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Smart meters explained

Smart meter problems and solutions

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Smart meter problems and solutions

We reveal the most common problems we hear about from customers with smart meters, plus tips on how to solve them.

Issues with smart meter installation and functionality have come to light during the first stage of the smart meter roll-out. Here we’ve listed some of those we’ve heard about, how common they are, and what you can do about them.

So far, most of the smart meters installed are first-generation, or SMETS1, meters. As the roll-out progresses, companies will install second-generation (SMETS2) meters instead, which should not have many of these issues.

Top smart meter problems solved

We asked hundreds of Which? members who have smart meters if they had experienced any problems with their meter or in-home display. Smart Energy GB, the smart meter consumer information campaign, gave us its tips on how best to solve them.

=1. Smart meter turned dumb when I switched supplier (11%)

Solution: Depending on which company you switch to, you may not lose your smart functionality. Check with your chosen supplier before you switch. If you do lose smart functionality, you’ll have to send meter readings to your energy firm for a while, but it will be restored remotely by the end of the roll-out.

In the meantime, some companies can already operate each others’ SMETS1 meters if they use the same software. For example, British Gas told us it can accept smart meters of customers from Co-operative Energy, EDF, Scottish Power, Spark Energy and SSE.  

Octopus Energy said it can take on smart meters enrolled in the Secure system from Bristol Energy, Eon, Extra Energy, First Utility, Ovo Energy and Utilita.

Switching and staying smart doesn’t necessarily work in both directions, though, so check with a new supplier before you switch.

=1. It’s tricky to get a meter reading (11%)

Solution: Most smart meters have a button to illuminate the digital display so you can read the numbers. Some in-home displays (IHDs) have this functionality. Ask your energy supplier for instructions on how best to get your meter reading.

3. Energy supplier cannot get meter readings (9%)

Solution: Check if your energy supplier is having connectivity issues. You may need to submit meter readings to ensure you’re billed accurately while problems are resolved. 

Most problems should be resolved when all smart meters use the DCC wireless network, covering 99.25% of Great Britain.

=4. In-home display doesn’t connect to the smart meter (6%) or stopped working completely (6%)

Solution: The displays work best when close to the smart meter. If your meters are inaccessible or outside, ask your energy supplier for advice. Check if your in-home display has a flat battery or is unplugged. Check the instruction booklet for troubleshooting tips, and contact your energy supplier if the problem persists.

Smart meters need to be able to connect via wireless network to your in-home display so you can see how much energy you’re using. A ‘hub’ is installed with your smart meter (often built in to the meter) to do this.

The current hubs will work in around 70% of properties, according to government research. If your home is particularly large, or you live in a high-rise or low-rise flat (where your in-home display is some distance from the smart meter), it’s more likely that the current hub won’t work. 

We’re also heard from Which? members whose smart meters are in their garage, too far from their in-home display indoors to connect.

A new hub is being trialled which should work in 96.5% of homes. This should be available in 2018. Energy suppliers will provide a solution for the remaining homes.

Other smart meter problems

Smart meter doesn’t work with solar panels

We’ve heard from members with solar panels who have been refused a smart meter, and from others who have had a smart meter installed that does not work with their solar panels. 

The government department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) told us that all smart (SMETS) meters can measure energy consumed (imported) and exported back into the grid.

Smart Energy GB states that in-home displays will show how much energy you’re buying from your supplier, but not necessarily energy you generate. (Solar panel owners already have a PV-generation meter that tells them how much electricity their system is generating.)

Find out more about solar panels and if they're right for your  home.

EDF says it has installed smart meters for customers with solar panels. British Gas, First Utility, Ovo Energy and Utilita told us that they are also able to install smart meters at homes with solar panels. SSE is able to install but advises customers to wait until technical constraints are resolved.

Neither Eon nor Npower are yet installing smart meters for customers with solar panels. Eon hopes to being in the ‘coming months’, following industry-wide technical problems in the earlier stages of the roll-out which have now been resolved.

Scottish Power told us it could not share this commercially sensitive information with us.

If you have solar panels and are offered a smart meter, make sure your supplier is aware. Check whether your smart meter and in-home display will work fully with them.

Smart meter and inaccurate bills

Just 1% of people in our survey were concerned about inaccurate bills once they’d had their smart meter fitted. A smart meter sends your meter readings to your energy supplier automatically, so your bills should be more accurate.

If you had a faulty old meter, or did not submit meter readings and got estimated bills, you may find that your payments change. If your meter was faulty, an energy company can charge you retrospectively for the previous year if you have paid too little.

If you have paid too much, your supplier has to refund you for the whole period that the meter was faulty. Find out how to check if you have a faulty energy meter.

Your home has no access to a mobile network

Smart meters need to be able to connect to the Data Communications Company (DCC) through a mobile network. At the beginning of the roll-out, the DCC is required to connect to 80% of British households. So there will be homes that won't be able to access the DCC network, and these homes won't be able to use a smart meter.

If there's any doubt that your home may not have coverage, make sure you get a pre-installation visit to confirm this.

Nationwide coverage will increase to 99.25% by the end of the roll-out in 2021, when all meters are connected to the full DCC network.

Your energy meter is hard to access

If your meter is in a small cupboard or another confined space, then a technician may struggle to install your smart meter. They may ask you to dismantle the cupboard or move other obstacles to reach the meter.

If your meter is partly concealed in a case outside, then your energy company may not be able to replace it yet. We’ve heard from members whose energy firms aren’t yet replacing these ‘semi-concealed’ meters.

If your meter is positioned very high up, make sure you let your energy company know, so it’s prepared.

If issues with your smart meter continue, read our advice on your rights with a smart meter.