To get the best return on your solar investment, it is worth looking at how your current electricity system is set up and how it can be used to your advantage. In this guide, we explain if you need a smart meter for solar panels and what will happen to your smart meter after you’ve had a solar panels installation.
What is a smart meter?
Smart meters were introduced by the UK government to help households have better visibility of their energy consumption. In simple terms, smart meters read how much energy you use in real-time and send these readings directly to the energy suppliers.
No more long phone calls to energy companies about incorrectly calculated bills and estimated meter readings! For more information on smart meters, check out this helpful guide.
Can I have solar panels installed if I have a smart meter?
Absolutely! You can install solar panels if you already have a smart meter. All you need to do is make sure that your smart meter is compatible with the solar panels. If it’s not, you can install one which is.
There are two types of smart meters:
- First Generation (known as SMETS1) are older and no longer installed. These older meters are only able to connect to the supplier who installed the meter. While this won’t have any effect on the electricity you generate and use, it may prevent you from selling back to the grid via the Smart Export Guarantee (SEG). This could mean you are only able to receive SEG payments from the original SMETS1 supplier.
- Second Generation (known as SMETS2) are the type currently being installed and allow you to move between electricity suppliers. This means you are also able to take advantage of any available SEG tariff.
The quickest way to find out which meter you have is to check the user guide or to contact the supplier who installed the meter. You can also look at your electricity meter. If the serial number starts with 19P, this indicates a SMETS1 meter. If it starts with 19M, then this means you have a SMETS2 meter.
How do smart meters work with solar panels?
How does it sound to be paid for excess energy produced by your solar panels? In January 2020, the UK government launched the Smart Export Guarantee (SEG). This scheme requires energy companies with over 150,000 to provide an ‘export tariff’ for each unit of electricity that solar panel owners send back to the grid.
Traditional meters record only the energy going into the house. That is, how much electricity electricity you’ve purchased from an energy company. A smart meter can record the energy you use, and how much excess energy that is exported to the national grid. Without a smart meter, you can still export energy back to the grid, but you will not be paid for this as there is no way of knowing how much energy you sent back.
Will my ‘In Home Display’ work with solar panels?
All SMETS2 smart meters come with an ‘In Home Display’ – a small device which shows your energy usage in kilowatt hours (kWh), pounds and pence. It will depend on the smart meter set up if its ‘In Home Display’ shows you solar energy export.
Do I need a smart meter for solar panels to work?
In theory, solar panels can work without a smart meter. However, a smart meter is needed to get paid for the solar energy exported to the grid. If you currently have an older meter (a SMETS1 smart meter), you will need a new smart meter before you can get paid for your export.
You can get a smart meter by booking an installation with your energy provider. Often, they will do it for free. We will provide our MCS (microgeneration certification scheme) certificate, for you to take to your provider. Your Green Homes Guru, your personal money saving expert on everything solar panels, will happily walk you through this process when you book a (free!) call.
Now that you know how smart meters work with solar panels, make sure to check how much money you could be saving with green energy solutions by using our free and impartial tool. We're all about helping you make informed decisions, so if you are looking for more information on solar panels, head over to our selection of guides or drop us an email via email@example.com.