Will using a smart meter actually save me money?

After endless emails, I finally cracked and got a smart meter. But just how much difference has it made to my family's energy use and does it save any money?

The deadline for smart meter rollout, which is costing customers an estimated £13.5 billion, has been delayed until 2024 and is plagued with problems.

Firstly, householders are fed up with the aggressive tactics of energy suppliers that are desperate to increase the uptake of these internet-connected meters.

And even if customers do want one, they often find their broadband speed or Wi-Fi connection is not strong enough to link to where the meter is based.

There is also the issue of the original meters not working when customers switch suppliers and some firms are still installing this generation of meters.

In September, I got fed up with the constant messages so I decided to install a smart meter to see what they were really all about.

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‘Sorry we missed you’

My energy supplier, Bulb, allowed me to book an installation slot online, so they could send an engineer from Siemens Energy at a convenient time for me. 

I was told the engineer would phone me when he was near since it was a four-hour time slot between midday and 4pm.

At 3.55pm I had heard nothing and assumed the engineer wasn't coming.

I popped out to pick up my kids from school club and came back to find a 'Sorry we missed you' card timed at 3:57pm.

In my anger, I took to Twitter to complain and Siemens swiftly got in contact to apologise, offered me £30 credit and rearranged the fitting.

Second time round, the engineer rang beforehand, was incredibly helpful and the fitting went smoothly.

But the engineer told me the smart meter, was not so smart after all and could not give me a day and night rate.

Apparently, only the next generation of meters is able to do this.

Why I’m a convert

Despite the initial setbacks, six weeks later I am a convert.

I check the meter every day and it has definitely made me more aware of how much it costs for my family to use energy.

My household comprises two adults and two young children and in October we used £45.63 of electricity (326kWh) and £11.99 of gas (358kWh).

The previous October, we didn't have the heating on, but we did use 137kWh more of electricity, so I think me being on meter watch this year has been helpful in cutting electricity usage.

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Fixated by costs

As soon as the meter was installed, my seven-year-old son and I were fixated at seeing what everything costs.

If I shower both children together it costs 12p, but my own, longer showers cost 20p. By comparison, a bath costs 9p to heat but there are the water costs to consider.

As consumers, we are told to switch off lights and not leave devices on standby, but I have found this actually makes very little difference to our electricity usage.

Having energy-saving lightbulbs means they use very little electricity and having my PC on all day doesn't make the meter rise.

Even charging multiple electronic devices only costs a few pennies.

But the numbers start to go up more noticeably when we put the dishwasher on or do a load of washing.

Overall, on average, we have been spending £1.50 on electricity per day to cover everything. We only have gas for the central heating, and I have been alarmed at just how much this costs.

To heat the house for a whole day and evening costs around £4, which is 27p an hour (based on approximately 15 hours of heating). 

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Family resting near a fire. (Image: Shutterstock)

Re-evaluating my habits

I work from home so I need a warm space to work in but having the heating on for months on end is just not sustainable as it could cost several hundred pounds.

Instead, it makes more sense to buy £80 worth of wood to fuel our log burner through the winter months and for me to work in the living room rather than my study.

What has surprised me the most though is just how much energy the television uses.

My four-year-old son has been poorly and off school for two weeks, meaning he has spent a lot of time in front of Netflix.

In this period, our energy costs rose by at least £1.50 a day. I turned the surround sound off to see if it made any difference, but it didn't. So, it seems our old TV is not energy efficient.

The meter has given my family the means to work out through trial and error what is using the most energy and adjust accordingly.

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The monitor gives lots of data about hourly, daily, weekly, monthly and annual usage and you can set a budget if you wish. But it is just a reference point as it doesn't cut anything off if you breach it.

The signal does dip in and out a bit, but not for too long and the meter does have to be plugged in most of the time as the rechargeable battery only lasts a few hours.

One frustrating aspect of having a smart meter is that since it was fitted, I have received two emails from Bulb asking for meter readings.

Yet when I go into my online account it acknowledges that I have a smart meter.

There are definitely kinks in the system. But having precise knowledge of our household energy usage has been really helpful and enabled me to work out how to save money.

As a result, I feel more empowered and will be keeping my smart meter.

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