The UK Government plans to roll out smart meters to all British households by 2020. However, a recent report that revealed smart meters are only helping us save £11 a year on our energy bills has led many people to wonder if they’re even worth having. Here’s how smart meters work and how you can use yours to the best of its ability to maximise your savings.
Smart Meters Explained
Smart meters are designed to replace the gas and electricity meters we’ve all got sitting in a cupboard somewhere in our house. They do exactly the same job as these old cupboard meters - provide readings - but these are sent directly to our energy suppliers so no-one (AKA the gas or electricity man) needs to come round to look at them.
As well as the smart meter, you’ll also have a little in-home display (IHD). Wirelessly connected to your smart meter, it shows you how much energy you’re using and how much it’s costing you in real-time. You can even set a budget and monitor whether you’ve exceeding, meeting or going under.
Why Smart Meters are so Useful
Before smart meters and IHDs, utility costs were practically invisible. We’d turn lights or leave our gadgets on charge or standby 24/7. We didn’t really know how much it was really costing us until we’d get the bill. And even then, we didn’t know exactly how much each individual activity, such as turning the lights on and leaving them on, costed us. We just had one big gas bill and one big electricity bill.
Smart meters eliminate this issue. They allow you to see exactly how much energy you’re using and how much it’s costing you. This information can be accessed in real-time via the supplier’s website, an app on a smartphone or the IHD. This allows you track your energy consumption as you can assess the impact of having the lights on unnecessarily or leaving appliances on standby.
Knowing what times and days you use more energy can help you improve your efficiency. For example, you can decide when and where you might need to cut down, or see where you can afford to use more if needed.
Another great thing about smart meters is the fact that energy consumption is recorded and sent directly to the energy supplier. How can this help save money? Because the energy supplier can now bill you on the exact amount of gas and electric you’ve used rather than an estimate. It’s now a pay per usage situation as opposed to guesswork.
Then There’s a Non-Cost Related Benefit...
Smart meters help you save money but they’re also hugely convenient. Remember the days when you had to take a day off work and/or had to wait at home all day for the gas or electricity engineer to come round to read your meter? Or when you had to take the readings yourself and write them down for the supplier because they sent someone round when you were unavailable?
Because smart meters automatically send your readings to the energy supplier, there’s no need to do any of the above anymore.
So, How Can I Get the Most Out of My Smart Meter?
Smart meters can help you spot where you can make additional savings and make your home more energy efficient. But there are ways to take those benefits even further.
1. Track Your Past Usage as Well as Your Present
Smart meters store you energy usage information so you can look at your usage from yesterday, last week, last month or even last year if you wanted to. Tracking your present usage is great for helping you understand your energy consumption habits, but monitoring your past usage is even better.
Why? Because it means you can build an even bigger picture of when and where you use the most gas and electricity in your home. You can see which appliances are costing you the most and at what times of the year you’re spending the most. This will help you judge where you can use less energy and cut your bills more easily.
2. Find Out When the Peak and Off-Peak Energy Usage Times are and Switch
Generally, peak energy usage times are between 6am/7am and 1.30pm, and 4pm to 11pm. However, they vary depending on your location and supplier, so double check for the most accurate times.
When you’ve find out when the peak energy usage times are, try and switch to off-peak times to make the most savings. For instance, use the washing machine or dishwasher early in the morning or just before bedtime. Another great tip? Use your slow cooker as much as possible. Leave it on during the day when you’re at work and not only will you be using energy at off-peak hours but dinner will also be ready once you come home.
3. Don’t Leave Appliances on Standby - Turn Them Off
Reports have found that leaving appliances, such as the TV, on standby is costing households around £1.91 a year. While that’s not exactly a jaw dropping figure (it’s only £1.91, right?), it means you’re paying money even when you’re not using those appliances. And if you consider how many years we have TVs in our houses and the fact that some of us have more than one set, that figure certainly adds up.
And of course, TVs aren’t the only appliance. Many of us probably have laptops and tablets constantly on charge or computers constantly turned on but in their sleeping mode.
So, what’s the solution? Turn these appliances off at the socket when you’re not using them.
4. Switch to a Fully Smart Home
Smart homes are becoming increasingly popular, especially as we venture further into the digital era and people are wanting to live in a technologically advanced house. From smartphone apps to optimised solutions for the entire home, these systems help make our lives easier. They allow us to control our gadgets and appliances remotely from our smartphones, adapting them so they conform to our daily schedules.
For example, smart lighting systems allow you to adjust your house’s lights (such as brightness) in response to whether people are in or the activity they’re doing. For instance, you could have a dimmer light when watching a film and a brighter one if you’re working at home.
Another innovative solution is a digital assistant, such as Amazon Echo’s Alexa. They can help you bring the elements of your smart home together. It can act as the central hub for everything you need to run your house smoothly, from monitoring your energy usage to communicating with your family.
5. Having Better Broadband
Smart meters are extremely handy as they help you track your energy usage and figure out how to live more efficiently. But they do require an internet connection so you’ll need good broadband if you’re going to monitor your energy usage in real-time and always be kept up-to-date with the latest smart gadgets.
Rural communities often suffer from unreliable connections which can affect the efficiency of your smart meter and other elements of your smart home system, as well as your other usual internet activities such as online shopping, gaming and streaming. Gigaclear specialise in providing ultrafast full fibre broadband to rural communities so you can ensure you’ve got access to speedy, reliable internet.
Want to Make Your Home Even Smarter?
We’ve got a guide that will show you how to get the most out of your Amazon Echo. Why Amazon Echo? Well, it’s one of the most popular voice-enabled smart speakers that can help you run your household more smoothly and works to improve your smart home setup. Learn more by downloading the guide below.