Hundreds of thousands of electricity smart meters are taking up space on walls, either unactivated or not used to their full potential. We look at what they could and should be doing for customers.
What is a smart meter?
It is a meter that continually records electricity use in the home or premises where it is installed and automatically transmits updated information every 30 minutes to a central database held by ESB Networks.
Traditional meters by comparison continually record use but must be manually read. They don’t show how usage varies during any period. They are only read by ESB Networks four times a year.
What are the benefits?
Accuracy is improved. With traditional meters customers are billed six times a year so must log their usage for two billing periods themselves or receive estimated bills.
Smart meters, though, transmit automatic readings and they give customers insight into their electricity use so they can make decisions on how much they use and when.
That helps them find suppliers offering “time of use” or smart tariffs that best fit their usage patterns. Smart tariffs vary prices for using power at different times of the day.
How do I get a smart meter?
ESB Networks are in charge of installing them and they doing on a region by region basis. They installed 930,000 up to September and are adding on average 10,000 a week.
Are they free?
There is no direct charge but the cost of the project is estimated at €1.2bn and this cost is passed on by ESB Networks to suppliers who pass it on to customers through their bills.
Is it mandatory to have a smart meter?
No. Customers can refuse one although ESB Networks say they will return to them at a later date and see if they can change their minds.
How do I get on a smart tariff?
Once your meter is installed, your current supplier will contact you with options. They are obliged to contact you within three months. They are also obliged to offer at least four different smart tariffs.
What savings will I make?
A pilot project showed customers with smart tariffs reduced their peak-time electricity use by 8pc and their overall use by 3pc which should translate into cost savings but the energy regulator said offers by suppliers up to September were not as competitive or attractive as they need to be.
What if no smart tariff leaves me better off?
You can stay on your existing contract but can also request ‘energy insights’ from your supplier that will show read-outs from your meter and possibly help you find ways to reduce your usage without changing tariff.
Where can I do my own research?
Price comparison websites, bonkers.ie, switcher.ie and powertoswitch.ie, are all accredited by the energy regulator to help you compare suppliers and tariffs.