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Electrahealth.com Editor's Note: While this is a pro-smart meter propaganda piece, there is a short section at the end about opting out. In England, the utilities and the state are not forcing customers to take smart meters. Instead, they offer an easy opt-out program when the utility contacts the homeowner about installing the smart meter. Did you catch that? The utility contacts the homeowner first and gives them the choice to opt out. Wow. Why don't we have that courtesy and choice in the Land of the Free™?

What is a smart meter?
Smart meters replace the standard gas and electricity meters in your home and are being installed across the country by energy suppliers. Smart meters show you, via a smart energy monitor with an easy-to-read display, how much energy you’re using and how much it costs.

Why do they matter?
Technology has transformed our lives in recent years. And it’s made a difference across pretty much everything we do. But when it comes to energy, we haven’t really seen the same technology transformations take place. Many of us have our meters hidden away in a cupboard under the stairs. Smart meters will change this, as they come with a smart energy monitor that shows you what you use, as you use it, and gives you new control over your energy consumption, along with the opportunity to save money.

And you can say goodbye to estimated bills and meter readings – smart meters automatically send readings back to your supplier. So when you receive your bill, you’ll know you’re only paying for the gas and electricity you've used.

Hmmm, sounds a bit technical. Who will install it?
If you’re a British Gas customer, the company’s trained installers, called Smart Energy Experts will do the lot for you (that’s the complete package of smart meters and smart energy monitor) and explain how everything works. British Gas has already installed over a million smart meters in homes up and down the country, so they can answer any questions you might have. If you’re with another supplier, they’ll be in contact with you in the coming months or years to upgrade your meters to smart meters.

Will I need to do anything?
Once your smart meters are up and running, your meter readings will be automatically sent to British Gas. Then all you need to do is plug in your smart energy monitor, ideally somewhere where it’s easy to see, such as your kitchen counter. That’s it.

How is the smart energy monitor different to a normal energy monitor?
Energy monitors show how much electricity you’re using, but you will still get estimated meter readings or need to submit readings to your supplier. Smart energy monitors are linked to your smart meters and show you, in pounds and pence, how much electricity and for the first time, how much gas you’re using and there’s no longer any need to submit meter readings or receive estimated bills.

OK, so how much will it cost me?
There is no upfront charge to be upgraded to smart meters. You already pay for your normal meters through your energy bills, and it’s the same for smart meters. But there is a huge longer-term opportunity here for every household to fundamentally improve the level of control it has over its energy bills.

And how much will it save me? 
The potential for savings is not to be sniffed at. British Gas research has found that nine out of ten smart meter customers are taking simple daily steps to manage their home energy use as a result of receiving more information through their smart meters. Nearly two-thirds of smart meter customers who identified savings estimated they saved up to £75 per year, just by understanding more about their energy use. If you know exactly how much it costs to boil a kettle full of water, for example, you’re much more likely to remember only to put in as much water as you need.

Can I still switch energy suppliers if I have a smart meter?
Yes. If your new supplier doesn't yet have full smart meter capability, the smart meters will revert to ‘standard’ mode, meaning no accurate bills or smart energy monitor. In the future, though, when all energy suppliers adopt smart meter technology, you’ll be able to switch supplier more easily than you can today, thanks to smart meters.

Fair enough, but what if I don’t want one?
When most people find out how smart meters will give them more control over their energy use, they’re keen to have them installed. Every energy supplier is committed to rolling them out to homes and businesses by the end of 2020. But if you still don’t want them, you can opt out when your supplier contacts you.

Ok. So how do I get one?
The technology for smart meters is still pretty new and not everyone is eligible for a smart meter right now. Visit British Gas at britishgas.co.uk/smartchallenge to see if your property is suitable and they will contact you when your upgrade is due.
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