Frequently asked questions
To help prepare you for your smart meter upgrade, and give you more information, we've listed the top questions our smart meter customers have asked us.
Questions on the smart meter revolution
Do I have to have a smart meter?
No. Smart meters are progressively replacing traditional analogue meters, which means that from 2014 to 2019 they will be rolled out as standard across the country. There is no legal obligation on individuals to have one, but anyone refusing would miss out on the benefits. Suppliers are required to install smart meters, and in fact at British Gas we are committed to upgrading all our customers by taking steps to reach everyone.
Do I have to pay for my smart meter?
No. We're installing smart meters and smart energy monitors as part of a free, nationwide upgrade for all our customers. Under current arrangements you pay for existing meters through energy bills, it will be the same for smart meters.
Will I get new smart meters for both gas and electricity?
Yes. To get the full benefits of smart, we're replacing all meters. You'll only need one smart energy monitor as it will display both gas and electricity usage and show you an indication of what these fuels are costing you.
Will the upgrade to smart metering make meter readers redundant?
Smart technology transforms the way we take meter reads and will mean an end to pedestrian meter reading. However, our dedicated Smart Team are hiring around 2,100 people to install our customers meters and we will continue to conduct periodic safety inspections of all meters.
Will customers on smart meters be disconnected remotely?
With smart meters, energy suppliers have no more powers to disconnect than with a standard meter. On those rare occasions when this is necessary it will be possible to disconnect the meter remotely but for customers in payment difficulties, we will always look for alternatives to disconnection. British Gas follows Ofgem's rules on disconnection and this will be the same for customers with smart meters. We have set out a whole series of commitments about how we will treat our smart meter customers.
What evidence is there that smart meters work in Britain?
We have been running Britain's biggest trial of smart meters, with over 900,000 meters installed in homes and businesses, proving the new technology.
In 2012, British Gas interviewed over 700 smart meter customers to understand how smart was benefiting them. 80% of the customers we interviewed said smart made them think of their energy usage. 71% of customers said they found the smart energy monitor’s traffic light feature, which allows customers to monitor their electricity load in real time, the most helpful aspect.
Am I eligible for a smart meter upgrade now?
Because the technology is quite new not everyone can have a smart meter straight away. If you have credit meters (not pre-pay or a two-rate meter), and live in a house instead of a tall block of flats we could offer you a smart meter upgrade now. Please register your interest here.
Technology is evolving fats and all customers will be offered a smart meter by 2019 so you can rest assured that we will be contacting you before this date.
Can you give a consumption saving figure for customers?
At the moment it's too early to say what the actual percentage consumption savings are. We need more customers on smart meters and more time to work the data in statistically relevant figures. Smart meters aren’t the only variable in studying consumption. For example, the number of people living in a household may change, impacting on the amount of energy they use.
2012 research estimates that the average British household could save over £65 per year based on the 5% reduction in energy usage calculated by Oxford Economics, given the average annual dual fuel bill of £1,310.
What if I don’t understand smart meters?
British Gas smart meters will be installed by Smart Energy Experts. These experts will spend time helping you understand your smart meters and smart energy monitor and how the system can help save you money and lower your carbon emissions. They can also give general energy efficiency advice and show you how simple measures, such as loft insulation, could cut the amount of energy you use and reduce your bills.
Why would an energy company want me to use less energy?
Smart meters will see improved levels of customer service and, most crucially, an end to estimated bills. Using data from smart meters we want to help our customers to save money on energy. If we provide services that customers value, they should be more inclined to stay with British Gas.
With over 9,000 engineers, British Gas has a unique talent pool and advantage in delivering energy solutions, from efficient boilers, Remote Heating Control, insulation or micro-generation - such as solar power. In other words, we are not just an energy company - we are transforming into an energy services company, and our business model benefits from saving our customers energy wherever possible. We are also implementing a series of carbon reduction initiatives in line with the Government's Green Deal.
In fact, British Gas is the UK's leading supplier of energy efficiency, installing energy efficiency solutions in over 1.5 million homes in the past 5 years. And we are also the UK's largest supplier of decentralised energy to homes and communities such as solar panels, ground-source heat pumps and eco-gen baxi boilers.
Will having a smart meter affect my bills?
Your bills won't be affected but they will no longer be estimated. A smart meter will allow you to see the energy you're using via a smart energy monitor and give you unique insight through personalised energy efficiency advice and reports, which mean you might be able to save money on your bills in the long-term.
What does the future hold for smart meters?
Soon smart meters will include pre-payment functionality, so that customers can easily switch between credit and pay-as-you go, with the ability to top up quickly and remotely.
In 2014 smart meters will also include the capacity to communicate with micro-generation solutions (such as solar panels or ground-heat pumps) or remote device controls (such as smart plugs).
How do smart meters fit in the overall future infrastructure plans for the UK?
Looking beyond 2020, the challenges for electricity networks are likely to increase. As a country we are committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the UK by at least 80% by 2050, relative to 1990 levels.
Smart meters are an essential component for the building of a smart grid. A smart grid is an incremental process of applying information and communications technologies to the energy system, enabling more dynamic real time flows of information on the network and more interaction between suppliers and consumers as well as balancing demand and energy generation. Smart grids will make a key contribution to UK energy and climate goals.
Questions around the smart meter installation
How long does it take to install a smart meter?
It usually takes about an hour and a half to install both gas and electricity smart meters. Our Smart Energy Expert engineers are fully trained to work quickly, safely and with care in your home.
Will I need to clear space for the smart meter installer to work?
Our Smart Energy Expert may ask you to make room around the location of your current meters so that they can have easy access.
My meters are outside; do I have to be there when they are being exchanged?
Yes - even if your meters are outside you will still need to be present during the exchange. This will help you to fully understand how to make the most out of your new smart meter.
Do I need to have a good mobile signal to have a smart meter installed?
Yes, but don't worry. As we use a variety of mobile networks our Smart Energy Expert will assess which is the best for you.
Who have you teamed up with to provide customers with smart meter systems?
We're working with the following companies to deliver smart meters to our customers’ homes:
- SAP, the energy billing systems leader from Germany.
- OSIsoft and Trilliant, the cutting-edge California software and communications firms.
- Vodafone, the mobile telecommunications giant.
- L+G, the global smart meter manufacturer, using Zigbee Global Alliance wireless standards to link up in-home devices.
Smart meters: what to expect from appointment to install
You will receive an appointment confirmation text when your meter exchange is booked in. A reminder text will be sent 3 days prior to the appointment date. You can request a customer charter at any point to know more about your choices and options and a confirmation of appointment letter will be sent along with this.
On the day of the appointment the Smart Energy Expert will call you while on the way to your house so that you can be prepared. Please remember that a responsible adult has to be present at the house for the whole duration of the smart upgrade (roughly 90 minutes) even if your meters are locate outside, and that your energy supply will be briefly cut off during the work before being restored and tested.
Once your smart meters have been fitted, you will receive a welcome message through your smart energy monitor which will include the telephone number for customer support.
Questions if you already have a smart meter
I have smart meters, why have I received an estimated bill?
Occasionally the installation of smart meters can occur at roughly the same time that we were due to send a bill to you. When that happens, you may receive a bill that was estimated, based on your usual consumption history.
How do I take a reading from my electricity smart meter?
You can see your latest meter read on the smart energy monitor. Alternatively, if you want to do it manually on the electricity smart meter, you can just check the display for the total kWh figure. At the press of a button you can also access further information.
How are CO2 emissions calculated on my smart meter?
Different fuels emit different levels of CO2. For example, 1kWh of gas will produce 206g of CO2, whereas 1kWh of electricity will produce 430g of CO2. When we add up the total number of kWh used we can calculate the amount of CO2 produced per fuel.
What is Calorific Value?
Calorific Value is the amount of energy contained in the gas you burn. It can vary in different parts of the country due to the different sources of gas.
Can a smart meter interfere with my Wi-Fi or other appliances in the home?
Our smart meter solution uses Zigbee 2.4GHz to communicate using allocated channels within the frequency range. There are many other devices that use this frequency range including Wi-Fi routers and devices, Bluetooth devices, baby alarms, and microwave ovens to name a few.
The Zigbee modules used in our smart meter systems have to conform to a strict set of regulations designed to ensure they perform to internationally agreed standards. These standards minimise the potential for unintentional interference to or from other devices provided that those devices also perform to agreed standards. Use of similar channel frequencies by both smart and Wi-Fi systems is normally trouble free but interference could be experienced on rare occasions. The solution in this instance is to change the Wi-Fi channel which is configurable at the router.
What is a Smart Energy Report?
Smart Energy Reports could reinvent the way you think about energy: they are personal, relevant and easy to understand. They are based on your smart meter readings. To start with, each smart meter sends us a consumption reading once per day but you can choose for half-hourly reads to be collected and sent once each day at the end of this 24 hour period.
Why is this beneficial for you? The half-hourly data from smart meters enable us to help you to identify times when you might be wasting energy. This tailored insight can even show which appliances are using most energy.
Smart Energy Reports offer tips on reducing waste, display clever graphs and visuals around your consumption patterns and help you compare your usage with similar households.
Smart meter security
Are smart meters safe?
Yes. Smart meters are covered by UK and EU product safety legislation. This means that, as with traditional meters, smart meters have undergone rigorous tests during the manufacturing process to ensure gas and electricity consumption is being measured accurately.
Just like with mobile phones and baby monitors, smart meters emit low radio frequency emissions. This allows meter readings to be wirelessly transmitted to us and means no more estimated bills.
If you are unsure about radio emissions, the Health Protection Agency (HPA) provides advice and information on the health implications of smart meters. For more information, see the Health Protection Agency: smart meters.
Are my data secure with smart meters?
Yes. The data recorded are simple electricity and gas readings, and our smart meters have robust security features to protect your consumption data at all times, including tamper proofing and double encryption layers to send the information in a way so that it can't be intercepted and used.
Who will have access to my energy consumption data?
Consumers have a choice about how their energy consumption data is used, apart from where it is required for billing and other regulated purposes. British Gas as your energy company, and the energy networks, will be able to see enough of the data to allow us to send you accurate bills and carry out other essential tasks.
We will tell you what we use the data for before we install your smart meter and we'll remind you about this about once each year. You'll be able to decide to pass your data to other companies - switching websites, for example - if you want them to give you advice on the best tariff for you.
Will I have access to the smart meter data you collect?
As a rule you can ask for a copy of any information we hold about you at any time. We'll provide it free, within 21 days and, where possible, in the format you want and so that we comply with all relevant laws and regulations, including the Data Protection Act 1998.
Your smart meter consumption data will be accessible to you via Smart Energy Reports. A week after receiving their bills, smart meter customers will receive these reports as a sort of "bill explanation" illustrating how they used gas and electricity over the billing period, together with personalised hints and tips over how to reduce this consumption. The amount of detail in the report will be determined from the number of readings sent by the meter in the billing period. That's something that you can decide.
Smart meter tariffs
Will I be on a different tariff when I get my smart meters?
No. Smart is available on our existing tariffs. Though we will be introducing some innovative smart meter specific tariffs in the future, so look out for those.
Will I be put on a smart meter ‘Time of Use’ tariff?
Time of use tariffs are just around the corner. When available, we'll give you the choice to switch to one of these as they might offer you the benefits of increased flexibility and tailoring. If they're not for you, you can stay on your existing tariff.
Your smart energy monitor
Will my smart energy monitor accurately reflect my energy tariff?
Because of the way your tariff works there will be slight fluctuations in the energy costs shown per kilowatt over the course of each quarter. This is completely normal and is explained in your existing terms and conditions. Smart meters measure exactly what energy the home is using in kilowatt hours. The pounds and pence figures on the smart energy monitor then indicate your energy costs by using your tariff to convert the energy that is measured.
The figures are "raw" and they do not include any additions/discounts customers will see on their bill, such as VAT, Direct Debit or paperless discounts. This is because these changes are done centrally through our billing system. The monitor will however, reflect standing charges, if applicable, as a daily amount. Rest assured all the information used to work out your bill is completely accurate.
Where is the best place to put my smart energy monitor?
You can plug in your smart energy monitor wherever is convenient to you, as long as it's not in direct sunlight. Lots of people choose to keep it in their kitchen or lounge, so they can regularly check the display to see what they are using.
If I unplug my smart energy monitor will the information be lost?
No. If your smart energy monitor is unplugged it will automatically refresh the data when you plug it back in again.
For more information around the smart meter revolution and the benefits to consumers you can visit: