5 biggest myths about smart meters – and the actual truth

You may have heard a LOT of different things about smart meters.

Given they are helping upgrade the entire energy system and will play an essential role in ensuring Britain can meets its net zero emissions target, many people have questions about smart meters and how they work.

Unfortunately, this has led to many myths developing around smart meters on a number of issues.

Here, we address several of these myths… and reveal the actual facts about how the devices operate.

MYTH: 'Smart meters aren't safe'

FACT: Smart meters comply with all UK and EU safety standards, and are fitted by trained installers.

When fitting a smart meter, installers will also perform safety checks to identify signs of risk in your gas appliances, at no extra cost. In fact, more than 635,000 unsafe situations unrelated to smart meters were identified by installers in 2017 and 2018 combined – meaning they can often actually make your home safer.  

MYTH: 'Smart meters can spy on you'

FACT: A smart meter neither sees nor hears; it can only measure the amount of gas and electricity you use. And it’s up to you to decide how often you share your meter readings with your energy supplier, ranging from half-hourly, daily or monthly.

Personal details, such as your name, address and bank account details are neither stored on nor transmitted by your smart meter. Plus, your supplier can’t use any data from your smart meter for sales and marketing purposes unless you give them permission to do so.

Smart meters were designed in consultation with the UK’s top security experts at GCHQ. They’re not connected to the internet – instead, they operate on their own secure wireless smart data network. Your energy readings are encrypted and sent to your supplier in a similar way to how your mobile phone sends and receives information.

MYTH: 'Smart meters pose a radiation risk'

FACT: Smart meters use short bursts of radio waves to allow readings to be taken remotely from gas and electricity meters. Some people fear that the radiation they emit is a health risk, but Public Health England (PHE) – the Government watchdog on public health – say they pose no risk to public health.

As Dr Azadeh Peyman, principal radiation protection scientist at PHE, says: “We don’t consider that concerns regarding exposure should prevent people from having a smart meter.” She also says that “the level of radio waves they (smart meters) produce is typically one million times less than the internationally agreed guidelines.”

MYTH: 'You can't switch energy supplier if you get a smart meter'

FACT: You CAN switch energy supplier with a smart meter, just like with an analogue meter. And with a new second-generation meter, you will be able to switch and keep all of your smart functions with no interruption.

If you have an older, first-generation smart meter, there’s a chance it will lose some smart functions for a little while but you can still switch energy supplier.

Many people with one of these meters will have a seamless switching experience – all first-generation meters will be upgraded over the air and will regain their smart functions – but others may have to temporarily send meter readings again.

This can be frustrating, but your meter will still continue to accurately measure your usage as before, even if your in-home display may temporarily not show it.

MYTH: 'If you're renting, you can't get a smart meter'

FACT: The gas and electricity meter in your home belongs to your energy supplier, and if you pay the bills you’re entitled to ask it for a smart meter. However, Ofgem recommends telling your landlord before getting one, just in case there are any rules in your tenancy agreement about how energy is supplied to the property.

If you’re a landlord and you pay the energy bills directly for your tenants and are the account holder, you’ll be the one to confirm the energy supplier’s request to install a new smart meter in your property. You’re also entitled to request a smart meter for your property from your supplier.

  • To request installation of a smart meter in your home, please contact your energy provider. Eligablility may vary.

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