Whatever your attitude towards saving energy, chances are that you will soon have a smart meter in your home. They are a huge aspect of government efforts to reduce carbon emissions in the UK: as part of a £11bn scheme, it is hoped that all homes in the country will have a smart meter installed by 2020.
However, reactions to this have been mixed. On the one hand, smart meters have a great deal to offer when it comes to saving money on your gas and electricity usage. By automatically tracking your usage, a smart meter is able to send accurate updates to your electricity/ gas provider, allowing them to offer you more accurate rates. Many installations also come with smart ‘monitors’, which let you monitor and adjust your usage in real time.
On the other hand, there are several lingering questions about the usefulness, reliability and safety of smart meters. Much of this is simply down to a lack of information, but concerns still remain about the disadvantages of installing a smart meter.
While the potential advantages of smart meters are fairly well known, some people would prefer to stick with their current meter rather than upgrade. Your electricity/ gas provider will eventually offer you a smart meter as part of the national rollout plan; at this point, if you do not want a smart meter, all you have to do is say no!
If you refuse a smart meter, your provider will still be obligated to provide a high standard of service. For example, they will still send out personnel to take readings. The disadvantage is that you will miss out on the benefits of having a smart meter, such as personalised tariffs.
There are ways to be ‘smart’ with your energy without installing a meter. For example, you could choose to install a smart monitor, which will let you keep track of your usage in real time. Paying attention to and taking charge of your usage is a also tried and tested way to actively make your home more energy efficient, rather than relying on your provider.
Another alternative is to have a smart meter installed and to then ask your provider to disable the ‘smart’ feature. If your supplier has provided you with a free monitor, you can still benefit from the installation in this way, though your usage stats will not be sent to your provider. If necessary, you can always have the smart feature turned back on at a later date.
An important thing to realise about smart meters is that although they are being rolled out by energy companies, their usage is government regulated. The collection and sharing of data by smart meters is closely monitored and regulated by the Data Communications Company (DCC), which is itself regulated by the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (Ofgem). As such, there are a number of standards which companies are obligated to meet regarding the use of smart meters.
With that in mind, what are some of the biggest concerns about smart meters?