We think smart meters are great. That said, smart meters have been in the news a lot. So we’ve answered a few of the most common questions we’ve been asked, to help you decide if you should get one.
Does it cost money to get a smart meter?
The smart meter installation is free. An engineer will visit your home to take out your traditional meters and replace them with new smart meters, and you won’t have to pay a penny.
But that’s not to say smart meters are completely free. Installing them in everyone’s homes and then maintaining them costs money. The cost is spread across everyone's bills, just like the cost of running and maintaining traditional meters.
Do I need an internet connection to get a smart meter?
No. You don't need Wif-Fi or an internet connection to get a smart meter.
Smart meters send readings to suppliers via a dedicated smart network. It doesn't rely on your home Wi-Fi.
But the In-Home Displays we supply are able to connect to Wi-Fi. In the future, if you choose to connect your display to Wi-Fi, you will see more detailed information in your Bulb account online.
Can I switch suppliers if Bulb installs my smart meter?
Yes. We’re installing second generation smart meters (also known as SMETS2 meters). These will stay smart even if you switch supplier.
Not all smart meters worked this way. The first generation of smart meters (SMETS1 meters) didn’t stay smart when you changed supplier, meaning they no longer sent automatic readings. As a result, suppliers have been encouraged not to install SMETS1 meters since 15 March 2019.
Things are changing for SMETS1 meters though. A national programme is currently underway to automatically upgrade all SMETS1 meters so they work like SMETS2 meters. If you had a SMETS1 meter when you joined Bulb, we'll be in touch as soon as we can read it.
Are smart meters dangerous to my health?
Smart meters use radio waves or a mobile signal to send meter readings to your energy supplier, on a par with baby monitors and mobile devices.
Public Health England consider this to be well within the allowed guidelines for wireless transmission devices. Read more about smart meters and health at GOV.UK.
Will a smart meter really save me money?
Smart meters alone will not save you money. But they come with an In-Home Display – that's a small, moveable screen which shows you clearly, in pounds and pence, your energy costs in real-time. Being able to see this information can help you to make changes to your habits that will reduce your energy usage and cut your bills at the same time. According to Smart Energy GB, 86% of people with a smart meter have said that they have changed how they do things around the house to use less energy. And using less energy is the best way to start saving.
Do I have to get a smart meter?
No. Getting a smart meter installed isn’t compulsory. If your supplier tells you otherwise, contact the Citizens Advice consumer helpline.
If you don't want to get a smart meter installed by Bulb, just let us know when you receive the invite for an installation.
And if you change your mind, don’t worry. You can still have one installed for free at a later date.
Do I have to have an In-Home Display (IHD)?
No. When you get a smart meter installed, you'll be offered an In-Home Display, but you don't have to accept it. Find out why we think In-Home Displays are useful.
Will I still be able to read my smart meter?
Yes. Here's a guide to reading Bulb's smart meters.
Do smart meters store personal data?
No. A smart meter doesn’t collect personally identifiable information such as:
- your name
- your address
- any financial details such as your bank account information
Which data a smart meter captures is protected by law. It will only collect information about:
- your electricity usage
- your gas usage
- the energy tariff you’re on
You can see real-time and historical data about your energy usage on your In-Home Display (IHD).
Can I control how my supplier uses my data?
Yes. You can choose to send your supplier information about your energy usage on a half-hourly, daily or monthly basis. At Bulb, we ask you to send us your usage information at least once a month so we can bill you accurately.
You can also decide if your supplier can use your data to improve its sales and marketing. If you say yes, they can use it to offer you new products and services. For example, at Bulb, we’re testing a new smart tariff that charges different amounts depending on the time of day. We might contact you by email to let you know you’re eligible to try it out, if we think you'll be able to save money by switching.
And it’s up to you whether your supplier can share your data with third-party organisations, for example Samsung – if you’re using SmartThings Energy Control (STEC).
You can change your mind about any of the above at any time.
How secure are smart meters?
Your smart meter sends information over a secure, custom-built, closed communication system run by the Data Communications Company (DCC).
Or, more technically speaking, data is sent over a mobile or radio 'wide area network' (WAN), and received via a secure wireless 'home area network' (HAN). It is not sent or stored on the internet.
The risk of anyone hacking the system or individual meters is made even lower by the fact that smart meters do not store personal information such as names or bank details.
Can my supplier switch off my energy whenever they want?
No. Smart meters can receive information from suppliers as well as send it to them, but that doesn’t mean your supplier can disconnect your energy supply more easily. You are still protected by the same strict regulations in place for standard meters.
Can I get a smart meter if I rent my home?
Yes, if you’re in charge of the energy in your home and your name is on the bill, you should be able to get a smart meter. That said, we advise you to check with your landlord first. They may restrict structural changes to the property, or want to be notified. Better to be safe than sorry.