Smart Meters Explained

Smart Meters Explained

The UK government is currently in the process of rolling out smart meters across the nation. In this post, we explain what a smart meter is and how it works, and the benefits of having one installed in your home. We also cover the UK smart meter rollout target, the two different models available (SMETS 1 and SMETS 2), how you can get one installed for free.

What is a Smart Meter and how do they work?

A smart meter is a new power meter that measures and records the amount of electricity, and gas if you use gas, that is used in a home and sends the data back to the energy provider in real-time. This information is used by the energy provider to bill their customers accurately. The meters provide both the customer and the energy provider with detailed information about their energy use, helping you to become more energy efficient.

Smart meters are installed by the energy provider and the installation typically takes around two hours. They come with a digital display that shows you how much energy you’re using in real-time and at different times of day, so you can adjust your energy usage accordingly.

Smart meters also allow for the remote monitoring of energy use. This means that the energy provider can monitor your energy use remotely, without having to send a meter reader to your home. This helps to reduce costs and improve customer service.

Benefits of a Smart Meter

Smart meters have a range of benefits for both energy providers and consumers. For energy providers, they allow for more accurate billing, as well as improved customer service. They also allow for remote monitoring of energy use, which can help to reduce costs.

For consumers, they allow for greater insight into their energy use via an in home display, so they can make more informed decisions about how to save energy. In home displays provide detailed information about how much energy is being used during different times of day, so you can adjust your energy usage accordingly. Plus, they allow for more accurate billing, as the energy provider can read your meter remotely, without having to send a meter reader to your home.

UK Smart Meter Rollout Target

The UK government set a target to install 53 million smart meters in homes across the country by the end of 2020.

The national roll-out began in 2016, and was meant to finish in 2020. However, installations were paused at the start of the coronavirus pandemic and suppliers have been given additional time. They now have until the end of 2025 to install them in all remaining homes and businesses with annual installation targets.

The two different models of smart meters: SMETS 1 vs SMETS 2

There are two different models of smart meters: SMETS 1 and SMETS 2.

SMETS 1 meters are the earlier model and are being phased out by energy providers. They are not compatible with all energy providers, so can’t be used if you switch energy providers.

SMETS 2 meters are the latest model of smart meter and are compatible with all energy providers, so can be used if you switch energy providers.

Until 2019, the majority of the meters installed were first-generation SMETS1 meters. These had a series of technical problems – not least of which was that they lost their smart capabilities if you switched energy provider!

Energy companies were encouraged to stop installing these by March 2019 and install second-generation smart meters (SMETS2) instead. So far, more than 11 million second-generation meters have been fitted. 

SMETS2 smart meter display
GEO SMETS2 smart meter in home display from SSE

Are Smart Meters Still Free in the UK?

Yes, smart meters are still free in the UK. The UK government has set up a scheme to help people get smart meters installed for free. This scheme applies to all households in the UK, regardless of whether they are on a prepayment meter, have dual fuel tariffs or are on an Economy 7 tariff. Smart Energy GB run the consumer engagement campaign for the smart meter rollout in the UK and their website answers a lot of FAQs about smart meters.

Am I eligible for a smart meter?

Most homes and businesses are eligible for a free smart meter, but the various energy companies are rolling them out in different regions at different times. Check this website to see if and when you can get one for your home or business.

How do I get a smart meter?

If you’re eligible for a smart meter, you’ll need to contact your energy supplier to arrange for one to be installed. They’ll be able to tell you what type of meter you’re eligible for and arrange for an engineer to come and install it. Check this website to determine availability in your area.

Do Smart Meters use a lot of electricity?

No, smart meters use very little electricity. The amount of electricity they use is comparable to that of a digital watch. So, if you’re worried about your energy bills increasing as a result of having a smart meter installed, there’s no need to worry.

What’s the difference between a Smart Meter and an In Home Display (IHD)?

A smart meter is the device which records the amount of energy consumed in the home and sends data to ‘the cloud’ and your energy provider. An in home display is the remote monitor which displays the data on a small screen so you can see how much energy you are consuming. Smart meters come with a free in home display when they are installed but if you need a new one you can get a smart meter in home display replacement. You can also connect a number of different apps to your smart meter so that you can monitor and analyse your consumption remotely on your phone or tablet.

What are the downsides of a Smart Meter?

The main downside of smart meters have been removed by the new SMETS2 versions, which are compatible with all energy providers. So, if you switch energy providers they will still work. Other concerns involve evidence that smart meters can be hacked, but there is very little evidence that proves this is possible with the newer SMETS2 smart meters.


Smart meters are a great way to gain insight into your energy use, as well as helping to reduce your energy bills. They’re free in the UK and use very little electricity.

If you’re looking to gain more insight into your energy use and save money on your energy bills and thinking of buying a home energy monitor, a smart meter could be a good, free alternative. Or you could consider getting a smart plug with energy monitoring, which will allow you to compare the energy consumption of different devices in your home.