you need to do before the installation can take place
Beware of rogue traders
- Doorstep visitors or phone calls claiming they want to make an appointment to install a smart meter are likely to be a rogue trader trying to scam you
- Your energy supplier will contact you directly about smart meters
- It will always be your energy supplier that will come to your house to change your meter