There are two types of smart meter: first and second generation. You may see these referred to as SMETS1 and SMETS2, respectively. The type you have depends mainly on when you had it fitted.
Issues with smart-meter installations and how they work have come to light throughout the smart meter roll-out so far. Here we’ve listed the problems we’ve heard about most often and what you can do about them.
We worked with Smart Energy GB, the smart meter consumer-information campaign, and spoke to energy firms to compile these tips.
Depending on which company you switch to, and when you switch, your meter may lose its smart functionality. Check with your new supplier before you switch.
If you do lose smart functionality, in the short term you’ll have to send meter readings to your energy firm again – they'll stop being sent automatically. This is a risk if you have a first-generation smart meter.
However your smart meter should become smart again in future. So far, more than four million first-generation smart meters have been connected to the same wireless network that second-generation meters use. Once connected, your meter’s smart functions should be restored.
If you switch again in future, your meter should also keep its smart functions.
You don’t need to do anything to get your meter upgraded and connected to the wireless network. It will happen automatically. Meters which have lost their smart functions are being prioritised.
Exactly when your meter will be connected to the wireless network depends on your energy supplier, the brand of meter and software it’s using. Some types can be connected now, and the final tests for upgrading some meters is still taking place, according to government.
Some energy firms are telling customers when their meters are connected.
This should solve the problem for the majority of smart meters which have stopped working. The very small number of smart meters which can’t be upgraded will need to be replaced.
It’s possible to switch supplier with your first-generation smart meter and keep it smart. Second-generation smart meters should not lose their smart functions when you switch because they’re connected to the central wireless network which all energy suppliers should be able to use.
Some companies can operate first-generation smart meters from rival suppliers, even if they haven’t been connected to the central wireless network yet. This may be because they use compatible technology or the same brand of meter or have agreements in place.
If retaining smart functionality is important to you, check with a new supplier before you switch that it will be able to get automatic meter readings from your first-generation smart meter. If your smart meter cannot be connected to the wireless network, it may be willing to replace your existing smart meter with a new one.
If your energy supplier goes bust you will be automatically moved to another energy firm. If your energy firm is bought by another company, you often become the customer of the acquiring firm too.
This can result in your smart meter losing its smart functions. This is most likely to happen if you have a first-generation smart meter than is not yet connected to the central wireless network and the new supplier cannot read it.
Your meter should become smart again in future once it is connected to the central wireless network so your supplier can read it.
Your in-home display should start working fully again at this time too.
Smart meters send meter readings to your energy supplier automatically. So you should not need to take smart meter readings.
But if your smart meter stops working in smart mode, you’ll need to take manual meter readings again.
Some in-home displays show your meter readings. You’ll usually need to scroll through the different screens to find them.
You can also find your meter reading on your smart electricity meter and gas smart meter. Most smart meters have a button to illuminate the digital display so you can read the numbers. Some might require you to press several buttons.
Check the instructions that your smart meter installer gave you if you’re not sure. Your energy supplier’s website may also have instructions. If not, ask your supplier for instructions.
Check if your energy supplier is having connectivity issues. You might need to submit readings manually 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.
If your first-generation smart meter stopped working when you switched supplier, read the section above to find out what you can do.
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.
If you have your in-home display for less than 12 months and it has broken, your supplier may be able to replace it free of charge. You may need to pay if you damaged it.
Smart meters need to be able to connect via a 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 into the meter) to do this.
The current hubs will work in most properties, according to government research. If your home is particularly large, or you live in a flat (where your in-home display is some distance from the smart meter), you are more likely to have problems.
A new hub is being developed (called Alt HAN), which should work in the 3-6% of homes that experience such problems; it's expected to be available for installation in 2021.
If your smart meter has also stopped working (for example, if you switched energy supplier) this can affect your in-home display too. As well as being unable to read your smart meters, your new energy firm likely won’t be able to send the pricing information about your new tariff to your in-home display.
It should still show your gas and electricity use in real time though. Your in-home display should work fully again when your smart meters are connected to the national wireless network.
Do not throw away your in-home display. They are covered by the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment recycling regulations (WEEE) which mean that energy suppliers should recondition and reuse in-home displays as much as they can.
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 doesn't 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.
New tariffs which pay you for exporting solar electricity to the national grid require you to have a meter that can give half-hourly readings – generally this will be a smart meter. Find out if these tariffs are right for you in our guide to the .
Smart Energy GB explains that in-home displays will only show how much energy you’re buying from your supplier, but not necessarily energy you generate. They may be able to do this in future. (Solar panel owners already have a PV-generation meter that tells them how much electricity their system is generating.)
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.
A smart meter sends your meter readings to your energy supplier automatically, so in principle your bills should be more accurate than when they rely on you submitting manual readings.
If you had a faulty old meter, or did not submit meter readings and got estimated bills, you might 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.
However, if you're concerned that your bills are wrong, or your smart meter is showing an error message, contact your supplier. It is responsible for making sure your meter works properly. If it can't resolve the issue remotely, it should send someone round to take a look.
Smart meters need to be able to connect to the Data Communications Company (DCC) through a wireless network. First-generation meters use mobile phone networks so may have trouble sending readings to your supplier automatically.
Second-generation meters don’t rely on mobile phone networks. By the end of the roll-out, 99.25% of Great Britain will be covered by the network these meters use. So you should be able to get a smart meter.
However if your home is in the remaining 0.75% then you may not be able to have a smart meter that connects to the full network.
If there's any doubt that your home might not have coverage, make sure you get a pre-installation visit to confirm this.
Suppliers sometimes install prepayment meters for customers who are in debt. With smart meters, it's possible for energy suppliers to switch your meter into prepayment mode remotely.
Energy firms are only allowed to switch customers to prepay for energy where they have checked that it's appropriate to do so.
Your energy supplier must give you seven days’ notice before it switches your smart meter to prepayment mode. If you think your supplier has moved you to prepayment unfairly, you should complain to it first.
If your meter is in a small cupboard or another confined space, then a technician might 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 might 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.
Some people have complained about the impact of smart meters on their health, in particular those suffering from electromagnetic sensitivity or electromagnetic hypersensitivity.
The evidence to date suggests that exposure to radio waves produced by smart meters does not pose a risk to health.
A 2017 study of a selection of smart meters available in Great Britain found that exposure to radio waves from smart meters is below guidelines set by the international body for Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection.
It also found that smart meters expose people to radio waves less than mobile phones and wi-fi equipment.