Smart meters and their benefits for saving energy

10 KS2 KS3 Design and Technology Maths Science
What is a smart meter? 
Smart meters are the new generation of gas and electricity meters. They are being installed in homes, schools and businesses across the UK to replace traditional meters.

What do smart meters do? 
A smart meter sends automatic meter readings directly and securely to the energy supplier, resulting in accurate bills, an end to estimates and manual meter readings. Most Smart meters for home use come with an accompanying in-home display which allows you to see how much energy you're using and what it's costing you in pounds and pence in near real time. Smart meters also often come with access to smart phone apps and online portals which allow you to see your current and historical energy use.The Energy Sparks charts use half hourly readings from your school's smart meters to tell you how much gas and electricity your school is using. There is currently no equivalent to the in-home display for schools. 

How do smart meters work? 
Smart meters measure how much gas and electricity you use and securely share this directly with your energy supplier and your in-home display.

You don't have to take any meter readings manually – your smart meter will send automatic readings to your energy supplier via a secure national network which is solely for smart meters. This works in the same way as other wireless systems like mobile phones.

What are the benefits of a Smart meter? 
Smart meters show exactly how much energy you’re using and what it’s costing, in near-real time, and they send accurate meter readings to your energy supplier, so no more estimated bills or manual meter readings. A Smart meter allows you to keep track of exactly how much gas and electricity you’re using in near real time, and what it costs in pounds and pence. This means you can be confident that you're only paying for what you have actually used and you'll always know what to expect in your next bill, so no more nasty surprises.

How do smart meters help customers to save money? 
Smart meters make it easier for us to identify the situations where we're using a lot of energy and might want to make changes to reduce it. 

If you use the information shown on your in-home display to help reduce your energy use, you should be able to cut your energy costs. Smart meters also mean accurate bills, so you can be confident that you're only paying for what you've actually used, rather than overpaying, as you sometimes do with estimates. 

The Energy Sparks data from smart meters can allow schools to identify when energy is being used unnecessarily, such as high gas use for heating during the school holidays.

Can a smart meter help me become more energy efficient? 
Smart meters make it easier for us to identify the situations where we're using a lot of energy and make changes to reduce it. 

In the future, customers may also receive cheaper tariffs at off-peak times. This means customers will pay less to run electrical appliances such as washing machines when electricity is not in high demand. In addition, smart appliances may be able to interact with smart meter systems to help save energy. For example a dishwasher could be set to come on when electricity is cheapest.

What is the smart grid?

Smart meters help enable the smart grid, which is a new way of running our energy networks. It’s a bit like an internet for gas and electricity and will help the UK to manage its energy usage.

The energy network we have now was designed for a time when our gas and electricity needs were much simpler. Now, we’re using more energy and have to find ways to reduce our carbon emissions. We need to integrate new technologies, like electric cars and solar and wind energy.

The smart grid has the potential to:

  • better match supply and demand
  • help us be more efficient, greener and waste less energy
  • help energy be more secure and reliable
  • mean unexpected power outages can be tackled faster
  • mean we can plan for the number of power stations we'll need in future with greater accuracy
The smart grid will be much better at integrating green technologies, from electric cars to home rooftop solar panels and heat pumps. In particular, we need the smart grid to help us get the most from variable power sources like wind and solar.