Things are Changing
While smart meter installation is not mandatory for all energy suppliers yet – that will only happen in 2015, after the wrinkles are ironed out in the programme – some suppliers are getting an early start. If you are with one of these suppliers, you should get support and information from your supplier about the installation before it occurs.
If you have not had the changes explained to you yet, here are some answers to general questions that may apply to individual suppliers. You should always verify this information with your own supplier, however, as each supplier has different regulations and plans about how to meet their installation requirements.
What are the energy bill benefits?
With only about half of energy bill-payers knowing about the benefits, it's no wonder that you may be confused about why they need to be installed. After all, you may feel like your current meter does an adequate job of reading your energy usage. Have you had to overpay on a bill because of an estimated reading or are you forced to take and submit meter readings on a regular basis? If this is frustrating, smart meters will be a welcome relief: they automatically tally up energy usage so you can quickly receive an accurate bill every month without having to submit readings.
What about day-to-day benefits
If you're convinced that a smart meter is better for billing but not sure about the in-house component, you may be surprised to learn that most consumers who have one installed in their household find that they use less energy and save money. An in-house display tells you how much electricity and gas you are using in almost real-time, and you can easily see how much energy a particular appliance is using at any given time in pounds and pence. This means it is much easier to see how much money it is costing you to charge a device, run multiple computers, or keep your household heating at full blast while you are at work.
Will you have to pay for a smart meter?
The answer to the question of whether you will pay depends on your installation circumstances. If you are getting a smart meter installed because your company called you and told you that you were due to get a replacement, you will not have to pay for it. If you requested a smart meter and it is before the mandatory rollout begins, you may need to pay a small fee – your supplier should let you know what this fee is.
What if I don't know how to use my smart meter?
The installation experts who install your new smart meter should let you know how to use it. Some companies, including British Gas, are sending certified experts to install the meters so they can also let you know how you can save energy – by adding loft insulation, for instance. These experts can help you get advice on your individual energy situation and how you can reduce your energy bills, further helping you benefit from your smart meter.
How does the installation work?
Various companies have their own systems, but one popular configuration is to have a smart meter instead of a traditional meter for your electricity and your gas, a communications hub to relay data from both units to the energy supplier, and last but not least, an in-home display to tell you this data in real-time. During the installation, your energy supply will likely be briefly cut off. You should receive information from the installation professional or a message on your smart meter display to let you know how to use the in-home display. You will probably need to be present for about an hour and a half while the installation takes place, even if the meters are outside.
Once your new smart meter is installed, you should start to see benefits immediately. Your bills will be accurate, you may get access to smart meter-only tariffs, and you may even get to access a customer support line. You will also be able to begin monitoring your energy usage and taking advantage of off-peak times if your tariff offers a lower price for your energy at certain times of day.
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