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Smart meters – taking the energy blindfold off UK households

Imagine going to a restaurant and ordering a three-course meal with little or no idea what it will cost you? Chances are it would take the edge off your appetite as you wondered just how much each mouthful is costing you. More likely still you would decide not to risk it.

Knowing what things will cost us or are costing us is comforting. It helps us make an informed decision about our purchase – whether we can afford it, whether we can’t or if we want to purchase, how much we can afford to buy.

But when it comes to buying energy in the UK we are still in the dark ages, because millions of us receive our gas or electricity bills wondering (and maybe worrying) what the amount at the bottom might be.

We pay for our energy after we use it or pay a direct debit each month hoping it will cover the cost.

It’s not the smartest way to shop but millions of us do it – until now. Because this autumn marks the start of the national roll out of Smart Meters. Between now and 2020, the Government wants every home to be fitted with one.

If you haven’t heard about them yet – you will – as 33 million of them will be fitted over the next 5 years!

So what are Smart Meters and how can they help you?

Smart meters work by showing you in real time from a small in-home display unit exactly how much gas and electricity you’re using and how much that energy is costing you in pounds and pence.

It will show you how much energy and money it costs to boil the kettle, have the heating on or turn every light on in the house by sending automatic electronic meter readings to your energy supplier in real time – displayed on your smart meter screen.

Too intrusive some say. Big Brother is watching us in our homes……

That’s certainly one point of view. But when it comes to energy, if you start to see how much you’re using and what it’s costing you in real time, you have much greater opportunity to make changes and better control your energy usage.

Control that could reduce your energy consumption and save you money by helping change the way you use energy.

Here’s an example. If you see that having the heating on for an hour after everyone has gone to bed has cost you £2.50, you can re-set the timer on your central heating taking into account everyone is tucked up, cosy and warm and the heating doesn’t need to be on. £2.50 per day, over seven days, over four weeks equates to £70 a month saved – which for the winter could mean 5 months of savings.


What if I have renewable energy such as solar?

Good news – because a smart meter will also be able to measure how much energy you generate. What’s more it will also tell you how much energy is left over which you could sell back to the grid.

Do I have to have one?

The national smart meter roll out has just started but it is not obligatory. There is no up-front cost for them as energy companies will fit them to your property for you as they do traditional meters.

On a pre-payment meter? You can still have one and see and control your energy usage in the same way. The wider benefit is that you will be able to top up your meter remotely, online, without heading to the nearest pay point.

What if my energy company gets in touch wanting to fit one?

Ultimately it’s up to you if you have one fitted but it’s worth weighing up the benefits of having one. Plus, if your energy company install one it will be free.

Smart meters will give you a much greater understanding of how much energy you use and exactly how much it costs you, information you can use to help manage your energy bills better. No more guesswork.

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