What is a smart meter? How it can save you money on your bills

Smart meters report exact gas and electricity usage, so could spell an end to estimated bills.

You’ve probably heard of smart meters. They offer a more technologically advanced way of reading how much gas and electricity a household is using. A huge, government-backed rollout is happening now, so if you don’t already have one, chances are you will soon.

So what are they? How do they differ from standard meters? And how can they save you money on your bills? Read on, and we’ll explain all…

[Read more: What is a smart home?]

What is a smart meter?

Quite simply, it’s a next-generation gas or electricity meter. Smart meters come with a separate in-home display unit that shows precisely how much energy you’re using. That way, you should only pay for what you use, rather than risk paying more for estimated bills and recouping the surplus later. It also means there’s no need for you to supply a meter reading.

Because they show your exact energy usage, smart meters also help you keep an eye on how much you’re using, which should help you budget accordingly.

How common are they?

They’re being rolled out now, with the aim to get one in every home in England, Scotland and Wales. By the end of 2020, around 53 million smart meters will have been fitted in over 30 million households and business across the three countries. More than 11 million have already been installed.

How do I get a smart meter?

You’ll be offered one by your energy supplier. They’ll supply and fit the meter, along with a handheld in-home screen, for free. If you haven’t been offered one yet, you can ask them for one by using the contact details on the Smart Energy GB website.

What will my smart meter tell me?

As well as displaying how much energy you’re using in real-time (so you can see just how much power the kettle actually uses), it shows usage for the last hour, week and month, along with their costs. It’ll also categorise your energy usage as high, medium or low. By becoming more aware of your usage and realising how much electricity switching off lights, putting less water in the kettle or using a tumble dryer actually consumes, you should find it easier to cut your usage and with it, your bills.

How do smart meters communicate?

Smart meters have their own secure, wireless network using radio waves. This means they don’t need an internet connection.

[Read more: The connected and smart home explained]

More from BT