Why a smart meter might help cut your bills

Smart energy meters are expected to change the way consumers manage their energy use. Currently optional, but due to be rolled out nationally from autumn 2015, the devices provide live, detailed data on costs.

“These developments are set to revolutionise energy usage,” says Stephen Passmore of the Energy Saving Trust. While the meters themselves do not offer cheaper tariffs, they allow users to track the energy consumed by appliances. For an estimated £7 annually (charged by suppliers on top of energy bills, with no installation fee), the devices also give live readings on usage. Information is displayed on a portable screen (the in-home display unit) in pounds, pence or kilowatts per hour, along with comparisons with past weeks.

The monetary savings are difficult to quantify, but the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy found that real-time feedback led to annual savings of around 9 per cent. Moreover, the UK government’s cost-benefit analysis found that the devices make meter readings cheaper for energy companies (by automating the process), a saving that may be passed on to consumers. The report predicts reductions to consumer bills of around £25 annually from 2017 – on top of any savings from more efficient usage.

But adopting smart meters will also allow users to base their bills on live readings, rather than estimates. “This will help avoid the scenario where consumers end up £1,000s in arrears due to inaccurate direct debits,” says Passmore. Not everyone can currently get a smart meter (those in high-rise buildings, for example), but you can find out whether you are eligible on energy companies’s websites.