Ask the expert: How do smart meters work?

Since late 2021, the UK (and much of the world) has suffered from a critical energy crisis. This crisis has driven the cost of household and business bills through the roof, with the annual average small business energy bill currently standing at £9,074 and £4,495 for microbusinesses  (Bionic, September, 2023).

Alongside the cost-of-living crisis, these high prices have put many business owners in a pinch financially. That’s why so many people are choosing to use smart meters to track their business energy consumption.

A smart meter is the new generation of energy meters for gas and electricity. And, while they won’t automatically save you money, they can help you budget your energy bills and even reduce their cost over time. But how?

We spoke to Smart Energy GB, the voice of the smart meter rollout, to discover how you can use a smart meter to your advantage and what you can do to save money on your gas and electricity. Here are your most frequently asked questions on smart meters.

Watch the full video below or read on for the quickfire answers.

Can you tell us what a smart meter actually does?

[Smart Energy GB] Your smart meter simply measures how much gas and electricity you use and automatically shares your usage directly with your energy supplier at least once a month. This means you shouldn’t need to take any manual meter readings.

Are there any benefits to measuring energy use like this?

[Smart Energy GB] The supplier knowing exactly how much gas and electricity you’re using not only ensures you only pay for what you’re utilising (rather than paying your bills based on estimates, but if you are eligible for an in-home display, you can also track exactly how much you’re using in near-real time. That way, if you notice you’re spending too much on your energy bill, you’ll know it and can make changes to how you use gas and electricity.

Are smart meters mandatory for small businesses?

[Smart Energy GB] It is mandatory for the government to offer a smart meter to every small/micro business which meets supplier eligibility. However, you don’t have to accept the offer if you don’t want to.

What if I run my small business from my home? Can I still get a smart meter?

[Smart Energy GB] Absolutely! By the end of 2025, all homes and businesses in the UK will be offered a smart meter. So, you can benefit from a smart meter even if your home is run from a domestic premises.

How does the in-home display work?

[Smart Energy GB] If you are eligible for an in-home display, you can track how much energy you have used so far that day and see what it’s costing you in near-real time.

Not all smart meters are the same, but for the most part, your in-home display will show you the breakdown of your electricity and gas usage and how much energy you have used so far that day. Tracking your energy use could help you identify areas to make changes to cut back on wasted electricity or gas.

To help you understand your device, the engineer who installs your device should show you how your in-home display works during the installation. However, it should be noted that while some businesses will be offered a smart meter with in-home display, there is no obligation on suppliers to offer one and it is therefore not guaranteed.

I’ve heard smart meters could help me save money, is this true?

[Smart Energy GB] Unfortunately, no one can tell you you’ll definitely save money with a smart meter. However, smart meters do make it easier to budget and save when it comes to your energy. And, if you are eligible for an in-home display, it can potentially help you reduce your bill.

Additionally, if you’ve been paying estimated bills, you might save money by only paying for what you actually use as bills are often over-estimated with a standard meter.

Is my personal data safe when I have a smart meter?

[Smart Energy GB] To make sure you’re only paying for what you use, your smart meter shares details of your usage securely with your energy supplier at least once a month.

This information is shared with your supplier via a dedicated and secure wireless network, and they cannot share that information with anyone else unless you provide permission.

Additionally, your smart meter does not hold personal information such as your address, name or bank account.

Do smart meters work with Economy 7?

[Smart Energy GB] Yes, they do! If your home is currently benefiting from an Economy 7 tariff, just tell your provider you’re interested in a smart meter and make sure they know you wish to continue your Economy 7 tariff.

Do smart meters work with solar panels?

[Smart Energy GB] Yes, latest SMETS2 smart meters are deemed to have excellent solar panel compatibility (ESE, 2023).

Can a smart meter work without Wi-Fi?

[Smart Energy GB] You do not need Wi-Fi to run your smart meter. Smart meters do not use Wi-Fi to power the in-home display or send your energy information to your supplier. So, no matter whether you have Wi-Fi in your home or if your Wi-Fi goes down, your smart meter will not be affected. 

Does a smart meter still work if I change supplier?

[Smart Energy GB] If you decide to change supplier while using a second-generation SMETS2 smart meter, the switch should be automatic and won’t disrupt your energy readings, supply or payments. 

If you’re interested in installing a smart meter at your workplace, find out more here.

This article is part of a paid-for information campaign for Smart Energy GB.