Smart meters have become commonplace in UK homes. If you don’t have one already, you’ve probably at least been offered one. In the past few years, the number of advanced and smart meters installed in UK homes has skyrocketed from around 4 million in 2016 (including both domestic and commercial premises) to 23.6 million. Since we wrote the first version of this article in 2019, the number of meters installed has shot up by over 7 million as Brits have become more aware of their energy usage and how much they could be shaving off their bills by having one of these little screens in their home.
Despite over 23 million of us having one in our homes, you might still be unsure what a smart metre does, the benefits of having one, and whether it’s worth having one installed.
Here we try to answer all your questions about smart meters, including any you might specifically have about your underfloor heating and underfloor heating kits.
In this article:
A smart meter is a (relatively new) device which takes readings of the energy use in your home. Unlike a traditional meter, a smart meter will send digital readings to your energy supplier every day, helping to make your energy bills more accurate. You can even choose to send details every 30 minutes.
So, how is this different from traditional meters? Basically, it is miles more accurate.
Traditional gas and electricity meters (which are usually found in a box inside or outside your house) roll their dials over to display up-to-date readings. With these meters, the homeowner has to write down the readings and display them for the gas/electricity man to read – or someone from the company comes to take the reading every so often.
If you don’t provide a reading, or if no-one comes, then your energy use is estimated. This means you could pay more or less than what you should be paying for your actual energy usage.
One of the biggest advantages of the smart meter is the amount of money that can be saved by using them. Since the UK Government launched the Smart Meter Implementation programme in 2013, they estimated that smart meters would benefit the economy by £16.7 billion by 2030[i].
Having a smart meter can reduce energy consumption if they are utilised effectively. Having a little screen constantly reminding you of how much money is being spent and how much gas and electricity is being used can make you quickly re-evaluate your usage – leading to people turning lights off when they aren’t being used, being savvier with their heating and not having all their tech on at the same time.
Smart Energy GB reported that 85% of British households saved energy because of behavioural changes caused by the meters[ii].
The smart display is intended to help you assess how your lifestyle impacts your energy use and so how much you pay. It will help you see which of your habits creates a spike in cost to you; then you can make better decisions about how you manage this in the future. It could also encourage the confidence to switch energy supplier, which is always a sound policy when looking for the best value.
Smart meters are also:
These are the most common questions we have heard being asked about smart meters.
You do not need internet for a smart meter to work – they use an entirely different network to submit readings to supplies. Your smart meter communicates with the energy company using a WAN network (called the Smart Meter Wide Area Network). Some displays can connect to your home Wi-Fi, allowing you to access additional features[iii].
No, you don’t have to get a smart meter. Smart meters aren’t currently compulsory in the UK – if you are offered one by your supplier and you don’t want one, tell them. You can change your mind at a later date.
The Government has ruled that energy suppliers should have offered and/or installed a smart meter to all domestic households and smaller businesses by June 2025[iv]. Your energy supplier should contact you about installing one – however, if you want one sooner, you should contact your supplier and speak to them about installing one.
Smart meters are supplied by your energy provided for free. They should not come at any cost to the homeowner.
It is your energy company that will arrange a morning or afternoon appointment with you to come to fix your smart meter. However, they will likely be working with a third-party specialist who is experienced in fitting the meter efficiently.
The installation and demonstration should take around 1.5 – 2 hours. During this time, your power will be off.
The smart meter will use the DCC, which is a secure national communication method. This network communicates wirelessly with the energy supplier. Your meter will come with the in-home display unit that will give you information like kWh (kilowatts per hour) and cost. This will mean that you will not receive estimated energy bills, and you should not have to provide your regular readings.
The short answer is yes. Your underfloor heating system works from your main energy supply. This will be gas for your boiler powering your wet system, or electricity powering your dry system. Therefore, as with anything within your home, you will see the impact of your heating on your energy costs.
The two systems complement each other. The point of both is to give you control. Your underfloor heating, with its different zones, allows you to heat some parts of the home and not others more efficiently. Your smart meter can give you real-time data on the success of using this functionality, helping you to be more selective with the power used.
The short answer is: yes. Your smart meter is a safe and reliable means of measuring your energy use. First, the whole point of the smart meter is to empower you to save money. The energy companies are being encouraged to roll-out smart meters by the government as a way of addressing concerns over utility costs. You will not be given lower prices for your energy, but it will provide you with the insight to allow you to make changes that could save you cash.
The meter is also safe. It is subject to the same safety testing and regulation as all your other home technological devices. If you feel your baby monitor and your mobile phone are safe to use, then you should be happy to use a smart meter too. Energy companies insist that smart meters exceed UK and EU regulations on safety.
If you are worried that getting a smart meter fitted will just encourage a salesperson to come around and sell you lots, there is no need to worry. Ofgem, in the Smart Metering Installation Code of Practice, prohibits the company from selling during installation.
Ben Welling. (2019). Smart meters offer the key to changing energy behaviour at home. Retrieved from Smart Energy GB: https://www.smartenergygb.org/en/resources/press-centre/press-releases-folder/usage-tracker-may-2019
Bulb. (n.d.). https://help.bulb.co.uk/hc/en-us/articles/360026206852-Do-I-need-Wi-Fi-to-get-a-smart-meter-. Retrieved from Bulb: https://help.bulb.co.uk/hc/en-us/articles/360026206852-Do-I-need-Wi-Fi-to-get-a-smart-meter-
Energy Saving Trust. (2020). The success of smart meters. Retrieved from Energy Saving Trust: https://energysavingtrust.org.uk/the-success-of-smart-meters/
uSwitch. (n.d.). When will my smart meter be installed? Retrieved from uSwitch: https://www.uswitch.com/gas-electricity/guides/when-will-i-get-smart-meters/
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