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Smart Meters (1/2): Why you shouldn’t get one

Quite a few electricity and gas companies in the UK are ‘encouraging’ customers to get smart meters installed, but here are a few reasons why perhaps you should turn down these optional meters. I don’t necessarily agree or disagree with any/all of these points (in fact, I’ve also done a list of reasons why you should perhaps get one), but these are just ones I’ve heard/come across:

  1. SMETS1 restrictions. The ‘current/previous’ generation of smart meters, SMETS1, tend to be ‘locked’ to the installing company/supplier and become ‘dumb’ (unable to report readings/in home display inaccurate etc) if you move to another provider. The ‘new-gen’ SMETS2 meters (which will be rolling out this year – 2019) are multi-provider compatible.
  2. Privacy. Some people don’t like the idea of energy companies/Capita (who provide the ‘backend’ – DCC – to SMETS2 meters) knowing practically down to the minute how much power you are consuming (good indication of when you get up, when the house is empty, when you are cooking dinner etc etc)
  3. Security. Smart meters are electronic devices and therefore can be hacked (it’s currently unknown how easily/feasible though: yes, they use encryption but they have been plenty of insecure encryption deployments in smart devices in the past). So ‘third parties’ could not only get your usage information (see ‘Privacy’) but also have control over your meter.
  4. Control. Smart meters have a relay inside of them to enable the power to be turned off remotely. Handy if you’ve got an electrical issue or handy for the electrical company if your bill hasn’t been paid – not say handy if control has been taken by a third party (‘Security’) or if the billing company makes a mistake and marks you accidentally down as ‘not paid’.
  5. Technophobia. Smart meters communicate using radio waves (to the mobile phone networks) and also provide a ‘Zigbee’ network for in home devices and the like (as used by ‘smart bulbs’ and similar). Some people are scared of radio waves.
  6. Cost. Not just the cost of the meters, but the engineers time to replace the meters (and some people that had SMETS1 meters installed last year, may need to have a SMETS2 replacement meter next year). Somebody has got to be paying for all those meters and it’ll be the customers one way or another.
  7. Environmental. We’re going to be throwing away millions of ‘dumb meters’ which are perfectly functional and work. Hopefully, they’ll be recycled but who knows.
  8. Battery replacements. Batteries in smart meters (especially gas ones) are not user-serviceable and to change the battery requires breaking the tamper-resistant safety/security devices (which report back to the supplier/DCC if the meter has been ‘fiddled with’). Therefore when the battery dies (they currently have an estimated lifespan of 10 years: but we’ve all had batteries which are practically ‘dead on arrival’ and others which have lasted a lot longer than expected), the entire meter has to be replaced by an engineer.

On the flip side, have a look at my list of reasons why you perhaps should get a smart meter.

No matter who you get your gas/electricity from, you do want it to be cheap and environmentally friendly – perhaps consider switching to Bulb Energy. I’ve been with them since December 2017 and am more than happy with them (in fact, the majority of this post has been copied from a post I originally wrote on their community forums), and if you switch using my affiliate link here, we’ll both be credited with £50 and you’ll get 100% renewable electricity, 10%+ green gas and lower costs than the ‘big six’ and most of the other suppliers.

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