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Is The Budget Smart Meter Really So Smart?

Is The Budget Smart Meter Really So Smart?

- by Elizabeth Redfern

The roll-out of the budget smart meter across the UK has been stricken with problems since companies introduced them into homes in 2009. Budget smart meters replace old-fashioned utility meters and relinquish the need for a manual reading. Let’s take a look at what has gone wrong with smart meters and what will happen in the future.

budget smart meter - cashfloat

The budget smart meter allow energy providers and the customer to see exactly how much energy they are using in their homes. As with the old gas and electricity meters, they measure fuel consumption. The difference with these new meters is that they use mobile networks to convey the readings back to the energy supplier. The idea of them was to put an end to estimated bills that were the result of manual readings and allow consumers to pay for the power they are using instead of overpaying and in some cases being hundreds of pounds in credit. Budget smart meters aim to save you needing to take a payday loan to cover the energy expenses.

Controversy surrounding the budget smart meter

Energy companies had planned to replace 53 million old-style meters by 2020 at the cost of 1 billion pounds. They hoped that they could indicate cheaper time tariffs to encourage people to use electricity at odd times of the day in a bid to smooth out electricity use for the grid. The government has recently changed this plan to install them in every household due to unsatisfactory reports from customers across the country. Their installation will no longer be compulsory, although every household will still be offered one until 2020.

budget smart meter - cashfloat

It is the job of the government to set overall energy policy as opposed to being the job of suppliers. Customers may pick up the expenses of creating green energy through stopping using carbon-based energy sources, the introduction of the budget smart meter and more nuclear power through increased energy bills. This is the reason, according to the energy suppliers, why energy bills are continuously rising at the cost of the customer.

The early smart meters that companies installed to customers in Britain are particularly problematic. They have proved incompatible with the new national communication network that provides the usage data to the energy supplier. When customers switched provider the meters ‘went dumb’. They were no longer able to transmit data and calls for manual readings. The problem here is that reading a budget smart meter is more difficult than reading an old-fashioned one. The government insist that these meters will be compatible eventually. However, energy companies are not so sure and fear they may need to replace them.

Smart meters are making mistakes

budget smart meter - cashfloat

The belief from customers that they would gain more control over their bills has been proved wrong. Many energy companies still prefer to estimate the yearly usage of power and divide the amount into 12 monthly instalments. This means that many customers are still finding themselves hundreds of pounds in credit to their suppliers even when they have a smart meter. This does not solve the original aim of letting customers save money so as not to need short term loans to finance the growing energy bills.

After being assured that a smart meter would negate the use of estimated readings, Angela Forman, who lives in East Sussex, agreed to have one installed. She had previously been on an Energy 7 tariff that takes separate readings at different times of the day when energy can be less costly. Her first bill was £114 which caused a surprise as she usually paid £94. After an investigation, the energy supplier found that her new smart meter was sending estimated readings to them and costing her more money.

So what have we learned so far?

  • Smart meters were designed to bring an end to estimated bills by conveying actual energy use to providers
  • Energy bills have increased due to the government’s green energy demands on suppliers
  • New meters did not connect with the updated communications network, and people had to read it manually
  • Energy suppliers still estimate bills
  • Smart meters have still sent estimated readings to suppliers in some cases
  • Social media has been used as a platform to share incredible bills

Customers use social media networks to share their massive power bills with the rest of the world. A photo was shown of £33,183 worth of gas used in a single day. Mark Umpleby tweeted it recently. This gas usage was 2,765,165% higher than his actual consumption. Usman Hussain also shared his incredible picture of his energy reading from his meter that showed a preposterous reading that would cost him £9,600 for a day worth of energy.

Strong network signal needed for budget smart meters

People that do not have strong mobile network signals in the area that they live have found that smart meters don’t work. This proved to be the reason that Mrs Foreman’s meter went dumb and sent estimated readings to her supplier. Another engineer who fitted Suzanne Harvey new meter told her that she might have problems due to a poor signal. The result of this was that she didn’t receive a bill for a year. This problem is due to be resolved by the introduction of the new national network. Some customers have had difficulty reading their ‘smart interface’ of their meters. People hope that companies will develop more mobile apps like the one of the newer providers, Ovo, uses for its customers. The app allows users to see their current balance, usage and costs incurred over previous months.

budget smart meter - cashfloat

Companies hoped that by using a smart meter, a customer could save energy and develop better usage habits. In fact appliances such as LED lights and dimmer switches, designed to reduce usage, change the current and confuse the meter into producing higher readings according to Dutch research. A user’s efforts to reduce energy consumption may be no use because of these kinds of technical problems. Data from British Gas shows customers using smart meters successfully are saving around £30 a year on their energy bills.

Risks of a budget smart meter?

A BBC Watchdog investigation reported links between smart meters and fires. Although, it was not clear whether the meters or the installation was at fault. Security firms expressed concerns that meters could be hacked and infected with viruses. Hackers claimed they could make smart meters blow up. Intelligence services investigated and sorted out this terrorist threat. The authorities continuously assure the public that the meters are safe.

Conclusion: What have we learnt about smart meters?

Cashfloat, who gives loans for people needing bad credit payday loans examines the subject of budget smart meters: It appears that the introduction of smart meters has many problems. Most energy providers still provide estimated monthly energy bills. People are still overpaying, there do not seem to be many advantages for customers. A customer would not have much faith in their meter’s ability to provide them with an accurate reading in light of all the reported problems. As to saving energy, by making customers aware of their energy consumption at different times of the day, people already know that they will use less energy by using the timer functions on their appliances to be used at discount times of the day.

budget smart meter - cashfloat
Elizabeth Redfern is a born and bred Londoner who loves the city life. She is a proud chocoholic who enjoys reading, jogging and eating – especially chocolate! Elizabeth attained a first class degree in Mathematics but chose to make a career out of her real passion, writing. She has published many poems and short stories, but decided to join the Cashfloat educational channel writing team because she is passionate about helping people take care of their finances leaving them free to enjoy the finer points of life – most notably (in her opinion), chocolate!
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