Smart meters explained
Getting a smart meter installed
Article 3 of 4
Getting a smart meter installed
What you need to know about smart meter installation, from which companies are installing them to the pros and cons of getting a smart meter now.
The official smart meter network was switched on in November 2016. We tell you what you need to know if you had a smart meter installed prior to this, or if you're due to have one installed soon, as your smart meter might not stay as smart as you were led to believe. Plus, what to expect when you have a smart meter installed.
You don't have to accept a smart meter if you don't want one. If you had one installed before the official roll-out, or are due to have a first-generation meter installed, there are some things you need to know.
Scroll down to read more, plus find out whether your energy company is installing smart meters.
How do you get a smart meter?
Your energy company will get in touch to arrange a suitable time and date to fit your smart meter. Or you can contact it to arrange an appointment. The installation itself will be carried out by a trained installer from the energy company or a company working for it. You'll need to be at home during the installation appointment.
British Gas estimates that a typical smart meter installation will take around 1.5 hours – but it will differ from property to property, and depend on where your current meters are located.
As part of the installation, you will be given an in-home display (IHD) which will show how much energy you’re using, in real time, and how much it’s costing. The installer should show you how to use this.
Your energy company may also offer to carry out an energy-efficiency inspection of your home and give you advice on saving energy. However, there is a code of conduct that smart meter installers are required to follow, and no sales transactions can take place during a domestic installation visit.
You'll get two smart meters – one for gas and one for electricity (or just an electricity one if you haven't got gas). The smart gas meters are slightly smaller than current gas meters, while you may find that your electricity smart meter is slightly bigger than the old-style meter you have now.
Should I get a smart meter installed now?
If you have a smart meter already, chances are it’s a first-generation model. These are called SMETS1 meters. Companies have begun installing second-generation (SMETS2) meters in very small numbers and plan to increase during this year, which should solve most of the below issues.
But here are a few things you should know if you want a smart meter before your supplier starts installing second-generation SMETS2 meters:
- If you subsequently switch supplier, your new supplier might not be able to operate your meter in ‘smart’ mode, and you might have to revert to taking meter readings.
- If the smart meter installed wasn't compliant with the official roll-out specification, your supplier would need to upgrade it by the end of the roll-out in 2020 so that it works with the Data Communications Company (DCC) communications system. This should only affect meters installed in the very early stages of the roll-out, before 2016. The national campaign for the roll-out, Smart Energy GB, says it believes this upgrade can be done remotely and will not require an extra visit.
Energy suppliers can continue to install SMETS1 smart meters for up to a year after the ‘full range of DCC services’ are available. This is currently set at 5 October 2018. The government delayed this date from July 2018.
However 12 energy suppliers have been given permission to continue installing SMETS1 meters for longer – until 13 January 2019. This is to smooth out companies’ transitions to installing SMETS2 meters, and make sure there aren’t wasted SMETS1 meters.
This means that customers of British Gas, E, Ecotricity, Eon, First Utility, Npower, Our Power, Ovo Energy, Scottish Power, SSE and Utility Warehouse may not be able to get a SMETS2 meter until next year. Combined, these companies supply 86% of energy customers.
The number of smart meters installed is greater than the number in operation, according to government figures. This means many people could have smart meters not operating in 'smart mode'.
This is due to ‘technical issues’, such as meters being unable to communicate externally via the wide-area network, or customers choosing to switch to suppliers currently unable to operate smart meters in smart mode,’ according to the Department for Business, Innovation and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).
But meters turning ‘dumb’ should become less of a problem from later this year, when first-generation meters will begin to be linked to the wireless DCC network. This will mean they can work like second-generation meters. All should be linked to the DCC by the end of the roll-out in 2020.
Some suppliers can already operate each others’ meters. Read our smart meter problems solved guide for more.
If you don’t want a smart meter installed, know your rights. You are not obliged to have one, and can ask your supplier to replace your old meter with a smart meter that has its communications switched off. Find out more - see do I have to accept a smart meter?
Which energy companies have smart meters?
When we spoke to energy companies in April 2018, several had installed a small number of second-generation (SMETS2) meters as part of a testing phase. Many intend to start installing them more widely in the coming months, and continue installing SMETS1 meters in the meantime.
Below, we list the progress of the biggest suppliers. Click on a suppliers' name to find out the latest.
- British Gas
- EDF Energy
- First Utility
- Ovo Energy
- Scottish Power
- Smaller energy companies
British Gas has installed the most smart meters of any energy company, perhaps unsurprisingly since it’s the biggest. It has fitted more than 5m smart meters in homes – around half of the total domestic smart meters installed so far. British Gas's smart meter comes with an in-home display unit (IHD), which shows you your energy use in real time, and how much it is costing you.
You may not be eligible for a smart meter yet if:
- British Gas supplies your gas but not electricity
- you're on Economy 7 with storage heaters
- you have a specialist meter
- your meter is more than 5 metres from the property, or have no connectivity to the smart meter communications network.
British Gas was the first energy firm to install a SMETS2 meter in a customer's home in August 2017, working with technology firm Landis + Gyr. It's now carrying out pilot installations of other second-generation meters ahead of a full roll-out later this year.
EDF Energy has installed around 600,000 smart meters, and is contacting customers in areas where smart meter appointments are available. It’s currently trialling installing SMETS2 meters.
Details about your energy use are available through the My Account app; or you can choose to have a smart meter display.
Eon is able to install smart meters for most of its domestic customers, and has installed around 1.1m so far. It says that some customers’ homes may not have sufficient signal strength for a smart meter yet; Eon aims to identify potential problems when customers book an installation appointment.
Its smart energy display shows how much energy you’re using and how much it costs, in real time. You can also set a budget and be alerted if you overspend.
It’s currently testing SMETS2 meters.
First Utility also offers smart meters to most of its customers. It had installed 130,000 of them in November 2017 but wasn't willing to share an updated figure with us. It plans to start offering SMETS2 meters in the final three months of 2018.
First Utility provides an IHD with your smart meter. The display gives a summary of your energy use and account balance, in real time. It also has an app and My Energy tool - these let you see your daily energy consumption and monthly bills.
Npower has installed more than half a million smart meters in its customers’ homes. It has also installed more than 150 SMETS2 meters in its pilot of the new technology.
Ovo has installed more than 850,000 smart meters to its customers. It will get in touch with customers when their area is eligible, but you can also book an installation online. It says it begun SMETS2 trials in late 2017.
Scottish Power has also begun rolling out smart meters in stages, however it was not willing to share how many SMETS1 meters it has installed so far.
Its SMETS2 meter pilot is currently underway.
SSE has installed more than 750,000 smart meters so far, and provides an in-home display. This lets customers see their energy use in pounds and pence, kWh or CO2 generated. You can set targets for your energy use, and traffic lights tell you if you’re on track.
At the moment, SSE cannot install smart meters for some customers who live in high-rise flats, whose homes have thick walls, gas and electric meters placed far apart, or where there is no network connection. It has now begun pilot installations of SMETS2 meters.
Utilita says it has already installed smart meters for more than 1.2m of its customers - and more than 90% of them now have a smart meter. Customers can book an installation online. New customers should get a smart meter within six weeks of switching to Utilita, and there are few areas in which it doesn't currently offer smart meters (eg certain parts of North Scotland).
It doesn’t yet have a set date when it will start installing SMETS2 meters.
However, Utilita has filed for a judicial review of the end date for installing SMETS1 meters for pay as you go customers. It is asking for it to be pushed back two years, to 2020. It claims that SMETS1 meters are ‘secure, cost effective, interoperable and provide additional functionality not supported by SMETS2 meters’ for prepayment energy customers.
Smaller energy companies installing smart meters
Bristol Energy, Ebico, Economy Energy, Extra Energy, Ecotricity, Flow Energy, Green Star Energy, Octopus Energy, Robin Hood Energy, Spark Energy and Utility Warehouse had all begun installing first-generation smart meters when we spoke to them in April 2018.
Like the Big Six, most of these said they’re currently trialling SMETS2 meters and plan to roll them out at-scale later this year. Bulb, Good Energy, Octopus Energy and PFP Energy plan to begin their roll-outs in earnest with SMETS2 meters.
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