Common questions about smart meters

We think smart meters are great. That said, smart meters have been in the news a lot recently. 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?

Getting smart meters installed is free. An engineer will visit your home to replace your traditional meters with new smart meters and you won’t have to pay a penny.

But that’s not to say smart meters are free. Installing them in everyone’s homes and then maintaining them costs money, but 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 central network called the Smart Meter Wide Area Network, this doesn't rely on Wi-Fi at all.

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.

When is Bulb installing smart meters?

We're installing smart meters across the country throughout 2019 and 2020.

Right now, we're inviting people we think are most likely to have a successful installation. This means members in areas with trained engineers and good network coverage. As the network coverage increases, we'll be inviting more people.

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 work this way. The first generation of smart meters (SMETS1 meters) didn’t stay smart when you changed suppliers, meaning they no longer sent automatic readings. As a result, suppliers have been encouraged not to install SMETS1 meters since 15 March 2019.

If you already have a SMETS1 meter installed, an upgrade is due before the end of 2020 that will mean it work like the newer SMETS2 meters. That means if you switch supplier, they’ll be able to communicate with your new supplier and display your energy usage in real time, just like they used to.

If you’ve already got a SMETS1 meter from your previous supplier, and you’ve switched to Bulb, we’ll email you to let you know as soon as we’re able to 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 according to a recent uSwitch survey, 82% of people who already have a smart meter say it’s helped them cut how much energy they use. 38% say they now turn off lights when they are not in the room compared with 33% in 2018, and 22% are now washing clothes at a lower temperature, up from 18% in 2018.

Changing their habits isn’t just good for the environment. It’s helped them save around £108 a year on average.

Smart meters show 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.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) believes smart meters will save the average household around £43 a year on their energy bills by the year 2030.

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 with prepay?

If you have a smart top-up or prepay meter and would like to join Bulb, we'll need to switch you over to paying monthly, by direct debit.

Current smart top-up or prepay meters stop being smart when the property switches supplier. This means they can no longer be topped up online or with an app.

We’re hoping to be able to read smart prepay meters by the end of 2019 or early 2020. Sign up for updates and we’ll let you know when we’re ready.

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.

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