As you may have heard, the government has set the target of installing a smart meter in every household in the UK by 2020. Smart meters are next generation meters for both gas and electricity; they are set to replace your existing meters, which use decades old technology. Smart technology is beginning to revolutionise how we live our lives and the introduction of these meters is another step towards an interactive, technology-dominated lifestyle.
How do smart meters work?
Smart meters use a secure national communication network to automatically and wirelessly send your actual energy usage to your supplier, it’s up to you how often your meter will send this data, but it could be as often as every half hour.
Your old meter does have to be taken out and replaced with a new meter, you’ll also receive an in-house display that will be synced with your meter to provide you with all the information that your old meter gave you, and more.
What are the benefits of smart metering?
A better understanding of how you use energy at home
As mentioned previously, your new smart meter will come with an electronic display, which you can plug in anywhere at your home. This will allow you to see your energy use live, in turn allowing you to understand what items in your house use the most electricity and therefore cost you the most.
So for example, when you turn the kettle on you will be able to see the kw/h of electricity that your house is currently using rise, the amount you have spent over the day will also increase. You should be able to relate this to all the appliances in your home and have a good understanding of your most expensive appliances in your home.
The display also allows you to find out information about your tariff, such as the standing charge and the unit price, having this information at your fingertips will also allow you to make informed decisions about whether or not to switch tariff or provider.
The end of meter readings and estimated bills
Meter readings will now be live, its up to you how often you send the information from your meter across to your energy company, but it could be up to every half hour. Meaning that there is no need for you to ring up and give a meter reading or receive an estimated bill. This feature will be extremely helpful for anyone that finds getting to their meter a struggle.
Prepay meter users
Smart meters will prove most beneficial for houses that use prepayment meters, particularly for when you are close to running out of credit on your meter. Having an understanding of what uses what will allow you to make informed decisions about what you can do with out for a couple of days, if necessary.
Having awareness of how little some household items cost to use will also help those people who are scared of using too much and putting themselves in debt, particularly when it comes to heating their homes in winter time. For example, some people sacrifice heating their whole home and just use an electric heater in one room, which in most cases is actually a more expensive way of keeping yourself warm. This should allow residents to make better decisions about how they keep themselves warm.
As smart meters begin to integrate with other smart technologies it is very possible that we will be looking at a brand new type of tariff being made available to the public known as a, ‘time of use tariff’. These tariffs will be similar to Economy 7 tariffs in the sense that they will offer you cheaper rates during off-peak hours, such as during the working week. This should hopefully help to distribute the demand for electricity away from peak hours, helping the grid to cope with the growth in demand for electricity in the UK.
Hugh Smith is the Project Officer for Warm Homes Peterborough.