Smart meters are the next generation of home gas and electricity meters. They let you view your energy consumption as you go, meaning you can easily manage your fuel bills and stop bad energy habits.
It makes energy saving and cutting costs in the home easy. The government wants every household to have a smart meter by 2020, and the roll-out of these nifty new devices is starting in summer 2012 – so you could start benefiting soon.
What are smart meters?
Smart meters electronically collect data on your household’s energy usage, which not only you can see, but is also fed back directly to your energy supplier. It means you’ll be able to see how much you use and are spending as you go in a much more convenient way.
They’ll replace your existing old meters and will be installed by a professional. Unlike the clunky old meters, they’ll come with handy handheld ‘In-Home Displays’ (see image above) with easy-to-read info on your energy use.
Smart meters will spell the end to inconvenient meter readings as your energy use is automatically recorded at regular intervals by your supplier. Estimated bills will also be a thing of the past, so you’ll never be paying for more than you use just because you were out when the meter reader came round. It means accurate bills based on what you actually use.
Smart meters will also mean that energy suppliers can offer new products, services and tariffs tailored to your exact home energy needs and use.
In a nutshell, they will make your life easier and cut costs.
How do smart meters save you money?
1. Make informed choices on where to save, based on what you’re using – smart meters won’t save you money automatically. But because you’ll be able to easily monitor the energy you are using via your in-home display, you will see what you’re spending on different appliances.
You will be able to see how you’re wasting energy, and it’ll be easier to use this information to cut your energy consumption.
By making simple changes to the way you use energy, it’s estimated that your energy saving will reduce your bill by up to 15% – around £135 a year.
2. Control your energy costs – you will know exactly how much your next bill will be, so there will be no big surprises.
Trials of smart meters in the UK, US and Sweden have already shown impressive reductions in home energy bills, so it’s a tried and tested technology which should really work for you too.
3. Accurate bills, with no more meter readings – you will be able to see in real time how much your bill is going to be. No more submitting meter readings and getting large bills as everything is out of sync.
4. Future products – as well as cutting down on bills by being smarter about energy use, your energy suppliers will also be able to offer you better tariffs, because they’ll be able to see the way you use energy.
For example, you could benefit from special ‘time-of-day tariffs’ with cheaper energy during off-peak periods that’ll save you money.
Smart meters and microgeneration
An added bonus of smart meters, is that if you’re producing your own energy from renewable sources like solar PV or wind turbines, then you could get extra energy tracking options. It’ll make it easier to sell your own microgeneration energy back to the National Grid with the government’s feed-in tariff scheme.
Free smart meters for your home
Several energy suppliers already offer their customers free smart meters. But if yours doesn’t offer them already the government is launching a major programme in summer 2012 to start fitting every home in the UK for free.
Of course, such a major undertaking won’t take place overnight. It’ll take several years for everyone to get one, but by 2020 some 27 million homes in England, Wales and Scotland will be fitted with a smart meter.
It’s a bold move and will help every home take control of their energy use, save cash and reduce CO2 emissions to boot.
If you can’t wait that long for a smart meter, then consider switching to a supplier already offering free smart meter installation. Whether you’re offered one or not at the moment depends on the energy tariff you choose.
Smart meters and energy monitors – what’s the difference?
There’s a lot of confusion about the difference between smart meters and energy monitors. An energy monitor is a device you hook up to your electricity supply and displays how you’re using and saving energy in your home.
Sounds like a smart meter, right? Well, not exactly – the key difference is that energy monitors don’t send energy data to your supplier, they’re just for monitoring how much energy you’re using at home.
Smart meters are tied into your energy supplier and tariff, while energy monitors are stand-alone products. So they don’t have the same benefits as smart meters, but they’re certainly useful. You can buy one off the shelf for around £40 and install it yourself.
Image courtesy of Flickr – Gilgongo