Frequently asked questions
What are smart meters?
Smart meters are the new generation of electricity and gas meters. They automatically send meter readings directly to your energy supplier – which means no more estimated bills. Instead, you’ll receive more accurate bills and won’t have to send us meter readings any more.
Smart meters are being installed in homes across Britain for free – and we’ll be in touch soon to let you know when we’re ready to install yours.
How do smart meters work?
Smart meters use wireless communication technology to pass information – such as meter readings – between customers and energy suppliers.
Smart meters operate on two networks:
The Wide Area Network (WAN) – this allows smart meters to communicate with suppliers over a long distance. Customer meter readings are sent to their supplier using a mobile signal – a bit like sending a text on your mobile phone.
The Home Area Network (HAN) – this is the network that allows your electricity and gas meters to communicate with each other, and with your In-Home Display.
Put simply, your smart meters communicate with you about your energy consumption through the HAN. And they send us your meter readings through the WAN.
How safe are smart meters?
Smart meters use low level radio waves to send meter readings to energy suppliers.
There are many everyday devices which use radio waves – for example, radio and TV transmitters, mobiles phones and Wi-Fi.
Public Health England (PHE) have reviewed the evidence and concluded that exposure to these low level radio waves poses no health risks. Smart meters have gone through rigorous safety testing procedures, and exceed every UK and EU safety standard. PHE say that exposure to radio waves from smart meters is well within guideline levels, and is many times lower than the exposure from Wi-Fi or mobile phones.
Are smart meters secure?
Security has been a really important part of the smart meter programme from the start.
Smart meters don’t connect to the public internet – they operate on a secure system.
The meters store information about how much electricity and gas you’ve used, but they don’t store any personal details such as your name, contact information or bank details.
No one will be able to see your consumption data without your consent – it’s between you and your energy supplier.
What are the benefits of smart meters?
One of the things that we’re most excited about when it comes to smart meters is the environmental benefit we should see.
Smart meters show you how much energy you’re using in real time, so you’ll be able to see where you can turn appliances off to lower your energy consumption. And doing this won’t just reduce your bills – it’ll help to reduce your carbon footprint too. Research shows that European households have reduced their energy consumption by an average of 10% using smart meters.
Your In-Home Display shows you exactly what energy you’re using at any given time, which will help you to see where you can cut down your consumption.
Smart meters will also help to make renewables even more viable as an energy source. Smart meters and the smart grid provide the technology to help manage the energy supplied by renewables – and with the development of energy storage technology, we should be able to store energy generated by renewables and feed it into the grid whenever it’s needed.
When will my smart meter be installed?
We’re installing Smart meters in stages. Our meter operator, Magnum, will be in touch with you when installations are about to start in your area.
How will my smart meter be installed?
Both your current electricity and gas meters will be replaced with smart meters, and you’ll also receive an In-Home Display.
An engineer will visit your home, safely remove your old meters, install new smart meters, and then talk you through how to use them.
What is an In-Home Display?
An In-Home Display (IHD) is a device a bit like a smart phone that shows you how much electricity and gas you’re using at any time.
It can also show you how much this is costing you in pounds and pence (as well as kilowatt hours), so it can help you understand how your home is using energy – information you could use to help you save money on your energy bills.
How do I read my smart meter?
I'm on Economy 7 - will my smart meter show me separate readings for my on-peak and off-peak use?
Yes – you can find out how to read your Economy 7 meter here.
Your smart meter Economy 7 on-peak times are 7am – 12am (midnight), and off-peak are 12am – 7am.
Remember, you can also use your In-Home Display to check on your ongoing energy use at any time.
My smart meter is positioned awkwardly - can you move it for me?
A smart electricity meter can be positioned anywhere on the backboard, but nowhere else, and the gas meter can’t be moved at all. If you have difficulties getting to your new smart meters and want to move them to somewhere more convenient, you’ll need to speak to your local Distribution Network Operator (DNO) or National Grid. Just to let you know, they will charge you for the changes you request.
How long will my smart meter last for?
All meters are certified for a set period of time – usually around 10 years. Once this certification has expired, it’s up to your energy provider to arrange for your meters to be replaced, to meet government guidelines. You can find more details of the government policy here.
However, technology is moving forward so quickly that in 10 years we may be offering you even smarter smart meters!
Can I switch energy suppliers if I've got a smart meter?
You can move to a new energy supplier anytime you want – and with Ecotricity, there are no exit fees or penalties.
If your new and old suppliers both use the same make of smart meter, you should be able to continue using your current meters.
Before you commit to switching, talk to your new provider. Ask them whether you can keep using your smart meter and all its functionality, or whether it will become a traditional meter when you switch.
To find out, make a note of your meter serial number, and the make and model of your smart meter, and ask your new provider whether their systems can exchange information with it.
What happens to my In-Home Device if I switch?
If you have an IHD and your new provider uses exactly the same make of meters as your old supplier, you should be able to carry on using it. You’ll be able to check your consumption amounts in kWh, but your new supplier will need to re-programme your meter with their rates and your new tariff before the IHD can tell you how much you’re spending on your energy.
Talk to your new supplier about this – or ask them whether they can offer you a replacement at no extra charge.
Can I opt out of having a smart meter?
Yes, you can opt out of having a smart meter installed at any time. If you’d like to opt out, email your name and account number to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0345 812 5555.
To find out about the Smart Meter Installation Code of Practice (SMICoP), head over to their website.
Smart Metering Hotlines
We're open from 8.30am – 7pm (Monday to Thursday), 8.30am – 6pm Friday, and 9am – 4pm Saturday.
Out of hours you can email email@example.com - we’ll get back to you ASAP.
- Customer Service: 0345 555 7 100
- Smart PAYG: 0345 812 5555
Prefer to phone a landline? Call 01453 761482.
Top Up Your Smart Pre-Payment Meter
You can also top up online, or you can call our automated hotline 24 hours a day on 0345 812 4444.