What is a smart meter?
A smart meter is a next-generation gas and electricity meter which sends regular meter readings to your energy supplier automatically. 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 help you visualise your energy use. They come with an in-home display (IHD) – a digital screen providing live information, which helps you see your energy use in both kilowatt hours (kWh), and in pounds and pence.
What are the benefits?
Smart meters bring lots of benefits with them:
- save you from having to provide meter readings to your energy supplier – it’s all done automatically for you
- help ease uncertainty about the cost of your energy bills
- provide you with information about your energy use habits
- essential for modernising Britain’s energy system – they enable exciting clean technology developments such as home batteries and the wider uptake of electric vehicles, helping protect our environment for future generations.
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 day-to-day. To help tackle this, the government wants to bring Britain’s energy system up-to-date by ensuring every home is offered a smart meter. This process is already well underway with the 1st generation of smart meters having been installed across millions of homes, and the 2nd generation of smart meters currently being installed across the country.
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.
You may have read that these meters lose their smart functionality if you switch energy supplier. This only happens if your meter isn’t supported by the new supplier, and our meters are widely supported. Plus, the energy industry is working hard to rectify the switching issue, so that all 1st generation meters work with all suppliers – it’s expected to be resolved by the end of 2021.
2nd generation smart meter (called SMETS 2)
These meters are similar to the 1st generation in technology but bring the added flexibility of allowing you to switch energy suppliers without losing any smart functionality.
We installed a small number of 1st generation meters in 2018 and 2019, prioritising the homes which would most benefit from an upgrade.
Since May 2019 we’ve been exclusively installing 2nd generation smart meters, and we’ll be offering them to all of our customers by the end of 2021.
Both Bristol Energy and our installation partner, SMS, strictly adhere to the Smart Meter Installation Code of Practice, which means you can expect the highest standards of service throughout the installation of your smart meter.
Further information on smart meters and in-home displays
In case you want more information, we’ve created a few guides to the smart meter and in-home display:
- illustrated guide to first generation smart meters (SMETS1) and in-home display
- illustrated quick-start guide to second generation (SMETS2) in-home display
- full user guide to second generation (SMETS2) in-home display
Looking for ways to use less energy and save money?
We've created a guide to some simple energy saving tips and some longer-term investments which will make your house more energy efficient.
Smart meter FAQs
How do I get one?
All households in Britain will be offered a smart meter by the end of 2021.
There are a limited number of meters available currently, but we’ll be starting to roll out in much higher volumes very soon.
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?
The smart meter, its installation and the smart display will be provided at no extra cost to you.
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 SMS, our meter installation partner, will get in touch to book an appointment. We’ll let you know in advance that they will contact you and you can opt-out of the process at any point.
We ask for someone over 18 to be present for the installation of your new meter, which should take 60-90 minutes to complete.
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).
When you’re having your smart meter fitted, these are the practices our partner, SMS has put in place to support your safety and theirs.
About the appointment:
SMS will be in touch before your smart meter installation appointment to talk you through the process they will follow to ensure everyone stays safe. You’ll also then be contacted on the day of the appointment to ensure no one in your household is displaying any symptoms. If there is anyone in your household who is isolating or is showing any signs of symptoms, the appointment will need to be rearranged.
Arrangements can be made in advance of the appointment with vulnerable customers to avoid face to face contact, for example, when answering the door.
About our partner engineers:
All SMS engineers have passed specific Covid training and will be wearing PPE (visor, gloves and goggles). They’ll also use hand sanitiser and disinfectant wipes before entering your property and leaving, as well as appropriately during their visit. The engineer won’t eat or drink whilst in your property and will maintain a two metre distance at all times, so we ask you please to respect this. Where space is limited, we’ll ask you to move into a different room to allow the engineer to complete their work. If the engineer feels that the situation is of too significant a risk to themselves and to you and your household, they may look to reschedule the appointment. All their equipment will also be regularly checked and maintained.
You can support us in the following ways:
- Please ensure there are no unnecessary items around the meter site (e.g. coats or bags etc).
- Please leave doors open between rooms that the engineer will need to access (i.e. meter location, any gas appliances that need to be checked, any connected fuse boxes).
- As mentioned above, please ensure you’re not within two metres of the engineer whilst they are working.
- Please don’t offer any food or beverages during the visit as these can’t be accepted.
- Please ensure the engineer is updated if circumstances change before the visit, and a member of household begins to show suspected Covid symptoms.
A few days after your smart meter installation, we’ll get back in touch with you to make sure that everything went okay, and to answer any questions you may have.
Find out more about how we're supporting customers and staff during the Covid crisis.
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 an IMPORT number followed by 'KWH'. If you have solar panels, an EXPORT number followed by ‘KWH’ will give you export your reading for your FiT provider.
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.
A short guide covering some common questions around smart meter safety
Some key technical questions about smart meters answered
Already got a smart meter and switching to us? Read this quick guide