Smart Meter Installation: How Does it Work?

man uses smart meter through mobile app

By 8 min read


In recent years, smart meters have found their way onto the growing list of essential household appliances. In fact, the UK Government has set out to install smart meters in all households across the country, in an effort to make homes more energy efficient.

If you’re considering getting a smart meter, whether to shrink down your carbon emissions or save on bills, you’ll be pleased to know that the installation process is fairly straightforward – but there are a few things you should know about before calling out an engineer. Fortunately, we’ve got you covered with everything you need to know before making your decision.

And if you want another way to cut costs, just fill in this quick form, and see how much you could save by switching energy suppliers.

man uses smart meter through mobile app

How long does it take to install a smart meter?

 

The time it takes to install a smart meter will vary from property to property – it mostly depends on where your current meter is located.

If you’re getting both gas and electricity smart meters installed, it can take up to 3 hours. If you’re only having a smart meter installed to monitor your electricity usage, however, you can expect it to take roughly between 1 and 1.5 hours.

How much does a smart meter installation cost?

 

The good news is that smart meter installation is completely free! According to Ofgem, UK residents currently pay for the cost of a meter and its maintenance through energy bills, and this will be the same for smart meters.

There’s a chance that energy companies will raise their prices to cover the cost – but that’s why there are services like this one, which can tell you how much you could save by switching suppliers

How is a smart meter installed?

 

To start off with, you’ll need to contact your energy provider to book an appointment. Once you’ve done this, an engineer will visit your home to install your smart meter. 

We’ve outlined a few things to remember and anticipate before and during the installation.

 

Things to do before the installation

  • Make sure someone’s at home for the installation (they’ll need to be over the age of 18) 
  • Clear the area around your existing meter(s)
  • Switch off and unplug sensitive electrical equipment, like your TV, satellite system, or alarms

 

What happens during your smart meter installation?

  • Your gas and electricity will be turned off for about 20 minutes
  • Once the smart meter is set up, your engineer will test it and then explain what the system does, show you how to use it, and answer any questions
  • Depending on which energy provider you’re with, the engineer might also point you towards an online guide, where you can learn more about your smart meter and get some energy-saving tips

 

Can I install it myself?

It’s recommended that only experts from your energy supplier install your smart meter. This way, you can avoid any health and safety risks – especially since you’ll be dealing with electricity and gas. 

Where can smart meters be installed?

 

Smart meters can be installed in properties of most shapes and sizes. In fact, Ofgem suggests that smart metering communications coverage will reach over 99% of households in Britain by the end of 2020. 

If you own a property, the main thing you’ll need to worry about is the placement of your meter. Smart meters should generally be suitable for most property types, but there are exceptions – for example, if you live in a high-rise flat with a meter in the basement. 

It’s also important to clear the area around your meters for easy access. OVO Energy suggests the meter dimensions below:

  • Electricity smart meter: W 130mm, H 217mm, D 63mm
  • Gas smart meter: W 235mm, H 262mm, D 167mm

 

Can smart meters be installed in rented accommodation?

Renters may be eligible for a smart meter, since Ofgem is encouraging landlords to help their tenants benefit from the national rollout of smart meters.

If you pay your energy supplier directly for the gas or electricity in your rented property, you can choose to have a smart meter installed – but we’d recommend you tell your landlord before you do this. There may be rules in your tenancy agreement about how energy is supplied to the property, including the type of meter that can be installed. 

If your landlord pays the energy bill for the property, however, the decision to get a smart meter is up to them.

Smart meter installation problems

 

Despite the key benefits that smart meters have to offer, there are also a few problems that can sometimes crop up for certain customers. Check out the chart below to compare the most common issues with smart meters:

Data from Which?

Can I refuse to have one installed?

 

While most people stand to benefit from smart meters, they aren’t compulsory, and you can choose not to have one installed. However, choosing not to have a smart meter may mean you don’t have access to all the available tariffs on the market – some of which could be cheaper.

If you don’t want to have a smart meter now, you will still be able to have one installed for free at a later date.

With this in mind, it’s also important to note that if your energy company contacts you in order to replace your current energy meter, then it’s probably wise to do so, as it could be a safety hazard.

So, should I install one?

 

It all really depends on how you plan on using your smart meter. If used properly, these handy devices can help you track your energy costs, and understand where you might be able to make reductions that could save you money. Plus, getting a smart meter means you’ll no longer have to put up with estimated billing – so you’ll only have to pay for the energy you actually use.

As part of the government’s new initiative, suppliers are also offering a range of cheaper tariffs for households with smart meters, which might lead to even more savings. 

If you’re a prepayment customer, there are particular benefits for you:

  • Your energy supplier may be able to offer you new and more flexible ways of topping up your meter that mean you don’t have to visit a shop
  • You’ll be able to see your balance on your in-home display, so you won’t unknowingly run out of credit
  • You can set your meter to automatically top-up, so you won’t be left without power if you run out of credit at night or when the shops are shut

couple sorting out energy bills

FAQs

 

How many smart meters have been installed in the UK?

There have been 15.3 million operational smart meters installed as part of the government scheme. This equates to an average of 564,474 meters installed across the UK per quarter.

 

Who installs smart meters?

Your energy supplier will install your smart meter at no extra cost – and the installation only takes a couple of hours, so it’ll be up and running in no time. 

 

Does having one installed cause significant problems? 

Overall, 66% of people say they’re either ‘very likely’ or ‘fairly’ likely to recommend smart meters to a friend. Meanwhile, a further 28% stated they were ‘neither likely or unlikely’ to recommend them. 

One of the main issues that people find with their smart meters, however, is when they ‘go dumb’ after switching. After switching energy suppliers, users typically see their units lose smart functionality, including displaying real time data and automatically sending readings to suppliers. This is because not all suppliers are up to speed with the new technology – a problem that potentially won’t be ironed out until the government rollout is completed. 

Poor mobile network connectivity is also a common issue that pops up for users. Smart meters use existing mobile network connections to send real-time data to display units and meter readings to suppliers. So if you live in an area that has poor connectivity, or you just struggle to get a mobile signal in your house, your smart meter might not work as you’d hoped.

 

How much can you save? 

A smart meter won’t automatically save you money – how much energy you save will be up to you. The best way to do this is to use the digital ‘in-home’ display that you’ll be offered with a smart meter to keep track of how much energy you’re using. Once you know this, you’ll be able to figure out which areas around your home are eating away more energy. 

Next steps

 

If used properly, smart meters can help your home become more efficient and less costly – and, as an added bonus, getting it installed isn’t a lengthy process. It’s a win-win!

If you don’t think a smart meter sounds right for you, however, there are still lots of other ways you can save energy around the house. If you want another way to cut costs, just fill in this quick form, and see how much you could save by switching energy suppliers.

Beth Howell Writer

Beth is The Eco Experts’ newbie. She’s keen to use her writing skills, and passion for green living, to help the environment. Whether you’re after a new boiler, or just interested in how solar panels can improve your home, she’s got your back.