Gas and electricity bills: Will an energy smart meter actually save you money?

·4-min read
Gals and electricity bills: Will an energy smart meter actually save you money? (Photo by Yui Mok/PA Images via Getty Images)
The devices give real time information on how much gas and electricity you are using and how much it is costing you via a small display unit. Photo: Yui Mok/PA Images via Getty

Smart meters have been heralded as the wonder tool which will help households stay in control of their energy bills and reduce their monthly payments.

There were introduced a decade ago and, as of March this year, 24.2 million smart meters have been installed in homes and small businesses in Britain, according to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

Suppliers have until mid 2025 to replace all traditional meters will smart ones.

With more people working from home and energy prices continuing to rise, getting to grips with fuel bills has never been more important.

But the meters have been plagued with issues since the rollout began, including connection problems and difficulties when customers switch provider.

So are they really worth it and do they actually save households money?

Accurate bills

The devices give real time information on how much gas and electricity you are using and how much it is costing you via a small display unit.

The data is automatically sent to your energy provider via a wireless connection, putting an end to estimated meter readings making sure you only pay for what you use. This will mean no more overpayments and chasing providers for credit refunds.

It also gets rid of the hassle of giving meter readings or being home when someone comes to read the meter.

Read more: Ofgem to put energy supplier Bulb in special administration

Consumption data

The meter enables householders to gain a greater understanding of how much their consumption costs — the price of turning on the heating for several hours a day, for example.

Liz Edwards, of financial comparison website finder.com believes smart meters are a good way to effectively install, manage and review your energy usage.

"You will quickly learn how much an appliance uses in electricity, for example turning off the lights after leaving a room will contribute to saving costs,” she said.

Samsung (005930.KS) have recently launched the world's first free smart energy app which syncs with your smart meter. SmartThings Energy, which is accessed via the SmartThings app, takes smart meter data off the wall and puts it into people’s hands.

This makes it even easier to understand your consumption patterns on a cost per hour, day or month and when synced with Samsung devices you have even more data at your fingertips.

Better deals

In theory, having accurate energy consumption data can enable you to identify the best energy deal.

Les Roberts, of business energy comparison site Bionic says since a smart meter lets your supplier know exactly how much energy you are using, "they should be able to give you a more personalised deal and better energy-saving advice".

Read more: UK's biggest water company buoyed by return to offices

The SmartThings app also provides information on the best deals available and allows you to switch within the app.

Currently, due to the energy cap hike, switching supplier won't save consumers money but it is something worth considering in the future.

Viability

Having more data and less hassle sounds great but in reality many of the smart meters that have been installed have connection issues.

The first generation meters (SMETS1) caused problems for thousands of households as the gadgets lost all functionality after the user switched suppliers or the devices struggled to maintain their wifi connection.

These older devices don't count towards the official target figures meaning they will have to be replaced.

Some households have been fitted with smart meters that don't work with their fuel system leading to months of engineer appointments and chasing customer services to get the old meter refitted.

Recently, the government admitted that smart meters will become redundant if Britain ditches gas boilers in an effort to go green. This is because the existing meters are not compatible with hydrogen boilers which are one of the potential green boilers of the future.

Read more: Bulb energy collapse: what customers can do

Another reason why smart meters may not save you money is because it relies on a change in behaviour. A recent survey from MoneySuperMarket found almost a third of respondents had not changed the way they used energy since having a smart meter installed.

Psychological research indicates that domestic behaviour is shaped over time but patterns are hard to shift. So whether the meter will change your own habits, thus saving you money, will be completely down to you.

Watch: Top tips for helping the environment on a tight budget

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