by Charlotte Neale

After doing a little research for this blog it became clear that not everyone is aware of the difference between smart meters and energy monitors. Whilst I suspect most of you are already aware, I thought I would give you a brief explanation for those who aren’t, before discussing the potential benefits and draw backs of smart meters.

Energy Monitors are hand held or table top gadgets that estimate your electricity usage in real-time. They are designed to make you aware of your electricity usage with the goal of reducing energy consumption. They usually display cost, energy usage (in kWh) or carbon emissions. These are available now and cost approximately £40 or you can get them free from some energy suppliers and you can install them yourself.

Smart Meters are electricity and gas meters that are designed to replace your existing ones. They measure your exact usage in real time and relay it back to your energy supplier.

One immediate change and, a potential benefit of the smart meter will be that you get accurate bills based on your actual usage; but this doesn’t automatically mean a reduction in your bill, you may use a bit less than the approximate amount you are currently billed for, on the other hand you may use slightly more.

The smart meters in themselves are not smart; it is you who needs to be. The smart meter will provide you with a detailed knowledge of your electricity and gas consumption but what you do with that knowledge is up to you. Ideally you will use it to pin point those areas where you could reduce your use and then actively do so.

At the moment smart meters are not widely available and would need to be installed by your energy company. Although there are government plans to roll out smart meters and have them in every home before 2020 they may not appear on a large scale for a few years yet. It might be worth checking with your current provider what their plans are for smart metering if you are interested in getting one.

Someone in the smart metering industry recently commented that “everything in your life is becoming smarter – your car, your phone – but your house is still stupid.”
So are the smart meters actually smart? Only if whoever uses them is willing to use the information they provide to reduce their energy usage. The smart meters are not instinctively smart; they cannot work out where you are using excess energy and turn the offending appliance off only that you are using excess energy. The where is something people need to work out and action for themselves. And they can do it!