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Energy explained

Smart meters sound good, but what do you need to know?

A photo of and In-Home Display

Smart meters for monitoring your gas and electric usage are a great idea. But what are they and do you need one? With the help of the Bulb Community, we’ve explained what you need to know.

We get a lot of questions about smart meters. What is a smart meter? When will Bulb members get one? What happens if you have a smart meter and switch to another energy supplier? It's a topic that pops up often on the Bulb Community. So, we thought it was about time we wrote a blog post on them. And fortunately, the Community are a helpful bunch. We want to share some of their great tips and experiences here too.

If we don’t manage to answer your question (sorry!), go ahead and ask it on the Community. A member or Team Bulb will be on hand to help.

What is a smart meter?

A smart meter is a new kind of gas and electricity meter that automatically sends readings directly to your energy supplier. That means your supplier will no longer need to estimate your energy use based on manual meter readings, often taken infrequently. Instead, your bill will accurately reflect your actual energy use.

Everyone in Britain should be offered a smart meter by their supplier by 2020. Bulb will be offering them to members from January 2018.

What’s so good about them?

There are some big advantages to smart meters over standard meters.

First, they’re accurate and convenient. With a standard meter you typically rely on your supplier’s estimate of your energy usage. If you want your bill to be based on your actual usage you have to take your own readings and submit them manually. Smart meters save you that trouble by wirelessly sending your data to your supplier via a secure national communication network called the DCC.

They also give you information about your energy usage habits. The display shows real-time data, including your energy use (in kWh) and its cost. That can help you to track how your lifestyle affects your household energy use. With this information you'll be able to find ways to use less energy, which in turn will help to lower your bill. In fact, a recent European study shows that consumers could cut energy costs by up to 10% by installing a smart meter. At Bulb, we’re planning to make this even more useful for our members by integrating that information with MyBulb member accounts and on our app. The current plan is to build a smart meter dashboard in both, with handy graphics showing your energy use. You can follow along with those plans on our open product roadmap

And in the bigger picture, smart meters are part of the movement to create a smart grid, which will ultimately help make Britain’s energy more efficient and greener. 

How much does a smart meter cost?

Nothing - your supplier will install the smart meter for free. The cost will already be covered in your energy bills. 

Can I switch supplier if I have a smart meter?

Yes - it’s part of Ofgem regulations that smart meters are no barrier to switching supplier.

However, the first generation of smart meters introduced by energy suppliers only work ‘smartly’ with the supplier that originally installed it. So when you switch suppliers they revert to standard mode and you have to take manual readings instead. 

Fortunately, the second generation of smart meters will be universally compatible, so that problem won’t exist. That’s why we’re waiting for those before we offer smart meters to Bulb members. 

So how do I read my smart meter if I switch supplier?

This question often comes up from members who switched to us from a supplier that gave them a first-generation smart meter which we can’t yet read remotely. So we put together a handy guide to manually reading smart meters.

Bulb members also provide handy tips about specific smart meters on our Community. Member Kate posted this video showing how to read a Secure Liberty 100 electricity meter supplied by EON. Thanks Kate!

If you join Bulb and need any help reading your meter, just ask. You can even take a photo of your meter, email it to and we can advise on how to take a read.

Is a smart meter the same as an energy monitor?

Not quite. A smart meter communicates with your supplier, while an energy monitor simply measures energy usage around the house for your information.

However, advanced energy monitors such as Loop can be great to have, whether you have a smart meter or not. They can give you useful insights about how you can save on energy cost and consumption. Our members have suggested Different energy monitoring and controlling tech.

How can I get a Bulb smart meter?

We’re planning to offer the second generation of smart meters to all our members in late 2018. 

We want to make sure we get smart right first time, so we’re being thorough in our preparations. We’ll make sure to keep you updated on our progress.