Consumer research for older and disabled people

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Smart meters

Smart meters help you monitor and save energy. The government wants all homes and businesses to have one by 2020.

How do smart meters work?

Person testing a smart meterLike ordinary meters, smart meters record how much gas and electricity you are using. They then send this information directly to the energy supplier, so you won’t need a meter reading and should not need estimated bills.

You will be offered an in-home display with your smart meter. An in-home display sits in your home and shows you how much electricity or gas you’re using.

Some come with extra functions, but these will cost more.

When will I get one?

The roll-out of smart meters is scheduled to begin in late 2015 and finish by late 2020. It’s the energy suppliers’ job to make sure that all their customers have a smart meter, and they will cover the costs.

Some suppliers are already offering smart meters, but these may need replacing when the roll-out happens or if you switch suppliers.

Will my in-home display be accessible?

Energy companies have to make sure that their in-home displays are accessible to a wide range of people, including those with sight loss, without them paying extra. If you can’t use yours, contact your energy company.

Some current in-home displays are suitable for partially sighted people, although ‘talking’ products for people with no sight are not yet available. If you are trying out an in-home display, ask yourself:

  • Are text and icons large enough to be read?
  • Does the screen have good contrast and lighting?
  • If there is scrolling information, will you be able to read it before it disappears?
  • Does it use coloured lights to show energy use? Can you tell them apart?

Rica's research on smart metering displays

Rica has worked with Consumer Futures to research the design of in-home displays and ensure that they are accessible to the greatest number of consumers. You can read more about our findings in Research reports: Smart metering displays.

Last updated: November 2016


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