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Gas and electricity meters

There are various different types of energy meters in the UK, so it's important to know what is in your home.

There are various different types of energy meters in the UK, so it’s important to know what is in your home. Gas and Electricity meters track how much energy a home is using so that you can accurately pay for what you use.

The type of meter you have may also affect how you pay your bills, for example, if you have a prepayment meter, you’ll need to pay in advance by topping up your meter using a key or a card.

Take regular meter readings

Take meter readings monthly and upload them through your energy provider’s website or app. Then, in two or three months, contact your supplier and ask them to provide an updated bill to see where you are and whether you may need to amend your regular payment.

It’s important to also check your direct debit is under the Energy Price Guarantee rates, which protects customers from increases in energy costs by limiting the amount suppliers can charge per unit of energy used.

If you use an up-to-date smart meter, you don’t need to take meter readings.

Are you eligible for a free smart meter?

Over 23 million households currently use a smart meter in their home, if you don’t have one yet, your supplier may be able to install one for free at your property.

Prepayment meters

If you have a prepayment meter

A prepayment meter (PPM) is a meter in your home which you top up with a card or a key.

It allows you to manage your energy use and finances more closely than waiting for quarterly or monthly bills – but isn’t suitable for all customers, and it’s worth discussing with your supplier if you want to change.

Not everyone will be able to choose a different meter type but keep in mind that if you have a prepayment meter, you’ll often pay more for your energy than other customers due to different costs to serve – even if you’re on the price cap, and you also may not get access to the best deals.

If you forget or can’t afford to top up, you run the risk of losing access to heat and power until you can next credit funds to your meter.

However, with a PPM, additional, bespoke support could be available depending on your individual circumstances, so it’s important to contact your energy supplier as soon as you can if you’re worried about paying your energy bills or think you won’t be able to afford them.

If you’re in a vulnerable situation, please read our guidance on this page on the Priority Services Register

If your supplier has a warrant to install a prepayment meter

In guidance published on 13th September 2023, OFGEM outlined that suppliers are now banned from forcibly installing PPMs for people over 75 with no support in their households and for homes with children aged under two.

  • Before installing a prepayment meter, a supplier has to go through a number of checks to ensure they’ve taken all reasonable steps to agree a payment plan with you. This includes offering you other ways to repay the money you owe, giving you at least 28 days to repay your debt and taking into account your ability to pay.
  • They can only apply for a warrant to install a prepayment meter as a last resort, and there are circumstances where a supplier shouldn’t install one, such as:
    • If the debt isn’t yours (e.g. it came from a previous tenant)
    • You’re in a vulnerable situation, and doing so would be severely traumatic
    • You’re disabled or ill, and your condition makes it difficult for you to use, read or top up the meter, or if your illness affects your breathing or is made worse by the cold, such as asthma or arthritis
  • Suppliers shouldn’t install a PPM unless it’s safe and practicable to do so. If your supplier has reason to believe it isn’t safe and practicable, they should consider the following steps as provided by OFGEM:
    • Changing the position of the meter
    • Replacing the meter with a specifically-adapted one
    • Making other arrangements to ensure the meter is safe and practical
    • Agreeing other ways for you to pay your bill
  • If you believe a prepayment meter isn’t right for you based on the above, first speak to your supplier. If you’re unsatisfied with the response, you can make a complaint.
  • Suppliers can’t charge you more than £150 for installing a prepayment meter under warrant. They must give you notice before coming to your house to install it – at least seven days for gas and seven working days for electricity.
  • They must not charge you any costs if you’re in a vulnerable situation and this has made it difficult for you to speak to your supplier about paying back debts or if this would worsen your existing financial vulnerability.

Please note BudgetSmart has been created to provide you with information but it’s important to always do your own research too. Whilst BudgetSmart contains links to third party websites we think you might find useful, PayPlan is not responsible for any external content or any actions you take when accessing these links/websites