Smart meters have been rolling out across the UK for some time now and are widely considered to be the future of home gas and electricity meters. The immediate nature of the live data enables energy suppliers to get regular readings from their meters and calculate bills accurately – doing away with pesky estimated bills. With smart-hubs included with some meters, consumers can accurately keep track of how much gas and electricity is being used to change their behaviours accordingly to save energy and cash!
The government wants all energy suppliers to install smart meters into all British homes by 2024 so getting your hands on a smart meter is relatively easy; many providers and most of the best deals on the market now require one too but how do you know you’re getting a good one?
The Smart Metering Equipment Technical Specifications are known as SMETS and following each model number is an indication of its generation number. In most cases, new installations follow the standard of SMETS2 (second generation). Let’s explore each:
Smart meters enabled consumers to stop giving their suppliers meter readings on a regular basis. SMETS1 meters use the same sort of 3G sim card as those found in mobile phones. As a result, your supplier is updated at predetermined intervals.
Customers can keep tabs on their energy usage using the accompanying smart-hub from many energy suppliers. As well as helping the environment, this is a great way to save money on your bills. This smart-hub lets you see how much power you’re using and you can view the data. Then, you can figure out which appliances are consuming the most energy and limit their run time.
While SMETS1 promised a lot, they weren’t able to deliver as much as the industry expected. Unfortunately, switching energy suppliers can make smart meters ‘dumb’. Most SMETS1 meters can work with only one or two suppliers because each company developed their own system. Smart meters from your old suppliers can’t communicate with the software from your new suppliers, so you have to provide manual readings. Nevertheless, the smart hub will still function, so you’ll be able to keep an eye on consumption even if you don’t have the SMETS1 meter connected to your current provider.
Soon to be released is an update to enable all SMETS1 meters to be able to talk to all suppliers after switching and solve the issue of having to provide manual readings so watch this space.
Since 2018 we’ve seen the launch of the next generation of smart meters, named SMETS2. These have all the same energy-saving features of the last SMETS1 generation but with the compatibility to work seamlessly with other SMETS2-ready energy suppliers. So if you switch energy supplier, you won’t need a meter exchange, and you won’t lose your smart meter features.
The SMETS2 update also means that you no longer have 3G sim cards within the meter. Instead the new meters use a secured government network to transfer data (known as the DCC) which keeps your data safe, secure and more easily shared with the right organisation.
The meter generations are very similar in aesthetics so unless there is a specific sticker or additional paperwork with your meter, you probably won’t be able to identify it by sight. Getting in touch with your energy supplier is the fastest route to knowing what SMETS generation you are dealing with.
In theory, you can take an educated guess based on installation date. The SMETS1 meters began rollout in 2017 before being replaced by SMETS2 in 2018 so new smart meters being installed should be the SMETS2 type. Unfortunately, this isn’t foolproof as there is a huge surplus of SMETS1 meters in the industry and many suppliers have kept installing them. OFGEM rules coming into force from March 2019 should fix this going forward as SMETS1 smart meters will no longer count towards government targets.
The easiest way to get your SMETS2 smart meter is to contact your current energy provider and book a slot. Most won’t upgrade you without payment but first time installations are usually a sure thing. Generally, you’ll be able to choose an installation slot within the next 8-10 weeks depending on the provider.
You can but depending on your provider, it is likely that you will ave to pay to cover the costs of the installation as any SMETS1 meters installed before March 2019 already count towards the government roll out targets set for energy firms which means that most will be unwilling to upgrade you for free.