Belfast Telegraph

8 ways householders can save energy and money

You could save cash and help the environment by installing a smart meter in your home. Here, TV property experts Kirstie Allsopp and Phil Spencer tell Lisa Salmon about the benefits of these nifty devices

Saving money and energy is smart - and one of the easiest ways to do both is to have a smart meter installed.

More than 11 million smart meters have already been fitted in homes and small businesses across the UK, and now TV property experts Kirstie Allsopp and Phil Spencer, along with comedian Susan Calman, are fronting a campaign to encourage more householders to choose a smart meter. As part of the Smart Energy GB Campaign for a Smarter Britain (smartenergygb.org/en), they are touring the country and highlighting the benefits of the clever little devices, which could help households save enough energy each year to power their home for a week -adding up to a national total of nearly £560m saved annually.

The beauty of smart meters is that they clearly show how much money a household is spending on energy every day, thereby making it more obvious that families might be able to save energy here and there by turning more lights off, turning down the heating a little, etc.

Indeed, if every home in the country got a smart meter, it could save enough energy to power every household in Aberdeen, Cardiff and Manchester for a year.

Allsopp explains: "How can you know you're wasting energy if you can't see it? I believe if we all get smart meters, it will help make our country greener.

"My smart meter will be right up there with those things that I can't imagine living without once I've spent enough time with it - a bit like Phil really."

Spencer adds: "Choosing a smart meter over your current analogue one can save time, energy and money, so my message to the public on this tour will be to take a step closer to a home that does the hard work for you."

Here, the pair answer some of the questions they've been tackling during their campaign.

1. Do people have to have a smart meter?

Spencer says: "It's not compulsory to have a smart meter, it's completely your choice. The government requires energy suppliers to offer smart meters to all homes and small businesses across Great Britain by 2020, but whether you accept them is completely up to you."

2. How much does a smart meter cost?

Allsopp says: "Getting a smart meter is free and if we all got one, we could save Great Britain nearly £560 million a year. Additionally, it's time for a change in how we use our energy - our current system is outdated. The analogue meters we're used to are not fit for modern living. And that's why we're campaigning for people to choose a smarter Britain."

3. How does a smart meter save 2-3% on energy bills?

"The smart meter itself won't save you money, it's your behaviour that will change," explains Spencer. "The way you monitor and use your energy is what makes the difference to how much money you can save.

With smart meters, you can see how much you're spending in pounds and pence.

"By being better informed, you're able to see what changes can be made to reduce your energy usage and consequently reduce your energy costs. Additionally, smart meters bring an end to estimated bills by sending readings to your supplier automatically, meaning you can be more confident to pay what you've actually used."

4. Is the amount a smart meter helps you save worth the effort?

"The more effort you make, the more you save," stresses Allsopp. "When the smart meter is in front of you, you engage with it and can see how much you're actually using and when.

"Choosing a smart meter will save you time, energy, and money. A smart meter could help you save enough energy to power your home for a week. It doesn't cost you anything to have one installed, and it brings with it a number of benefits, such as being in control of your usage and no more shock or estimated bills."

5. Are the meters just installed where the old electricity/gas meter was?

"Yes, smart meters replace your traditional analogue meters and are typically installed in the same place," says Spencer.

"You're also provided at no extra cost with an 'In Home Display', which is connected and is a visible display of the amount of energy you're using. This can be placed anywhere in the home."

6. What access is needed for a smart meter to be installed?

Spencer explains: "You need to get in contact with your energy company to arrange a free installation and they'll be able to discuss the access you need. You'll need to provide them with clear access to the meter and be at home for the installation."

7. Are the displays easy to understand?

"They're very easy to understand, and I'm not technically minded," admits Allsopp. "They're intuitive. On the display, you can see how much you're spending in pounds and pence, rather than kWh - something that's meaningless to most of us. You can also see whether your energy usage is high, medium or low from just a quick glance."

8. What reactions are you getting from the people you've spoken to on the Smarter Britain campaign tour?

"People are surprised it's free to install a smart meter - it's free, it saves you money and helps the environment, and this adds up for the country as a whole," says Spencer. "You're either part of the solution or part of the problem.

"We need to look after our planet. When that's spelt out to people, it leaves a mark. People are always wary of change, but when you stop to think that 20 years ago, nobody recycled and now it's become a social norm, that's what will happen with smart meters," he adds.

"We have so much data in our lives but not on energy, the very thing we spend a huge amount on, which doesn't make any sense."

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