Should I accept a smart meter?

Key information

Should I accept a smart meter?

If your energy company contacted you to switch to a smart meter because your current meter needs to be replaced, it could be a safety hazard not to do so.

But if you really don’t want a smart meter, tell your supplier.

What is a smart meter?

The government has pushed back the smart meter rollout deadline until 2024, and you have the right to refuse a smart meter if you don’t want it.

Energy companies have been urged to take “all reasonable steps” to install smart meters in every home.

If you haven’t already, your energy supplier will contact you by 2024 to arrange an installation. But remember, you can always say no to installing a smart meter.

If you really don’t want a smart meter, make it clear to your provider and they may be able to configure a smart meter to operate in “mute” mode, with all communications disabled.

Be aware that if your energy company has contacted you to change your energy meter to a smart meter because your current meter needs to be replaced (i.e. it is too old) then you should do so. replace as it could be a safety hazard not to do so.

Concerns about smart meters

Here are some of the concerns people have about smart meters and their deployment:

  • estimated cost While there is no upfront charge for customers moving to a smart meter, everyone pays for the smart meter rollout through their energy bills. The cost of installing smart meters is estimated at £ 11 billion. Energy companies are expected to pass cost savings on to customers, but there are concerns as to the extent to which they will.
  • Security and confidentiality Who can see your consumption data and what can they do with it?
  • Health Concerns about radio frequencies and electromagnetic radiation produced. Evidence to date suggests that exposure to radio waves produced by smart meters does not pose a risk to your health. Public Health England provides advice and information on the health implications of smart meters, which can be found on the ESP website.

Key information

What makes the meter “smart”?

  • Smart meters record your home energy consumption
  • They can show you how much energy you are using in real time on a home screen
  • They provide information about the energy you use directly to you or your supplier without anyone having to read the meter
  • This should mean more estimated bills, so you will only pay for the gas and electricity you actually use.

Visit our detailed Who? guide to smart meters to learn more about what smart meters can do, how safe they are, and if you could save money by using one.

What data does my smart meter collect?

Your smart meter records information about how much gas and electricity you have used, but does not store other personal information that could identify you, such as your name, address, or bank account. Your energy supplier will continue to keep your personal data on your account.

All of this information about your energy consumption is highly protected. The law, which is explained in the Energy UK Data guide for smart meters, imposes strict controls on:

  • Your data
  • Who can access it
  • How you choose to share it

It’s your data – you choose what you want to do with it, and you can change your mind about how much and how often to share, at any time. The exception to this if required for billing and other regulated purposes. So you can choose:

  • How often does your smart meter send data to your gas and electricity supplier (month is minimum, daily or half hour are optional)
  • Whether to share data on your energy consumption with other organizations, such as price comparison sites
  • Whether your supplier can use your meter readings for sales and marketing purposes
  • Whether your supplier is allowed to share details about your energy use with other organizations
  • How to access information about your energy to get the most from it

If you want to share your data with third parties (eg energy switching sites to see what tariff you should be on), you have the right to do so.

Your energy supplier will collect the meter readings remotely. If you don’t let them know your preferences, they may collect a daily meter reading.

You will be able to see your energy consumption data in near real time on your home screen. If you want to download more detailed historical data, you can do so from your home network.

Your installer should instruct you on how to read and understand your smart meter display.

Can I still change supplier with a smart meter?

In the short term, obtaining a first generation smart meter could be an obstacle to switching suppliers.

This is because the first generation meters do not yet connect to the central wireless network, called Data Communication Company (DCC).

So, if you are having a first generation smart meter installed and want to switch to a vendor that does not support your smart meter, you may find that the “smart” functionality of your meter no longer works.

If this happens, you will have to take manual readings again, as you would if you had a traditional meter.

At some point during the deployment ahead of the 2020 target deadline, many first generation smart meters will be remotely connected to the DCC network.

When this happens, you don’t have to do anything – it doesn’t require a technician’s visit.

But a third of first-generation meters will need a different solution – and that hasn’t been developed yet.

Ultimately, if you have a first generation smart meter that won’t connect to the wireless network, you’ll need to get it replaced.

Energy suppliers who install smart meters should inform you if you risk losing the functionality of the meter when switching suppliers.

Will a smart meter fit in my property?

Smart meters should generally be fine for most types of properties, but there are exceptions – for example, if you live in a high-rise building with a meter in the basement. For more information on this, contact your supplier.

Typically, your new smart meter goes exactly where your traditional gas and electricity meters used to be.

Can you have a smart meter in a rented house?

If you or your roommates are renting a property and paying the gas or electricity bills, you can choose to have a smart meter installed.

Check your rental agreement before committing to getting one, as there might be a restriction on how energy is supplied to the property you are renting.

This could include the type of meter that can be installed.

If your homeowner pays the energy bill, the decision to buy or not to buy a smart meter is up to them.

Do I need permission from my landlord to install a smart meter?

If your rental agreement says you need to ask permission to change the meter, you need to contact them.

Your landlord or rental agency shouldn’t unreasonably prevent you from getting a smart meter.

Should I tell my landlord about my smart meter?

It’s a good idea to let your landlord know before installing a smart meter, even if your rental agreement doesn’t say you need it.

How to get a smart meter

Everyone has the right to a smart meter, so if your energy company has offered to install a first or second generation smart meter, read our guide on what you need to know about smart meter deployment.

Some of us may have to wait longer than others, but you can ask your provider to see if you can have yours installed now if you want one.

Visit our detailed Which? smart meter guide for more information on have a smart meter installed, and a breakdown of the different smart meter offers from a range of energy suppliers.

To warn

Beware of dishonest traders

  • Home visitors or phone calls claiming they want to make an appointment to install a smart meter could be a dishonest trader trying to rip you off, so be sure to ask for official ID
  • Your energy supplier will contact you directly about smart meters
  • It will always be your energy supplier or a third party working on behalf of your energy company who will come to your home to change your meter.

Rights around the installation process of smart meters

Before receiving a smart meter, your energy supplier should contact you to arrange a convenient time and date for you.

They should also tell you:

  • What to expect
  • How long will the installation take
  • If there are any steps you need to complete before the installation can take place

There are also a number of consumer protection provisions that you should have as part of your smart meter installation.

These include the following:

  • There should be no sales during the installation visit and installers must provide energy efficiency advice as part of the visit
  • Your smart meter installer also needs your permission before the visit, if he plans to talk about his own products.
  • If your installer tries to sell you more or does not provide energy efficiency advice as part of the visit, he is breaking these rules and you should notify your energy supplier.
  • You will also have a choice about how your energy usage data is used, outside of where it is needed for billing and other regulated purposes.

Your rights after having installed a smart meter

If you pay more than usual, receive an unexpected bill, or have an error message on your smart meter, there may be a problem.

If you suspect that your smart meter is faulty or is not recording your data correctly, contact your supplier – they are responsible for making sure your meter is working properly and they should send someone to investigate the problem.

Smart meter installers should teach you how to use your smart meter and give you advice on important safety issues, such as how to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.

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