Smart meters are rolling out across the country to keep both members and suppliers up to date with energy consumption. They send automatic meter readings to suppliers, provide real time data on In-Home Displays (IHDs), and can be compatible with solar panels to make the most out of solar energy. You can find our guide to smart meters here.
We’re installing Second Generation (SMETS2) Smart meters for our members so we’re here to provide some insight into the mysterious world of smart meters.
First up, smart meters and their networks
Smart meters send automatic meter readings to your supplier. They run on a dedicated secure smart network that is provided by and managed by the Data Communications Company (DCC).
This network is made up of the Home Area Network (HAN) as well as the Wide Area Network (WAN).
WAN covers any distance necessary. Your smart electricity meter uses WAN to send data, such as meter readings, just like a mobile phone. If your meter is connected, you’ll see a green light flashing every five seconds. If there’s no WAN coverage in your area, we won’t be able to commission the smart meters yet as they won’t have the coverage needed to achieve this. This will be updated in time by the DCC.
Your electricity smart meter also creates a short-range wireless network called a HAN, which connects to devices within your home.
Meters become ‘smart’ when they are able to fully connect to both of these networks. The DCC then sends information about how much gas and electricity you’ve used directly to your energy supplier.
The range of the HAN is about 15m, but this can be obstructed by things like thick walls and doors. This can stop your smart meter from communicating with your In-Home-Display (IHD).
@Rob_at_smartenergyGB once told us that Britain has the widest variety of buildings that have been constructed over the last 1,000 years so you can imagine some of the challenges faced in the smart meter rollout! You can read more from his Q&A here.
Suppliers connect through ‘commissioning’
Once your smart meters are installed, the engineers complete a process called ‘commissioning’. This is the process of connecting your meters to the networks above.
In order to successfully commission your meter, there needs to be Wide Area Network coverage available. Bulb then needs to join the Home Area Network and upload our security credentials onto the meter amongst a couple of other things.
The communications hub (or comms hub) sitting immediately on top of your electricity meter is responsible for receiving and sending all data. The comms hub uses the Home Area Network (HAN) to talk to the electricity, gas and IHD (In Home Display) devices. The HAN sends the readings from both your meters out to the DCC who relay them back to us, so we can bill you accurately for your energy.
Sometimes we may need to attempt to remotely commission a meter. This just means the engineer wasn’t able to complete the connection at the time, but we can sometimes run this from our end to get the meter working.
If there are any hiccups along the way, we work closely with the DCC to make sure we can rectify them as soon as possible.
Smart meters work on this smart network in a similar way to a phone network or radio waves. They’re not dangerous. If you are concerned about the health impacts, the UK government has written a comprehensive post about smart meters and radio waves here.
We’re still working on ways to connect to meters that were installed but not commissioned by another supplier, and should hopefully have more updates on this in the coming year.
Your In-Home Display (IHD) and its functions
We provide Chameleon IHDs for Second Generation (SMETS2) smart meters. These connect to the meter via the communications hub and securely share energy information with your supplier (us!). Your IHD should show your energy usage in real time by drawing data from the smart meters. You can check out the guide to setting up your In-Home Display here.
If your IHD isn’t showing the right usage, it sometimes just needs a little push to fully connect to your meters. If you think this has happened follow this link and fill in the details of the issue.
Once you’ve sent that in we try and fix your IHD overnight, so it should start working within 24 hours. Make sure you keep your IHD turned on and within 5m of your electricity meter overnight and restart it in the morning if nothing’s changed.
If that doesn’t work or the IHD is frozen, it may need a hard reset - in which case try these two methods:
- Hold the reset button for 15s. This gives the IHD a hard reset
- Unplug the IHD and let it run completely out of power
- Restart the IHD using the button at the back, making sure it is still unplugged
- The emergency power reserve will need to drain also, so let this happen
- Try to restart the IHD again. If it turns on, it still has power that needs to drain so let it run down
- Once the IHD cannot turn on any more, recharge it and turn it on
- The IHD should now work
If neither of these work, please send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with a photo of your IHD and we can take a further look.
Please also make sure you keep your IHD connected to Wi-Fi to receive software updates as they get released by the manufacturer.
The future of smart
Smart meters use the latest technology to achieve all these things. From a supplier perspective, smart meters can provide further transparency into usage and billing to ensure Bulb members are up to date and informed about their personal energy use.
From an industry perspective, smart meters can be a point of integration for new technologies. As the energy industry moves forward with new technology like electric vehicles (EVs), it needs up to date devices to make sure we can get the most out of these innovations. A study by Smart Energy GB found that more than eight million people are considering an EV in the next five years. Smart meters can integrate with EVs to help reduce energy costs by enabling car charging during off-peak periods.
Smart meters can provide information into consumption and trends, and allow ideas for improvements in energy efficiency and conservation to grow.
By making energy usage data more visible, smart meters help us understand where we can save. With smart meter data being sent regularly, members will better understand their usage and suppliers, like us, can try and engage our members with the possibilities of energy conservation - for both financial and environmental benefit!
As with anything techy there are some bumps to smooth out, but we think the smart meter rollout across the country will bring lots of positives to the industry.
We’d love to know whether our members with smart meters have experienced a better understanding of their energy consumption and what ideas they might have to improve the system further