Smart energy

Why do smart meters come with an In-Home Display?

A photo of an In-Home Display

When you get a smart meter, it comes with a screen called an In-Home Display. We explain what the screen is for, why it's useful and how you can use it to keep track of your energy.

Bulb has started to install smart meters for members who’ve signed up to our smart meter waiting list. When you get a smart meter installed, you'll also be given a small box with a screen on it, known as an In-Home Display, or IHD.

The IHD shows your current energy consumption for both electricity and gas. It shows that as kWh (kilowatt hours, the unit used to measure your energy usage) and in pounds and pence. It also shows your energy usage over time – for the current day, week, month and year.

In-Home Displays have a set of features which are specified in energy legislation by the government and enforced by Ofgem, the regulator for the energy industry. So although other energy suppliers’ IHDs might not look like Bulb’s, they’re all essentially the same. (If you want to read the legislation, you’ll find it in section 6 of the Smart Metering Equipment Technical Specifications 2.)

You might wonder why a modern energy company like Bulb would send you a small digital screen when we could just show this information in your Bulb Account, visible from your computer or phone. But there are good reasons for sending you an In-Home Display when your smart meter is installed.

A photo of a smart gas meter
Your new smart meters will replace your existing meters. The photo above is a gas smart meter. The photo at the top of the page is an example of an In-Home Display, or 'IHD', which you'll be offered when your smart meters are installed.

How your smart meter talks to your Bulb Account

Installing a smart meter means you don't need to submit meter readings any more. Your account is updated automatically with accurate information about your usage. Smart meters measure and send your energy consumption to Bulb on a daily basis, or if you choose, they can send a reading every half hour so you can see what you're using in more detail. The information is sent via a dedicated nationwide radio network (the ‘Wide Area Network’, or WAN), which means the meter doesn’t need a home internet connection.

Inside your home, the IHD talks to the smart meter over a dedicated and secure radio connection. The meter does all the work of measuring your energy usage; the IHD just shows you that information in your home.

Some of Bulb’s IHDs also have a built-in ‘CAD’ or Consumer Access Device. Other companies supply the CAD as a separate hub that you plug into your broadband router. If you have a CAD, and connect it to your home Wi-Fi, it works as a bridge, sending much more frequent readings (around once per minute) than the meters can over the radio network. This helps to build up a more accurate picture of your usage.

Why we send you an In-Home Display

The Department of Energy and Climate Change (now replaced by BEIS) found that IHDs are the most successful tool for reducing energy consumption. You can find out more in the DECC’s Policy Conclusions from their early trials and tests.

Because of this positive change, it’s now a requirement to offer everyone who has a smart meter an IHD.

In-Home Displays are accessible to the widest audience. You don't need a computer or smartphone to use them, or even a home internet connection. You don't need to be brilliant with computers to operate one. And you don't need to remember to look at it, like an app on your phone: it just lives in your house, so you can see it at a glance.

For most people, In-Home Displays are another step to a more positive relationship with energy. An IHD turns energy from just another line on a monthly bank statement to something more granular and directly related to things they do. It’s not just about saving money: it also helps people feel more in control of the money they choose to spend on energy.

The In-Home Display doesn't stop us showing smart meter data in other places. So we can also display this data in your Bulb Account, and we can work on ways of clearly presenting this data that aren’t possible on an In-Home Display.

The In-Home Display enables Bulb and its members to make better decisions about energy. They help you to make choices about your energy use at home, and reduce your carbon emissions; they help Bulb to buy energy for all our members in a smarter way. A better understanding of the times energy is consumed can help members save money with our smart tariff (currently in beta).

So once you have your smart meter installed, it's worth taking some time to get to know the In-Home Display. Clicking the buttons won't switch off your energy or cut you off supply, so you should feel comfortable trying the built-in tutorial to see what everything does. Keep the IHD somewhere you can easily see it, maybe in the kitchen or the hall, and see how things change when you switch on different appliances. When you have a quick and easy way to see the cost of your energy, it’s easier to know how to save.


This post was written by Tom Armitage, Lead Technologist on the Bulb Labs team.