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UK Smart Meters: Everything you need to know

UK Smart Meters: Everything you need to know

Over the last decade, Smart Meters have been replacing traditional meters in an increasing number of UK homes. But what are Smart Meters, how do they work, how do you go about having one installed, and what are the advantages and disadvantages of having a smart meter in your home or business premises? Let’s find out…

What is a Smart Meter?

Smart meters are the latest energy meters being introduced to residences in the UK. They have been replacing the prepayment and traditional or “dumb” meters that were previously fitted in homes, in recent years.

These devices monitor and record your electricity and gas usage. They also provide accurate data on your energy usage to your energy supplier in real-time.

Smart Meters comprise of two primary elements:

The meter

The meter is a smart data network connected by a wireless network connection. It sends real-time information regarding your energy usage to your energy supplier.

In-home display (IHD)

The IHD is a tablet-like gadget that allows you to keep an eye on your energy usage and to make various alterations when desired.

How do smart meters work?

The way smart meters work is comparable to mobile phones – they use a wireless network connection. However, the secure wireless national connection used is only for smart meters.

The smart devices in your home, including your electricity and gas meters all connect through a communications hub. Usually attached to, or a part of, your energy meter, this hub allows your smart meter to instantly communicate with your in-home display through the smart meter home-area network.

These appliances not only exchange information with one another but provide the homeowner with information on their energy usage. A smart electricity meter, for example, is connected to the mains and will inform you – in real time – how much electricity you are using at any given point in time.

Gas smart meters work a little differently. They are battery-powered and remain in sleep mode most of the time, only engaging every 30 minutes to take a gas usage reading. 

Close up of an electricity smart meter.

How many different types of smart meters exist?

There are currently two types of smart meters available on the market. These are the SMETS1 and the SMETS2 smart meters. SMETS is an acronym for Smart Metering Equipment Technical Specification.

The first-generation smart meter, or SMETS1, was the first smart meter installed in millions of homes across the UK. These meters were initially flawed – often losing their smart functionality if/when a customer changed energy suppliers. This issue was resolved by connecting these models to the central wireless network.

Energy companies are currently rolling out SMETS2, the second-generation smart meter. Unlike the SMETS1, these models were designed to automatically connect to the central wireless network, enabling all energy suppliers to operate them without any issues.

The easiest way to tell if your home is equipped with a SMETS1 or a SMETS2 smart meter is to look at the serial number. If it begins with 19P you probably have a SMETS1. If the serial number begins with 19M it’s more than likely to be a SMETS2 meter. If you’re still unsure, then we recommend contacting your energy supplier directly to verify the model.

How can I get a smart meter installed?

Despite the massive rollout of smart meters taking place across the UK, these devices are not available to everyone immediately. If you want a new, or upgraded, smart meter installed at home, or you have a development, business, or large project that requires meter connection, Crown Energy can help.

Our expert team can take care of your metering requirements from start to finish. We work with a trusted network of providers which helps to mitigate timescales for the work to be completed. We also provide meter connection, disconnection, and removal services across mainland UK, so, no matter your location, we can work to find you the best compatible meters for your project and deliver the connection in a timely manner. If you live in an area that is not currently having smart meters installed, we can liaise with the relevant authorities to try and expedite your smart meter installation.

It’s also possible that your home isn’t compatible with smart meter installation. This could be due to several reasons, including the location of your current meter. Again, Crown Energy can help to find a solution.

What are the benefits of smart meters?

There are many perceived advantages and disadvantages of installing a smart energy meter in your home. Below are some of the benefits and drawbacks associated with these devices.

Advantages of smart meters

  • It’s easier to monitor your energy usage and costs:

As you’re able to monitor your energy usage on your IHD, this allows you to manage your energy consumption more closely. At any time, you can see the amount of energy you are using and how much this is costing you. This can assist you in changing, for example, the times of day when you switch the washing machine on, therefore helping to reduce your energy bills, and saving you money.

  • You won’t receive any more estimated energy bills:

As your energy supplier receives your energy usage information in real-time, they’ll no longer need to estimate your electricity usage based on previous behaviour. You’ll only receive precise bills based on your actual usage.

  • You’ll no longer have to submit meter readings:

Smart meters eliminate the need to have personnel enter your premises on a monthly basis to take energy usage readings – if your meters aren’t located outside.

  • It’s easier to detect any electrical issues:

Any electrical issues in your home, including faulty electrical appliances, can be picked up through monitoring your energy usage on your IHD. You’ll know this is occurring as you’ll see excessive spikes in activity.

Disadvantages of smart meters

  • Smart meter technical issues:

Like with any new technology, the rollout of smart meters has come with some developmental glitches and challenges. As mentioned above, owners of the SMETS1 experienced a loss in smart functionality when switching energy suppliers. This issue has been resolved with the SMETS2 model.

  • Network coverage issues:

It’s possible for smart energy meters to experience poor network coverage or a complete loss of signal. This may occur for several reasons, including the location of your home, how high up you live in a block or flats, the thickness of your walls, or the distance between your electricity and gas meters. If you’re experiencing this issue, your energy provider should be able to help you discover the reason/s for the problem.

Senior Woman with Smart Meter Trying to Keep Warm by Radiator during Cost of Living Energy Crisis
  • Concerns over health issues:

There have been differences in opinion over the impact smart meters may or may not have on people’s health. Smart Meters are known to emit electromagnetic radiation (RMR), in the form of radiofrequency radiation. This is a by-product of radiofrequency waves.

To put this into perspective, research has found that the safety limit for RF radiation is 1,000 micro-watts per meter squared. Some smart meters are known to produce up to 60 times this amount.

However, some industry experts have found that the radiation produced by smart meters is non-ionising radiation which has very little impact on health. It’s safe to say that when it comes to deciding if smart meters are right for you, it’s always a good idea to conduct your own thorough research and consider all the presented information.

  • Concerns over privacy and security:

Many people have both privacy and security concerns relating to the use of smart meters.

According to Consumer Protection Advocate, Smart Grid Awareness, there are multiple potential privacy and security concerns that come along with the use of smart meters.

There are, however, ways to mitigate these risks such as an effective IoT device management platform. You can read more about potential security and privacy risks, as well as what you can do to reduce these risks here.

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