What is a smart meter?
A smart meter is a new kind of gas and electricity meter which can send regular meter readings to your energy supplier remotely. This means your bills are more accurate because they’re based on actual energy usage information as opposed to being based on estimates.
Smart meters also come with an in-home display (IHD). This is a digital screen providing live usage information – including kilowatt hours (kWh) use and cost in pounds and pence.
What are the benefits?
Smart meters bring lots of benefits with them:
- Save you from having to provide manual readings to your energy supplier
- Help ease uncertainty about the cost of your energy bills
- Provide you with information about energy use habits and how your lifestyle affects your energy use – this should be particularly useful if you're a pay as you go (PAYG) customer because you’ll see how your usage affects your available credit
- In time, will help make switching your supplier easier which means you’ll be able to take advantage of the best deals.
Smart meter launch explained
Most of the gas and electricity meters in our homes were designed decades ago and many of us don’t know much about the energy we’re using. To help tackle this, the government wants to bring Britain’s energy system up to date by ensuring every home and small business is offered a smart meter by 2020. This process is already under way with the first generation of smart meters having been installed across millions of homes with a second generation of smart meters currently expected early 2019.
1st generation smart meter (called SMETS 1)
SMETS stands for 'Smart Metering Equipment Technical Specifications'. This is the name the government has given to smart meter technology. SMETS 1 is the 1st generation of smart meters. We're installing a small number of 1st generation meters and we're prioritising homes which would most benefit from one.
You might benefit from a 1st generation meter more immediately if, for example, you're of a pensionable age, are in a vulnerable situation or need a meter replacing.
Right now you may have read that these meters lose their smart functionality if you switch suppliers. This only happens if your meter isn’t supported by the new supplier, and our meters are widely supported. Plus, please rest assured that the energy industry is working hard to rectify this, so that all 1st generation meters work with all suppliers. The issue is expected to be resolved in mid 2019.
2nd generation smart meter (called SMETS 2)
These meters are similar to 1st in technology but bring the added flexibility of allowing you to switch energy suppliers without losing any smart functionality. However, as stated above, 1 st generation meters will also have this flexibility soon.
Our approach to smart
We’re installing some 1st generation meters to those that will benefit most, as we can do this sooner. We’ll then be installing 2nd generation smart meters for almost all homes and small business customers when the technology is ready. By mid 2019 we aim for our 2nd generation smart meter roll out to speed up and to be installing thousands of meters, and the benefits they bring, per month. We’re not promising exact dates because, like other energy suppliers, we’ll be affected by external suppliers and the progress of the national programme overall.
Download or print information on smart meters
In case you want more information to: download, print and read at a later date, we’ve created an illustrated guide to smart meters and the in-home display.
Smart meter FAQs
How do I get one?
All households and small businesses in Britain will be offered a smart meter by 2020.
There are a limited number of meters available currently, but we’ll be starting to roll out in much higher volumes early 2019. You can register your interest at the bottom of this page and we’ll get to you as soon as we can. If enough of your fellow Bristol Energy customers from your area request one as well, that might just bump your area up the list.
Do I have to have one?
You don’t have to accept a smart meter, but in certain circumstances we may need to replace your meter anyway if it’s reached the end of its lifespan. This can be as low as 10 years, but varies depending on the manufacturer. By law, after a meter has reached the end of its lifespan the meter needs to be changed and at this point we’ll install a smart meter. The energy industry is moving towards smart meters because of the money-saving and environmental benefits they’ll bring.
How much do they cost?
Nothing. There’s no up-front charge and your tariff price will either stay the same or go down.
What happens with my data?
The smart meter system has been designed with security at its heart. The meters are covered by strict UK and EU product safety laws – these laws mean all meters are built to the same high-quality safety and security standards, regardless of your energy supplier.
Plus, new guidelines have been created specifically for smart meters which provide even more protection for your data than the Data Protection Act.
Are smart meters bad for your health?
The short answer is no.
Smart meter radio waves are produced at a much lower level than items we use every single day – like microwaves and mobile phones. The waves are well below internationally set guidelines and Public Health England, an agency which works on protecting and improving the health of the nation, says it sees no health risk from smart meters.
Plus, these meters are covered by strict UK and EU product safety laws. These laws ensure that all smart meters have the same high quality and safety standards, regardless of your energy supplier.
What happens during installation?
We’ll let you know when we start installing smart meters in your area, and someone from one of our meter installation partners will get in touch to book an appointment. We’ll let you know in advance who will contact you and you can opt-out of the process at any point.
We ask for someone over 18 must be present for the installation of your new meter, which should take 60-90 minutes.
The work requires an interruption to your gas and electricity supply so we recommend turning off your appliances before the visit (and remembering to switch them back on afterwards).
An engineer will contact you on the day to let you know they’re on their way. To help everything run smoothly, please make sure our engineers can easily access your meters. The installation includes a demo of the system and energy efficiency guidance.
A few days after your smart meter installation, we’ll get back in touch with you to make sure that everything went OK, and whether you have any questions.
How do I read a smart meter
If you’ve got a smart meter showing the secure logo, you can check both your gas and electricity meter readings by pressing the digit 9.
If you’ve got an Economy 7 meter (day and night rate tariff), you can press digit 6 and this will show your day, night and total readings.
To find your electricity usage, look for a number followed by 'KWH'. For gas, look for 'M 3'.
If you’ve already got a Bristol Energy smart meter, we’ve also put together an in-depth illustrated guide to smart meter and in-home display (1.8MB)
How do I top-up with a smart pay-as-you-go meter (prepayment)?
One of the great things about smart meters is that you can see your meter balance in real time on your in-home display as well as topping-up easily using a variety of methods. You can top-up online, by text, phone and in store. Find out more on topping up with a smart PAYG meter.
Smart meter safety
A short guide covering some common questions around smart meter safety
Smart meter technical troubleshooting
Some key technical questions about smart meters answered
Switching to Bristol Energy with a smart meter
Already got a smart meter and switching to us? Read this quick guide