20th March 2019
Smart meters: what they are, and why you should get one
Maddie Inglis, Social Media Manager
Smart meters are energy industry game changers, and we’re buzzing about their potential. The technology will save UK consumers a lot of time (no more meter readings!) and with innovative electricity tariffs like our Agile Octopus and Octopus Go making the most of the smart meter tech, potentially a fair bit of dough too.
What is a smart meter? Should you get one? What are the benefits? How can Octopus customers get them installed? Here’s everything you need to know about going smart with Octopus Energy.
From the start of the lockdown, we temporarily postponed most smart meter installations (aside from emergencies) to keep our engineers and customers safe in light of the government's social distancing advice.
From mid-June, following another change to the government’s advice, we’ve slowly begun installing smart meters again, prioritising (wherever possible) those whose install appointments were postponed due to Covid-19, and those who urgently need their meter installed. The small number of appointments we're attending will go ahead with new safety measures and equipment in place.
For more updates on Octopus' response to coronavirus head to our blog.
Our engineer Jez in his protective coveralls (featuring pink fluffy co-pilot)
We’re installing smart meters across the UK!
Our meter engineers are making their way around the country, installing smart meters area-by-area for customers that want them.
By the end of 2020, we’ll have given every eligible customer the opportunity to get smart meters installed.
What’s so good about smart meters?
There are tons of benefits of upgrading. With a smart meter, energy is...
Cheaper and greener
Smart meters help you save energy – so you can cut your bills, and your carbon footprint.
Your smart meter has a simple display screen which will show you how much energy you’re using, and what it costs. You can also monitor your energy consumption through your online account.
No more giving meter readings manually. You won’t need to remember to take a reading every month, or battle territorial spiders under the stairs. Instead, your smart meters will send meter readings to us automatically.
(Don’t worry, you can still spin our meter reading wheel of fortune once per month, per fuel.)
Fair and accurate
No more estimated bills. We’ll never need to estimate how much energy you’ve used again, because we can take real meter readings automatically. That means you’ll always be charged for exactly how much energy you’ve really used.
Smart meters give you access to innovative energy tariffs – the kind that make the most of the UK's renewable energy and smart home tech to bring you prices that're often far cheaper than any standard tariff on the market.
AgileOctopus has half-hourly energy prices, giving customers mega-cheap power when there's lots of renewables available to use up, and no one around to use them. Sometimes, customers even get paid to use energy. Seriously.
octopusGO is a tariff for electric vehicle owners, offering a super-cheap rate for four hours each night, so drivers can charge up for next to nothing during off-peak times.
OutgoingOctopus is the UK's first ever smart 'export' tariff for customers who generate energy at home. If you have solar panels, you can get paid for the green energy you pump back into the grid.
How can I get a smart meter with Octopus?
We’re installing second generation (SMETS2) smart meters area-by-area for customers that want them.
Just register your interest in getting a smart meter here and we’ll get in touch when we’re installing near you. We aim to contact all customers who’re currently eligible to have a smart meter installed by the end of 2020 (what does it mean to be eligible?)
If you want to join one of our innovative tariffs (OctopusGO, AgileOctopus or OutgoingOctopus) please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read our smart meter FAQs
Can I have one now?
COVID-19 update: We're temporarily postponing smart meter installations to keep our engineers and customers safe in light of the government's social distancing advice. Emergency metering appointments will still go ahead, with new safety measures and equipment in place. Read more here.
Once we've deemed it's safe to continue our regular installations, we'll keep rolling SMETS2 smart meters out area-by-area.
Anyone who'd like a smart meter, register your interest here and we'll be in touch when there are installations available near you.
Are you installing SMETS1 or SMETS2 meters, and what's the difference?
We're installing SMETS2 meters. This is an upgraded version, which all UK suppliers are now installing.
The earlier model, SMETS1, is what the majority of installs were up until March 2019. Suppliers are ramping up SMETS2 installs now because SMETS1 installations after March 15th 2019 don't count towards our smart meter quota (a target set for all suppliers by Ofgem). There’s nothing wrong with SMETS1 meters – they're a great piece of tech.
So what’s the difference?
The key difference between SMETS1 and the newer model, SMETS2, is that SMETS2 have the inbuilt functionality to let you change supplier without losing the meters’ 'smart' ability.
In the not too distant future, existing SMETS1 meters will slowly be upgraded so that they can gain their smart functionality back. Our latest understanding is that the Data Communications Company (or 'DCC', who manage and transfer all smart meter data) will be updating the software on all SMETS1 meters remotely (no engineer visit required) throughout the second half of 2020.
Will my smart meter work with Octopus?
If you have a SMETS1: We use the smart meters made by the company Secure. Secure also supply meters to Utilita, Shell, OVO, E.ON and Bristol Energy - so if you have a smart meter from them, and it’s a ‘Secure’ meter, it will work. (A different brand of meter from them unfortunately won’t.)
If you have a SMETS2: Yes, it will!
I’m leaving Octopus - will I be able to use your smart meter with my new supplier?
If you have a SMETS1 installed by us: The brand of smart meter you have will determine whether it'll connect properly with your new supplier. For example, we use smart meters made by the company Secure. Secure also supply meters to Utilita, Shell, OVO, E.ON and Bristol Energy - so if you have a 'Secure' smart meter, it will stay smart when you switch to one of those companies (A different brand of meter from them unfortunately won’t.)
If you have a SMETS2: Yes, your smart meter will work no matter who you switch to – though it might take a few weeks to get everything connected.
How do smart meters communicate?
Smart meters don’t need the internet to communicate. Instead, they work by using two wireless networks: the HAN (home area network) and WAN (wide area network).
Your HAN is a secure network contained within your home that allows digital devices to communicate with each other. This network is used to allow your smart gas and electricity meters to communicate with each other, as well as with your in-home display.
When smart meters need to communicate with an energy provider, they use WAN. This secure network is similar to the one mobile phones use to send and receive data. It’s run by the Data Communications Company and overseen by the energy regulator Ofgem. This means it must comply with strict regulations to ensure smart meter data is kept private and secure.
My smart meter became "dumb" when I switched. Will it become smart again?
We expect that all smart meters will become interoperable (work with all suppliers) by the end of 2020.
SMETS1 meters were only designed to send data to the supplier who installed them, but ultimately all smart meter data will begin to be sent to a central body called the Data Communications Company (DCC). And hopefully, at this point your meters will become smart again.
Are smart meters dangerous?
The low-frequency radio waves used by smart meters are classed as safe (with emissions considerably less than TVs and mobile phones), and leading public bodies including the World Health Organisation have been unable to find any conclusive evidence of harm.
Are there any security issues?
Smart meter technology is being built with security squarely in mind and follow the highest encryption protocols. We keep our ear to the ground for the latest research into the viability of smart meters, and we’re confident that the technology will benefit all of us rather than causing harm.
Robert Cheesewright of Smart Energy GB (the government-backed agency promoting the smart meter rollout) has assured that the meters are securely encrypted, and even so, the only data stored on the meters is energy-related –
“your name, address, bank account or other financial details are not stored on the meter.”
Will I be able to get an old “dumb” meter if I want one?
Eventually, it’ll be virtually impossible to get a standard meter. Like classic car parts, they’re becoming scarce as the demand for newer, better technology increases. After all, it doesn’t make much sense to keep manufacturing obsolete technology. So if your standard meter breaks, your only option for replacement could be a smart meter. If you’re worried about this, get in touch with us. You’re not legally obliged to have a smart meter installed.
What does it mean to be 'eligible' to have smart meters?
Smart meters only work properly under certain conditions...
1) A strong WAN signal
First, as they send data via the Wide Area Network (WAN), your home needs a strong WAN signal, or we won't be able to communicate with your meters.
WAN connectivity is a little like your phone's coverage. It's not as simple as certain areas having coverage, and others not. Sometimes, your phone won't get any signal while your mate (who uses a different network) has perfect reception.
2) Less than 10 metres between your meters and your IHD
We get information from your meters through a small communications hub that's attached to your electricity meter. This comms hub talks to your gas meter, and to your in-home display. The standard comms hub being installed at the moment has a maximum range of 10 metres. That means your electricity meter, gas meter, and IHD must all be within 10 metres, or they won't be able to talk to each other properly.
This means people in flats or apartment buildings with all the meters stored in a single room often aren't able to get smart meters yet – same with households that have their gas meter in an outdoor shed.
Next year, a comms hub with a longer range will become available, meaning soon, people who aren't currently eligible will be able to get smart meters installed too.
If you’ve got any other questions, get in touch and we’ll help.
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