Alternatives to smart meters
Smart meters are great, but they’re not the only meter you can have in your home.
At Meter Corp, we talk a lot about smart meters. That’s because we genuinely believe in the benefits they can bring to energy consumers:
- Accurate billing
- Ease of use – no more manual meter readings
- Real-time energy use information nudges you towards saving energy
However, getting a smart meter in your home is not compulsory. You may be happy with the meter you’ve always had – and you could even choose to get another type of meter.
In this article, we’ll look at other types of energy meters. Which one could work for you?
How meters work
Energy meters measure the amount of energy you consume in your home or business at any specific moment. They will typically display the amount of energy you have consumed since the moment they were installed. Most properties have separate meters for gas and electricity.
Electricity meters display consumption in terms of kilowatt-hours (kWh). Gas meters work slightly differently in that they use a calorific value – a fixed value set by your energy supplier. Gas usage is difficult to measure as it expands or contracts due to changes in temperature and pressure. For example, if your meter is outside where the temperature is lower, you may see lower bills. The same if your home is at a low altitude above sea level.
Now, let’s look at three different types of meters.
1 – Standard meters
Standard meters are the most common type of traditional meter. However, they are fast being overtaken in popularity by smart meters. Standard meters measure your energy consumption and display a number which you must send to your energy supplier so they can calculate your bills.
Some older standard meters display your consumption on a series of six dials that look like clocks. Others have a standard rotating display, like the milometer on a car. Newer standard meters have a digital display.
The advantage of standard meters is that they’re hard-wearing and ‘just work’. Many meters are decades old and have never given their owners any trouble. However, having to read the meter yourself and send the number to your energy supplier can be a challenge, especially if you are older or disabled.
2 – Prepayment meters
Some people pay for their energy as they go using prepayment meters. This type of meter is often found in blocks of flats and student accommodation.
With older prepayment meters, you must go to a local shop to buy your energy. Some will use a plastic key that you top up; others may use a card that looks a bit like a train ticket. Newer prepayment meters let you top up your account through an app on your phone.
The advantage of prepayment meters is that it’s easy to control how much energy you use. It’s simple to see how much you have left in your account, so you know when it’s time to top up. Plus, you never receive any bills, and you can’t get into debt.
On the other hand, the price per unit for energy is typically higher with prepayment meters compared to other types of meters. In addition, it can be a pain having to go out in the cold or the rain to top up your meter when it’s running low. Finally, if you run out of money in your meter, your energy will be automatically cut off, which is not ideal.
3 – Economy 7 meters
Economy 7 meters work on a special tariff that charges you a different price per unit of electricity depending on when you use it. During seven hours overnight, your energy is cheaper than it is during the day. There are also Economy 10 meters which give you ten hours of more affordable energy.
When you read your Economy 7 meter for your energy supplier, you have to send them two numbers (one for day and one for night), so they can calculate your bill.
Economy 7 meters are handy if you typically consume energy later in the evening. There’s also the opportunity to play it right so you save money, such as programming your washing machine to run at night, for example. However, if you use a lot of energy during the day, you could be penalised.
Why smart meters are best
While these three meters all have their advantages and disadvantages, if you get an invite from your energy supplier to switch to a smart meter, we would always advise you to accept.
When it comes to ease of use, opportunities to save money and ways to save energy, smart meters win every time. Get one if you can.