Gas & Electricity

What is a Smart Meter?

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Image Daragh Cassidy
Head Writer

A smart meter is an electronic device used for reading energy consumption in real-time. Smart electricity meters are currently being rolled out to every home and premises in Ireland.

What are the advantages of smart meters?

1. No more estimated bills

You might be one of the many Irish energy customers who regularly receives estimated bills, which are based on the average consumption for a home the same size as yours.

ESB Networks usually attempts to send an engineer to read your electricity meter four times a year, but this often isn’t possible (due to nobody being home at the time of the call-out, for example), making an estimate necessary.

Smart meters remove the need for estimated bills as they have a two-way communication system (using 2G technology) and are able to read your electricity meter remotely, which means both you and your supplier have constant access to your usage levels.

This means you'll only be billed for what you've used going forward and will no longer have to submit a meter reading to your supplier.

2. Reduced energy consumption 

Smart meters will allow you to see exactly how much energy you’re using in real-time, and which appliances are using the most electricity, via an in-home display unit, smartphone or tablet. This means you'll have way more information and insight into your energy usage throughout the day, which should help you to reduce your consumption.

However the level of real-time data and insights on offer from some suppliers is still lacking at present. But this will hopefully improve in due course.

3. Lower carbon footprint 

Improved energy efficiency and reduced consumption is not only good for your pocket; it’s good for the environment too!

The less energy you use, the happier Mother Nature will be!

4. Better information on your energy bills

Your monthly or bi-monthly electricity bills will also become 'smart' too. 

Your bills will be able to provide you with lots of invaluable information on your energy consumption, year-on-year comparisons of your energy usage, helpful graphs, as well as hints and tips to help you manage your energy better. 

5. More options for prepay customers  

If you’re a prepay electricity customer, there are particular benefits for you.

Your energy supplier may be able to offer you new and more flexible ways of topping up your meter that mean you don’t have to visit a shop. You’ll also be able to see your balance on your in-home display unit, so you won’t unknowingly run out of credit, and in the future you should be able to set your meter to automatically top up, so you won’t be left without power if you run out of credit at night or when the shops are shut.

6. More tariff options 

Smart meters offer so-called ‘time-of-use’ tariffs which charge different prices for electricity throughout the day. This is to encourage you to move your usage to off-peak times when it is less expensive to produce electricity. This can also help lower carbon emissions as peak-time energy demand often has to be met by turning on fossil-fuel generators.  

However it’s recommend you engage with your supplier before signing up to a smart tariff so that they can recommend the right one for you based on your consumption habits. If you choose the wrong tariff you could end up paying more for your electricity.

See here for more information on smart tariffs.

7. Better customer service 

The new smart meters will also allow ESB Networks to find and fix faults quicker. 

You'll also be able to chose your own billing date and whether to get monthly or bi-monthly bills. Every six months, some suppliers will also write to you to let you know if you could save money by moving to a different smart tariff. 

How much will I save?

Back in 2009, around 8,000 gas and electricity smart meters were installed around Ireland as part of a trial to test their effectiveness.

The results showed that households were able to reduce their consumption by up to 3% on average, but in some cases reductions of as much as 8.8% were recorded.

So, if the trial is anything to go by, you should be able to save money with a smart meter and the CRU says that all households should be able to save about €20 to €30 a year through reducing their energy consumption alone.

However, by signing up to a time-of-use tariff and switching some of your energy usage to different times of the day, you could save a bit more. But it will depend on when you use your electricity.

Some of the smart tariffs on offer right now won't save households much money. Indeed, households with a day/night meter in particular and which use a big amount of energy at night may find smart tariffs quite poor value for them at present.

It's hoped better value plans will become available over the coming months.  

When will I get mine?

The rollout of smart meters began in counties Cork, Laois and Kildare in late 2019 and expanded to parts of Dublin and Meath at the beginning of 2020.

It will continue on a phased basis until 2024 by which time every home, farm and business in Ireland should have a new meter installed.

At the moment just over 1 million meters have already been replaced and approximately 500,000 more will be installed every year over the next few years.

The focus will be on older meters first however customers can apply to ESB Networks or their electricity supplier for a prioritised installation. You’ll need to quote your 11 digit MPRN number when doing so. This can be found on your electricity bill and always starts with ’10’.

You can learn more about how to read your energy bills here.

What can I do in the meantime?

There are some things you can do in the meantime to improve your energy efficiency and make some great savings.

Firstly, you could get an electricity appliance monitor like the Owl monitor. This will cost you about €50 and, by showing you which items in your house are costing you the most, it will likely pay for itself in a matter of months.

Finally, you can switch energy supplier right here on bonkers.ie. Our comparison service lets you review deals from all energy suppliers nationwide.

It's quick and easy to switch and only takes minutes and will save you hundreds on your annual bills. 

If switching suppliers is something you’re considering, take a look at these 7 important things to keep in mind during the switching process or our helpful guide on the most common questions we get asked about the energy switching process

Don’t forget to check out our energy blogs and guides to stay up to date with the latest news and top saving tips.

Get in touch

Are you looking forward to getting a smart meter installed? 

If you have any questions about smart meters or switching energy suppliers, let us know. You can contact us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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