Smart meters: a guide

Smart meters put consumers in control of their energy use, allowing them to adopt energy efficiency measures that can help save money on their energy bills and offset price increases.

The new meters

Smart meters are the next generation of gas and electricity meters and offer a range of intelligent functions.

For example, they can tell you how much energy you are using through an In Home Display (IHD). They communicate directly with your energy supplier, meaning you will get accurate bills, and there will be no need for your energy supplier to visit your home to read your meter in future.

Benefits of smart meters

Smart meters bring a wide range of benefits. For example:

  • smart meters give you near real time information on energy use - expressed in pounds and pence
  • you will be able to better manage your energy use, save money and reduce emissions
  • smart meters will bring an end to estimated billing - you will only be billed for the energy you actually use, helping you budget better
  • in time smart meters will make switching supplier smoother and faster, making it easier to get the best deals

You will not be charged separately for a smart meter or for the In-Home Display. Under current arrangements you pay for the cost of your meter and its maintenance through your energy bills, and this will be the same for smart meters.

Benefits for prepayment customers

Smart meters can work in prepayment or credit mode. Prepayment customers will see some particular benefits from having a smart meter. For example:

  • your energy supplier may be able to offer you new and more flexible ways of topping up your meter that don’t require you to visit a shop
  • you’ll be able to see your balance on your easy-to-access In Home Display, so you don’t unknowingly run out of credit
  • your smart meter can be set to top up automatically, so that if you do run out of credit at night or when the shops are shut you won’t be left without power

Further information on the benefits of smart meters, what they are and how they work, is available on the Smart Energy GB website.

Progress updates

Smart Meters Implementation Programme: 2017 progress update

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Smart Meters Implementation Programme: 2016 progress update

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Supplier led roll-out

The government requires energy companies to install smart meters for their customers, and has set out rules to ensure that they do this in a way that is in the interests of consumers, including rules around:

  • data access and privacy
  • security
  • technical standards for the smart metering equipment
  • meeting the needs of vulnerable consumers

Smart meters will be rolled out as standard across the country by the end of 2020. But there is no legal obligation on you to have one.

Consumer protections

The government has ensured that appropriate consumer protection provisions have been put in place:

  • there will be no sales during the installation visit
  • installers must provide energy efficiency advice as part of the visit. They will need your permission in advance of the visit before talking to you about their own products

These provisions are outlined in the Smart Meter Installation Code of Practice.

Consumer privacy

You will have a choice about how your energy consumption data is used, apart from where it is required for billing and other regulated purposes.

You will be able to see your real-time energy consumption data on your In-Home Display, as well as weekly and monthly consumption data. You will also be able to download more detailed historic data from your home network, should you wish to.

Your energy company, and the energy networks, can access appropriate data to enable them to send you accurate bills and carry out other essential tasks.

Suppliers will have to get your consent to access half-hourly data, or to use data for marketing purposes. They can access daily data unless you object.

You will also be able to share data with third parties (such as switching sites) if you want them to give you advice on the best tariff for you.

The Data guide for Smart Meters published by Energy UK outlines the key information customers need to know about their rights and choices when they get a smart meter installed.

Switching suppliers

Smart meters will ultimately make switching suppliers easier and quicker. The smart meters operated through the national infrastructure will be operable by all energy suppliers.

In the meantime, the first generation of smart meters may temporarily lose some smart functionality depending on which energy supplier you switch to. In most cases, the meter can still be used in ‘traditional’ mode if the new energy supplier cannot support the smart functionality when you switch to them. The In Home Display issued alongside the smart meter should still continue to operate and show you near real time information about your energy consumption.

A solution is being developed to move SMETS1 meters remotely into the national smart metering system, so consumers with these meters retain their smart services on switching. This is expected to start in late 2018.

Ofgem has introduced rules designed to help domestic consumers understand if the smart services they receive will be maintained when they switch energy supplier. The rules include a requirement that an energy supplier installing a first generation (SMETS1) smart meter must inform the customer that they may lose meter functionality on change of supplier.


Smart meters are covered by UK and EU product safety legislation, which requires manufacturers to ensure that any product placed on the market is safe. Public Health England (formerly The Health Protection Agency) provides advice and information on the health implications of smart meters, as it does for a range of technologies commonly found in homes and businesses across the UK.

Public Health England has advised that the evidence suggests that exposures to the radio waves produced by smart meters do not pose a risk to health. Further information about smart meters and health.

Timeframes for installation

All homes and small business sites will be offered smart meters by their energy company between now and the end of 2020. To register your interest in having a smart meter installed or to book an installation, please contact your energy supplier. Links to some suppliers’ smart meter pages can be found on the Smart Energy GB website.

Further information

Contact your energy supplier or see:

Published 22 January 2013
Last updated 4 January 2018 + show all updates
  1. 2017 progress update added.

  2. 2016 progress update.

  3. The guide has been updated to provide a link to the new leaflet on the Smart Metering System.

  4. First published.