All About Smart Meters

A smart meter measures both when and how much electricity you use, and sends the data to your retailer wirelessly.

All About Smart Meters
Photo by Robert Linder / Unsplash

A smart meter (also known as an advanced meter or 'type 4' meter) measures both when and how much electricity is used at your premises.  

Every household in Victoria already has a smart meter, and they are being progressively rolled out across other parts of Australia. In general, whenever an old meter needs to be replaced, it will be replaced with a smart meter.

What does a smart meter actually do?

Like any meter, a smart meter measures how much energy you use.

The main difference with a  smart meter is that it doesn't just measure your overall energy usage; it measures your usage by time and it sends your usage data back to your energy distributor and retailer wirelessly.

Smart meters can also do other things remotely, like allow the electricity supply to be remotely switched on and off without the need for a field technician, measure the power quality at your premises and automatically notify your electricity distributor when there's a power outage at your location.

What are the benefits of getting a smart meter?

The key benefits of having a smart meter are:

  • Smart meters are required for key new energy products and services, including solar and battery storage systems
  • A smart meter can be read remotely via a wireless network, which removes the need for a field service tech to visit for each meter reading, and means you can move to monthly billing rather than quarterly. Many of the most competitively priced plans require monthly billing, which is understandable since monthly billing improves cash flow for the retailer. Better cash flow is one of the things that makes it possible for them to offer the most competitive prices.
  • Because your smart meter has wireless network capability, you can access that data yourself using an in-home display (IHD) device. These devices can help you understand your overall usage patterns and can help you identify the energy consumption for individual appliances.
  • A smart meter can support time-of-use tariffs, so there's potential to take advantage of plans that offer cheaper pricing during off-peak times. There's also the opportunity to explore 'demand shifting' where you can benefit by deliberately moving your energy consumption into off-peak hours - for example by running the washing machine and dishwasher at night when the price of energy will be lowest.
  • A smart meter is a source of detailed information about your energy use. This information can help you understand and adjust your usage or find the best deal for you.
  • A smart meter allows electricity distributors to detect outages more quickly and monitor the quality of your electricity supply. This will help to minimise the number and length of electricity supply outages.

Are smart meters safe?

Yes, smart meters are safe.

Every smart meter must be manufactured and installed according to Australian Standards, and must comply with the electromagnetic exposure limits developed by the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA).

The same ARPANSA electromagnetic exposure limits also apply to other wireless products like mobile and cordless phones, Wi-Fi routers and baby monitors.

Smart meters use a low-power wireless networking standard called Zigbee which is considerably lower power than mobile phones.

For more information, see ARPANSA's webpage on smart meters and health.

Is my smart meter data private?

Yes, your energy consumption data is private. Your personal information and your energy consumption data are protected under the National Electricity Law and the Privacy Act 1988.

Will I have to pay for a smart meter?

If your existing meter is at end-of-life and needs to be replaced, then it will be replaced with a smart meter at no direct cost to you - as with all the network infrastructure that delivers energy to our homes, the costs are wrapped up into the bills that we pay.

If you decide to install a smart meter for your own reasons - for example if you're installing solar, or if you want access to the data that a smart meter can offer, different retailers may take different approaches to how they charge you for a new meter.

They may charge you a lump sum which could appear in your next bill or they may choose to charge you a monthly fee. This fee should appear on your bill as well. Some retailers may absorb the cost of providing new meters to customers as part of the electricity usage charges.

In general, if the retailer is paying for the installation costs, this will apply only to standard install costs - if  additional works such as rewiring, or asbestos removal from your meter enclosure are required, those additional works would be charged for.

The retailer must disclose any costs to you before they install the new meter.

Will I be moved to a different tariff or energy offer once the smart meter is installed?

Typically, a newly installed smart meter will be set up with a time-of-use or a demand tariff, which means you'll need to move to a time-of-use or demand plan .

Regardless of your tariff, Bill Hero will help you find the best-priced plans available.

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Smart meter installation

How to get a smart meter installed

You can request a smart meter upgrade anytime by contacting your retailer.

Some retailers offer energy plans that require a smart meter to be installed. Some of these retailers may include a free smart meter upgrade when you take up their plans.

If your current meter is faulty or at the end of its life and needs replacing, then the replacement meter will be a smart meter, even if the original meter was a manual meter.

Smart meter installations need to be scheduled, and the timing will depend on local availability factors. Generally, it should take a few weeks for a smart meter upgrade to be scheduled and completed. The actual work to replace the meter takes only an hour or so.

What if I don't want a smart meter?

If your existing meter is faulty or has reached the end of its life, it will be replaced with a smart meter, but you can request your retailer to disable the telecommunications functions that support wireless meter readings.

The retailer may charge additional fees for manual meter reading if you request that wireless meter readings be disabled.

If your current meter is still working properly, but a retailer wants to replace it with a smart meter, you can opt out of the smart meter installation. However, you can only opt out if you didn’t already waive your right to opt out when you signed up for your current electricity contract.

Will my electricity supply be interrupted during the installation?

Yes. Your meter is the primary point of connection between your home and the external distribution network, so your home needs to be disconnected and the meter isolated before it can be worked on and replaced.

However, your electricity supply will be interrupted for only a short time during the installation.

Your retailer must provide you with a minimum of 4 business days’ notice of the supply interruption. The notification must include the date for the meter installation and the time and length of the interruption.

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