Smart Meters: The Snugg 2024 Guide

30 million homes in the UK have a smart meter installed. In this article, we learn all about them.

smart meter

As part of the UK government’s plan to reduce energy usage, smart meters are being rolled out across the country, with the aim of most homes having one installed by 2025.

But what are smart meters? How do they work? And can they help you save money?

Read our guide to find out...

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What is a smart meter?

A smart meter is an electronic device that automatically sends electricity and gas meter readings to your energy supplier. Unlike a traditional meter, a smart meter’s readings can be viewed in pounds and pence using an in-built display and the energy supplier’s website or mobile app. This makes it easier to monitor exactly how much you’re spending on energy.

Smart meters were heralded by the UK government to help people manage their energy usage more easily, reducing overall energy usage and taking us closer to Net Zero. With energy suppliers working hard to roll them out across the country, the government aims for most homes to have a smart meter by 2025.

How does a smart meter work?

Smart meters work by measuring the amount of electricity or gas used by a home and sending this information automatically to the energy supplier.

Here’s the step-by-step process:

  1. The smart meter continuously measures the amount of electricity and/or gas you use and stores this data in its internal memory.
  2. The smart meter sends the stored data to your energy supplier using a built-in SIM card or WiFi connection at regular intervals, usually between every 30 minutes to 24 hours.
  3. If you have an in-home display unit, it will also send usage data and the cost to the display unit so you can see what you're using in real-time.
  4. Your energy supplier will use the information it receives from the smart meter to analyse your usage and calculate your energy bills.
  5. Smart meters can also receive data, allowing your energy supplier to remotely update its software and tariff charges.

Smart meter top up  

If you’re on a pre-payment tariff, you’ll find it much easier to top up your smart meter compared to your previous non-smart meter.

Topping up your smart meter can be done digitally by adding credit via your energy supplier’s website or mobile app. The smart meter will display your balance and deduct your spending in real-time as per your usage.

How are smart meters installed?  

Your smart meter will be installed by a trained engineer on behalf of your energy supplier.

  1. Arrange an appointment for a smart meter installation by contacting your energy supplier.
  2. An engineer will visit your home to assess whether a smart meter can be installed. If your home’s suitable, they’ll return at a later date to install the smart meter.
  3. The engineer will perform safety checks to ensure it’s safe to install the smart meter.
  4. The engineer will turn off your electricity and/or gas supply during the installation process.
  5. The old meter will be removed, and its final readings will be recorded.
  6. The new smart meter will be installed in the same location as your old meter, and a new communication hub will be installed to allow the meter to communicate with your in-home display and your energy supplier.
  7. The engineer will set up your in-home display and show you how to use it.
  8. The engineer will test the smart meter to ensure it’s working correctly and turn your energy supply back on.

The process should take around 90 minutes.

After the installation, your smart meter will start recording your energy usage and sending the data to your energy supplier.

Can you install a smart meter yourself?

Smart meters can only be installed by energy suppliers. So whether you’re in a rush or simply fancy a challenge, you won’t be allowed to fit one yourself. However, your supplier will fit your smart meter for free. So there’s no need to fit one yourself.

Smart meter pros and cons  

Benefits of smart meters

  • Accurate billing: Smart meters automatically send meter readings to your energy supplier, so you'll be charged for your actual consumption rather than an estimated figure.
  • Better energy management: The in-home display provided with your smart meter will show your real-time energy usage and costs, which can help you understand and manage your usage more effectively.
  • Easier switching: With a smart meter, switching energy suppliers is faster and simpler since the new supplier will be able to access your meter readings remotely.
  • Faster fault detection: Smart meters can help identify power outages or other issues more quickly, enabling faster repairs and less disruption.
  • Prepayment convenience: If you’re on a prepayment tariff, a smart meter will make it easier to top up your credit using a computer or smartphone.

Potential downsides of smart meters

  • Installation issues: In some cases, the installation process can be delayed or complicated due to technical issues or the specific location of your existing meters.
  • Signal problems: Smart meters rely on wireless communication so may have difficulty communicating with your energy supplier if located in an area with poor signal strength, such as a basement.
  • Data privacy concerns: Some people are concerned about the security and privacy of their energy consumption data being transmitted wirelessly, though energy providers will likely have strict privacy policies and robust security in place.
  • Health concerns: A small number of people have expressed concerns about the potential health effects of the wireless signals used by smart meters, although government agencies and health organisations have stated that the technology is safe.
  • Potential future price increases: Although smart meter installation is usually free for consumers, energy suppliers need to invest in the technology, which could potentially lead to higher energy prices in the long run.

How to use a smart meter to save money  

Smart meters don’t save you money themselves. Instead, they help you understand your energy usage and reduce it.

  • Track your usage: With real-time data displayed on your in-home display, you can see exactly how much energy you’re using and how much it costs. This can help you change your approach to energy usage, like turning off lights in empty rooms.
  • Identify energy guzzlers: The in-home display can help you notice spikes in energy usage, which can help you pinpoint which appliances are using the most energy.  
  • Time-of-use tariffs: Some energy suppliers offer special tariffs with their smart meters. These plans have different energy prices depending on the time of day. By shifting energy use to off-peak hours (usually at night), you can potentially pay less.
  • Budgeting and monitoring: Some in-home displays allow you to set budgets and track your progress, which can help you stay conscious of your energy use and avoid surprises when you see your energy bill.


Should you get a smart meter?

In most cases, getting a smart meter will help you better understand your energy usage habits and make changes that could reduce your energy bills. But the installation can be disruptive, and some people are uncomfortable with their energy supplier having access to their energy usage habits. Whether you should get a smart meter depends on your individual circumstances and priorities.

Are smart meters compulsory?  

No. Although the government aims for most homes in the UK to have a smart meter installed by 2025, there’s no legal requirement to do so. Your energy supplier will likely contact you to offer a smart meter installation, but you have the right to refuse.

Will smart meters become compulsory?  

It’s unclear whether smart meters will become compulsory. However, this would be an unusually draconian law if passed. It’s more likely that energy suppliers will offer improved rates to those with smart meters, resulting in a greater incentive to have them installed.

Where do I get a smart meter?  

You can request a smart meter from your energy supplier.

Can I get a smart meter as a renter?

There’s no law preventing renters from asking their energy supplier to install a smart meter. However, you’ll want to check your tenancy agreement or speak with your landlord to make sure that there’s nothing in your rental contract that prevents you from doing so.

How much does a smart meter cost?  

Nothing! Smart meters are provided for free by your energy supplier.

How do I take a reading on a smart meter?  

Your smart meter will display a reading, just like your old non-smart meter. But you won’t need to submit a meter reading to your energy supplier as this will be done automatically by the smart meter.

How often does a smart meter send readings?  

You’ll be able to choose how often your smart meter sends readings to your energy provider. You can usually choose intervals of between 30 minutes to 24 hours.

Are smart meters accurate?  

Smart meters are just as accurate as traditional non-smart meters. However, your energy bills could be more accurate due to the increased frequency that your smart meter submits readings to your energy supplier.

Does a smart meter include the standing charge?  

Yes. A smart meter will incorporate the standing charge into the daily, weekly and monthly totals.

How many smart meters are in the UK?

As of the end of 2023, around 29 million smart meters were fitted to homes in the UK.1 That’s around 54% of all homes.

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