As bills mount, tracking your energy usage has never been more important. With this in mind, Money Mail last week posed the question: Is it finally time to get a smart meter?
Well, the readers have now given their opinion, and their answer is a resounding ‘no’.
Smart meters are supposed to automatically send readings to your provider to ensure bills are accurate. Homes also get a small monitor that should show how much energy they’re using in real time.
Seething – Our mailing folder has been abuzz with letters and emails from readers saying their smart meter devices are simply not fit for purpose.
However, over the past week, our mailbox has been full of letters and emails from readers saying their devices are simply not fit for purpose.
Many claim that the installation was done poorly or that the technology never worked because the mobile signal where they live is too weak.
Others are furious that the monitors that are supposed to help them stay on top of usage are flawed and routinely display incorrect information.
Some vendors did not even update the figures displayed to reflect the increased prices. As a result, customers are hit with bills that are higher than expected.
And despite pestering customers to upgrade their meter, vendors have shown little interest in resolving these issues, with one reader forced to wait three years for a replacement.
No wonder households are furious that the cost of the rollout, already topping £13bn, is being added to their bills.
As one reader put it: ‘With the need to replace outdated and faulty meters, the costs are rising, so perhaps it should be borne out of the energy provider’s profits.’
Money Mail was so concerned by the sheer volume of your complaints that we have handed over a file to the industry watchdog, Ofgem, for further investigation.
A spokesman for the regulator says: ‘We thank Money Mail for this information. Protecting consumers is our top priority and we want customers to be able to take advantage of the benefits smart meters can bring.
‘We regularly engage with suppliers and take enforcement action where appropriate.’
Smart meters work on 2G and 3G networks, older versions of the systems that connect your mobile phone to the Internet when you’re not using a WiFi connection.
But experts say this plan has always been flawed because it can be difficult for the signal to penetrate certain buildings, especially those with thick walls.
One reader told Money Mail that an EDF Energy engineer said it would always be difficult to install a smart meter on his 1950s property because of the way it was built. Rural areas can be problematic due to lack of network coverage.
And another Mail reader, Steve Fletcher, has never been able to get his gas meter to work since he first installed the device and has regularly pointed out the problem.
Its provider, Bulb, says this is believed to be due to poor mobile signal.
Deployment: Problems with smart meters will only get worse as telcos prepare to replace 2G and 3G networks with faster-paced 4G and 5G by 2033
The 71-year-old from Leeds says: ‘My next door neighbor is also on Bulb and has had the same problem with her meter as she has for two years.
“It seems that the launch has been rushed. They had so many goals to achieve that they have not commissioned them correctly.
Like everything in life, if a company provides you with something that is faulty, it should be replaced or repaired.’
After being contacted by Money Mail, Bulb agreed to repair a new meter at Mr. Fletcher’s house.
However, the energy company ensures that this will not be possible if the problem is reduced to signaling.
My gas bill was triple what the meter said
Shock: Jane McMahon’s British gas bill was three times higher than her smart meter had predicted
Jane McMahon, left, was horrified when his British Gas bill was three times higher than his smart meter predicted.
The 72-year-old from south London had the device fitted in January. He was reading the amount of energy used correctly, but had not taken into account a change in tariff prices, meaning the amount he had to pay was not accurate on the screen.
Jane says: ‘We get the bills twice a year, so it took us until May to figure it out. he was horrified
“Our gas alone was £600 – I was expecting £200, based on our meter readings.”
After being contacted by Money Mail, British Gas managed to update the rate details on Jane’s meter.
Dozens of homes say they were told on the day of installation that the technology might not work, and engineers have warned of rising complaints.
In one of the worst cases, a 93-year-old Ovo customer lost his electricity supply after getting a smart meter. He had to pay £118.80 to an electrician, who said the installer had failed to turn on two control switches.
She told Money Mail: “My husband and I cannot afford to lose this amount of money through no fault of our own.”
An Ovo spokesman says the money has since been refunded.
Readers say they are also struggling to fix broken smart meters despite going after vendors.
Power companies have set themselves strict installation targets that they must meet or face huge fines. But once the device is installed, households say they feel like they are no longer a priority.
British Gas customer Pat Thwaites has been waiting for three years to replace her smart meter. Meanwhile, he has to rely on someone from the company to take readings from his old meter, which he can’t access.
The 83-year-old, from Essex, says: ‘It would be really helpful to know how much I’m spending on gas and electricity. Every time I call British Gas they tell me something different.
The supplier admits that his complaints were not followed up. New meters will be installed next month.
Pensioner Sue Thurley, from Ware, Hertfordshire, says her gas monitor has never worked and doesn’t show how much she’s spending.
She says: ‘The situation has caused me and my husband a lot of anxiety.
“I’m sick of calling and emailing Scottish Power all the time asking them to fix it. But we are worried that they will give us a big bill.
A Scottish Power spokesperson says: ‘We are sorry for any inconvenience Mrs Thurley has experienced. We have arranged for an engineer to replace her faulty meter.
Peace of mind: Smart meters are supposed to automatically send readings to your provider to ensure bills are accurate
Problems with smart meters will only get worse as telcos prepare to replace 2G and 3G networks with faster-paced 4G and 5G by 2033. Experts warn this could cause millions of devices to stop working.
Nick Hunn of wireless consulting firm WiFore says: ‘Energy companies were told in 2012 that they were designing equipment with technology that was already becoming obsolete. But they were like rabbits in headlights.
It comes after providers were criticized for initially installing millions of older Smets1 devices in homes, which “go dumb” if you switch providers. They are now releasing a newer Smets2 model, which should still work.
A spokesperson for the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy says: “We are working with industry to ensure smart gas and electricity meters can stay in place as we move away from 2G and 3G networks.”
A spokesperson for the campaigning body Smart Energy GB says: ‘The vast majority of smart meters work as they should.
“The smart meter rollout is the biggest upgrade to our power system in a generation, so there are bound to be temporary glitches to overcome along the way.”
Some links in this article may be affiliate links. If you click on them, we may earn a small commission. That helps us fund This Is Money and keep it free to use. We do not write articles to promote products. We do not allow any business relationship to affect our editorial independence.