A new report also found about 1 in 10 smart meters aren’t working properly (Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto)
Smart meter customers may soon have to get a new one installed because of an upcoming network switch off.
Millions of smart meters will soon be rendered useless because some 2G and 3G phone networks are being scrapped.
Smart meters have a SIM card, like mobile phones, which needs to connect to a wireless network to function.
And so when these networks are cut, the smart meters won’t work.
Around seven million smart meters – out of a total of 32.4 million that have been installed before March this year – will need replacing, according to a new report from the parliamentary accounts committee.
They will need to be replaced with functional ones connected to a 4G network, which will require a new SIM card.
But customers can only do this if they have a second-generation smart meter, which has better connectivity and is especially important for homes where mobile connections are poor.
Around 7 million customers may soon have to pay for a new smart meter to be installed (Picture: Getty Images)
Even if you already have a second-generation meter, the option to move to a 4G network won’t be available until 2025, said the Data and Communications Company – an independent firm behind the smart meter network.
Until now homeowners haven’t had to pay for smart meter instalments – but this is likely to change.
It’s expected homeowners will have to handle upgrade costs or the cost of new installations as part of this change.
And the accounts committee said the costs could be ‘significant’.
In a statement it said: ‘The costs of these upgrades could be very significant, and, like other costs of the roll out, are ultimately passed on to bill payers.’
Smart meters are beneficial – if they work – because they allow homeowners to keep track of how much they’re spending on energy (Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto)
The deadline for smart meters to switch over from 3G and 2G isn’t until 2033 – but all the upgrades will need to happen before then.
Customers will have to ask their energy provider whether their smart meter is compatible with getting a new SIM, or if they will need to have a completely new one installed.
Details of how the switch over will happen among energy firms are unclear currently.
But a number of firms currently charge around £50 to replace smart meters if they are faulty or if there are any issues – so it could be the same cost to replace non-4G compatible meters.
Currently some energy suppliers charge around £50 to install a new smart meter (Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto)
Smart meters were introduced to UK homes in 2011, and the government had an initial aim that every household would have one by 2020.
The deadline has now been extended to 2025.
Energy suppliers are supposed to take ‘all reasonable steps’ to fix smart meters before declaring they need to be replaced.
But the government’s delayed targets mean they now have much more of an incentive to replace them rather than trying to fix them.
The committee’s report also highlights something that many customers may not realise – suppliers don’t have an obligation to replace smart meter displays if they break after a year of having them.
The report shared recommendations for how Ofgem, the industry regulator, and the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero could tackle the issues it highlighted.
It said: ‘[They should set out] a timetable for replacing the communication hub element of smart meters that will lose functionality when the 2G and 3G mobile networks are switched off.
‘[They should set out] measures to ensure that suppliers use future-proofed technology – for example, by excluding 2G or 3G connectivity – in all new smart meter installations.’
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Customers may need to pay a ‘significant’ amount to get new smart meters installed.