Friday 24 May 2019

Finance Fridays – Are Smart Meters Working?

We were looking at claiming PPI refunds before the final deadline for last week's Finance Fridays.

This week we are talking about smart meters. The government has been hoping to roll out 53 million smart meters into homes by 2020 but there has been a number of concerns about them. What's been putting people off smart meters and what are the benefits of having one?

The problems

Many of the problems with the functionality of smart meters have occurred with the first generation (SMETS1) smart meters that were rolled out initially. Over 13 million of these have been installed so that's a lot of people who may have been affected.

Can't switch suppliers – Once your current deal has ended with your energy supplier it makes sense to shop around for another deal. Some people have stated that some energy companies aren't accepting new customers with smart meters. Others have said once they have switched the smart meter has stopped working.

If the energy company you are hoping to switch to doesn't accept smart meters then it may be worth waiting a few months. They will need to get up to date with smart meters especially since so many have now been installed.

If the smart meter stops working after you have switched then you may need to start sending manual readings for a while. If the situation continues and the energy company is unable to get your smart meter working it may need to replace it either with a different one or switch you back to a traditional meter.

Just stop working – There are a number of reasons why a smart meter may just stop working and mostly it is not the actual smart meter itself. One of the confusions around smart meters is that people think the little handheld device with all the readings on is the smart meter. It isn't as it is just a visual display showing your usage. Not being able to see your usage on this may be frustrating if you have got used to it but it doesn't mean the smart meter isn't working and sending back the correct readings to your supplier.

If your smart meter has completely stopped working and no longer sending readings back you will need to start reading it yourself. The plan is that by the end of 2020 all first generation smart meters that have stopped working will be fixed or replaced. It's quite a time to wait for technology that was meant to be used by the entire country.

Health and security concerns – The official line is of course that smart meters are completely safe but naturally people are going to be worried about them. They connect to the wi-fi network but since most of us have wi-fi installed in our homes already this shouldn't pose any further problems. There have been reports of people who suffer with electromagnetic sensitivity and electromagnetic hypersensitivity having problems with smart meters. If you know that something like that could affect you then read up before you have one installed. Remember, it is not compulsory to have one in your home.

There have been reports that smart meters in Spain were able to be hacked. The second generation of smart meters have been designed by UK intelligence and GCHQ and made so they can't be hacked. There will always be concerns however the information that your smart meter sends back is your energy usage which doesn't sound like its worth taking the trouble to hack. If you are afraid that someone will use the smart meter to steal your electric supply or put their usage onto your bill then this is something that can be done with the traditional meter as well.

The benefits

See what you've spent – If you struggle to manage your energy bills then having the visual display that comes with your smart meter will help you see what you are spending.

Helps to cut down energy use – By seeing that affects your energy usage you can identify what areas you can cut down on. When you turn off the lights have you noticed that the amount spent slows down? Over time you can see what you use around your home does to your energy bill.

Saves having to read the meter manually – Is your energy meter inside your house and do you have to let someone come into your home to verify the readings? Do you forget to read your meter and find your bills are estimated? This could mean you don't pay enough and end up owing a lot of money. Smart meters are designed to cut all of this out by sending all the information directly to the energy company.
Do you have a smart meter? Have you had problems with it?

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