What is a smart meter?

A smart meter is a new type of electrical meter that records your energy consumption in micro-segments, usually of an hour or less. Although meters that measure energy at intervals do already exist, many previous types of electricity meter simply added energy consumption to a grand total which then had to be deducted from the previous measurement taken.

This leads to difficulties with accuracy, and means that you either have to read your own meter regularly, or the energy company must send someone to read it for you.

Why are smart meters being implemented?

Smart meters are different to previous interval meters in that they have a two-way communication system that sends energy consumption data back to the central network on a daily basis. This eliminates inaccuracies in the meter reading process, and saves customers the hassle of arranging a visit from their energy company.

Smart meters also end the need for estimated bills, and therefore large unexpected bills, which remain one of the biggest issues for energy customers. The government hopes that accurate bills will lower the cost of energy for the average household, and allow consumers to better understand when they use electricity, and therefore how to reduce consumption.

The downside is that the total cost of rolling out the switch to smart meters will be passed onto consumers in their energy bills. The idea is that in the long-term this initial cost will be made back in savings. However as energy companies have generally been unwilling to pass on savings to their customers, many parties remain sceptical.

How do I get a smart meter?

The UK government has planned a rollout of smart meters for all households and offices in the UK by the year 2020. Initial installations had already begun by some suppliers at the end of 2012. A comprehensive campaign will commence in 2014, when the project will be communicated to the general public.

Most suppliers are already allowing customers to register their interest, so if you would like to be one of the early adopters to smart meters, call or visit your energy supplier’s website for details.

If you are looking to switch to a smart meter tariff, you can use Energy Switcheroo to compare energy tariffs for you!