Smart Meters for Businesses Explained: All You Need to Know
Business smart meters can potentially help save you time, money and energy. Find out everything you need to know about smart meters below, including how they work, what they do, and how to get one installed at your business.
While there are significant differences between domestic and business energy, you might be surprised to learn just how much the products have in common.
For example, many of the tips you would use to save on your gas and electricity at home can apply to how you run your business too. That includes making sure you are being billed correctly for the energy you use by installing smart meters at your business.
And there couldn’t be a more important time to do so. The UK energy crisis has led to a sharp increase in business energy bills, meaning the last thing you want at the moment is to be paying for an estimated usage that is higher than your actual energy consumption.
Below, we take a look at how smart meters for businesses work, their benefits and disadvantages, and how you can get one installed.
What are smart meters for businesses?
Available for both your business electricity and gas, smart meters are gradually replacing traditional energy meters in Great Britain.
Just as you might have one installed in your home, you can get a smart meter at each of your business sites. This will give you more accurate business energy bills, based on your actual usage rather than an estimate.
You may also receive an ‘in-home display’ that will show your real-time usage, allowing you to try to build a more energy efficient business.
Do I have to have a smart meter at my business?
Your supplier is required to take reasonable steps to offer you a business smart meter in non-domestic properties. However, you do not have to say yes. It is important you weigh up the benefits, and any potential disadvantages, before making your decision.
How do smart meters work?
Instead of taking monthly business gas and electricity readings and manually submitting them to your supplier, a business smart meter will do this automatically for you. This data is sent through a wireless network designed specifically for smart meters, one that isn’t reliant on your wi-fi connection.
While smart meters record your usage every 30-minutes for gas and in close to real-time for electricity, you can decide how often your data is passed on to your supplier. That could be every half an hour, once a day, or once a month.
The more frequently your readings are taken, the better your supplier will be able to understand the whens and whys of your usage. This could result in more accurate advice on improving your energy efficiency, and potentially a more personalised deal when it is time to renew your contract.
If you are worried about your data security, however, your supplier should allow you to opt out of it being used for anything other than calculating your business energy bills. This is unless your bills are ‘half-hourly settled’. You will also need to consent to your data being used for other purposes, such as marketing.
How to read a smart meter
One of the main points of having a business smart meter is that you wouldn’t regularly need to ‘read’ it in the same way you would a traditional meter. This is especially true if your supplier has also provided you with an ‘in-home display’.
If you do need to take a reading directly from your smart meter, say if you have switched energy suppliers, then you will need to search for the instructions for the specific meter you have installed. This is because there are a number of models, with different settings, for both gas and electricity.
Both your supplier and Citizens Advice can offer you guidance on how to read your smart meter.
Pros and cons of smart meters
If you haven’t got one already installed, then there are a number of reasons why getting a business smart meter might be a good idea.
- Save time – automatic meter readings means you won’t need to set aside time each month to send your data over to your supplier.
- Save money – a more accurate energy bill may end up saving you money you were spending on estimated usage you were not actually consuming.
- Save energy – by watching your real-time usage, you can better understand where and how your business might be able to become more energy efficient.
- Free installation – while the cost of smart meters has been absorbed by energy bills in general, you will not pay up front for its installation.
- Easy switching – if you have a Smart Metering Equipment Specifications 2 (SMETS2) meter, you can switch business energy suppliers without it disrupting your readings.
Yet there are some drawbacks to smart meters. These include:
- They are not available for every business. This could be due to a weak network signal in your area, or a lack of space for the meter to be installed at your business premises.
- You may be charged for part of your smart meter upgrade, and access to your energy data. However, if you are a micro business, i.e. you have nine or fewer employees, you must be told in advance of any costs related to your installation.
- There are currently no plans to introduce smart meters in Northern Ireland.
How to get a smart meter for your business
It is very easy to get a smart meter for your business. You just need to follow these three steps:
- If your supplier hasn’t contacted you already, you can request that a smart meter is installed at your premises.
- You will then need to book a time and date for the smart meter installation.
- The installation of each smart meter, one for electricity and one for gas, should take around an hour or so.
If you rent your business premises and pay for your own energy bills, then you can still request a smart meter from your supplier. However, you should check with your landlord first, in case there is anything in your tenancy agreement that prohibits their installation.
If your landlord pays for the energy at your property, meanwhile, it is up to them whether or not a smart meter is installed.
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Connor is a writer and spokesperson for NerdWallet. Previously at Spreadex, his market commentary has been quoted in the likes of the BBC, The Guardian, Evening Standard, Reuters and The Independent. Read more