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How to get a smart meter

The nationwide smart meter roll-out is progressing well, with more than half of all homes in Britain now connected to the DCC’s secure smart meter network. A better understanding of our home and business energy usage better, can enable new innovative measures that benefit the consumer and the planet, enabling households to control their bills while lowering their carbon footprint.

You can get a smart meter installed by your energy supplier at no extra cost. If you haven't already been offered a smart meter, you can request one from your supplier. It's the first step towards a wide range of benefits from smart functionality.

What are smart meters?

Smart meters are digital energy meters. They measure how much electricity and gas we use like traditional meters, but they send meter readings automatically to your energy supplier, so you don't have to do it yourself. Taking manual meter readings will soon be a thing of the past.

Smart meters also offer real-time monitoring of your energy use via an in-home display (IHD) which lets you see how and when you use the most energy, and what it’s costing you. This knowledge can help you refine your energy efficiency, save energy, and lower your bills.

smart meter

Why should I get a smart meter?

1. More accurate bills

Automatic meter readings provide your energy supplier with monthly, weekly, daily, or even half-hourly readings. Regular meter readings from smart meters end the need for estimated bills, meaning you only pay for the energy you use.

2. It's easier than ever to monitor your energy use

The in-home display shows you how much energy you use and what it costs in real time, allowing you to spot and decrease the use of your most power-hungry appliances or to operate them at off-peak times when prices may be lower, reducing your energy bills.

3. Having your smart meters installed is free

Energy suppliers aim to provide every home and business in England, Scotland, and Wales with free smart meters in the next few years. It's part of the drive to manage energy more efficiently and create a better-balanced gas and electricity energy supply network.

4. They make it easier to switch energy supplier

Different energy companies offer different tariffs; consumers sometimes switch to a new energy supplier to take advantage of a more competitive tariff. Smart meters and the Central Switching Service (CSS) make this process faster, more reliable and more efficient. Consumers are able to transfer data, payment details and account information within five working days, and eventually will be able to switch within 24 hours.

5. You become more energy-efficient, greener and more carbon-friendly

Not only do smart meters and your in-home display allow you to monitor and refine your usage, but your energy provider will also provide tips for lowering your bills and carbon footprint.

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How do I apply for a smart meter?

Most national suppliers throughout the energy industry are rolling out smart gas and electricity meters by area. If you haven’t got one yet, you can apply for a smart meter to be installed through your supplier's website or your online account. Alternatively, you can call their customer service centre, requesting that your old meters be upgraded.

in-home display

Am I eligible for a smart meter?

Smart meters work in all typical situations: you can apply for one if you're renting, are a prepay customer, or if the meter is located outside your property (flats with communal meter boxes, for example).

If you rent your home, you should discuss any changes with your landlord, as each meter may form part of your tenancy agreement, depending on how the gas and electricity are bought. Switching from an existing gas or electricity prepay meter to a smart credit meter is straightforward for customers who want to explore that option.

Our ‘wide area network’ reaches 99.3% of all premises in Britain and stretches tens of thousands of square miles. For some buildings, like blocks of flats or where walls are very thick, the smart meter can't always communicate with the communications hub. To solve this problem, Dual Band Communications Hubs (DBCH), which offer a choice of frequencies, are now being installed. These new communications hubs use a different radio frequency designed to pass through thick walls more effectively; and in some tests it travels up to three times further than the standard single band.

How are smart meter readings sent?

Sending a meter reading doesn't require an internet connection, as smart meters work using the DCC’s secure, standalone network. The DCC network wraps smart meter data within two layers of encryption before sending it over a dedicated communications system. This ensures the data is as secure as possible, backed by the National Cyber Security Centre and in line with Governance and Data Protection standards.

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wide area network

What you need to know about getting a smart meter installed

Installing smart meters is a straightforward procedure. Each provider has their own process, and full details are available on their websites.

  • After application, your energy supplier will provide installation time and date details. A smart meter installer will never appear unannounced and always provide proof of identity for your peace of mind.
  • Installation takes a couple of hours; each supply must be switched off during the changeover.
  • If you have separate suppliers for gas and electricity, you'll need to book individual appointments with both. It’s recommended that you change your electricity meters first.
  • Your installer will provide installation literature and explain how your smart meter and in-home display device operate.
smart meter engineer

Are there different types of smart meters?

First-generation smart gas and electricity meters, also known as SMETS1, don't always allow the consumer to change energy supplier without losing the ability to send meter readings automatically. In that scenario, consumers need to provide a manual meter reading, or face estimated bills.

Second-generation, or more modern meters (known as SMETS2) started being installed in 2018. They allow the consumer to switch seamlessly between energy suppliers as they are connected to a nationwide secure smart meter network. They also put an end to manual readings. The DCC is working closely with energy companies to finish migrating millions of the earlier, first-generation, smart meters onto our network. Connecting these will allow many more consumers to enjoy the full benefit of their smart meter.

Why can older smart meters 'go dumb'?

Many SMETS1 meters in Britain lost their smart functionality if the consumer switched energy supplier, and stopped sending automatic meter readings. If the supplier can’t read this data remotely, the meter is regarded as “dormant”, and the consumer needs to submit manual readings. The DCC was asked to prioritise bringing these older meters onto the network by updating their software “over the air” (ie. without the need for an engineer visit). About 11 million of these first-generation smart meters have now been connected to the DCC’s network, extending the working life of the devices and restoring the full benefits of smart metering for consumers.

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In summary

There are plenty of reasons to get a smart meter, and benefit from having a digital meter connected to the secure network, sending in accurate readings automatically, and showing you your consumption in real time.

In a 2023 survey, Smart Energy GB found that 69% of Brits would like to use energy in a more flexible way: that’s exactly what smart meters enable you to do.

With more accurate bills and the facility to take greater control over your energy use, you won't just take a step towards being greener and more energy efficient, but you could save a little extra cash as you do.

Visit Smart Energy GB to find out more about how to get a smart meter.