Are smart meters safe?
Let’s put your mind at ease about smart meters and your health, data and privacy.
- Are smart meters bad for my health?
- Do smart meters emit radio waves?
- When and how do you take data from my smart meter?
- Who else can see my smart meter data?
- Is my data safe?
- What’s the Data Protection Act?
- How can I see my smart meter data?
- Can smart meters be hacked?
- As smart data is sent automatically, will you ever need to visit my home?
- Can you read my In-Home Display (IHD) remotely?
- Where can I find out more?
Are smart meters bad for my health?
Smart meters are relatively new technology, so you may be concerned about their effect on your home and family’s safety. Rest assured, there’s no need to worry, the smart meters we use at OVO are extremely safe. They are covered by UK and EU product safety legislation, which means they’ve undergone rigorous testing to make sure they are stable and secure.
Do smart meters emit radio waves?
Smart meters use low-frequency radio emissions to communicate the information they collect, in a very similar way to other wireless electronic devices, like mobile phones, WiFi computers and televisions.
Public Health England, an executive agency of the UK Department of Health, has collated various studies, reviews and assessments to measure the effect of smart meter radio waves. They have concluded that:
- All the evidence so far suggests that the radio waves produced by smart meters don’t pose any risk to the health of people who have them in their home
- Using a mobile phone would give you greater exposure to radio waves than living with a smart meter.
- Smart meters aren’t communicating all the time – just in occasional short bursts when they’re actually sending us information.
- You would get higher exposure to radio waves from any device you use closer to your body, which emits more power and transmits for more of the time – such as a mobile phone.
If you’d like more details, please take a look at the Public Health England (PHE) guide to smart meters.
Source for info on radio waves: Gov.uk.
When and how do you take data from my smart meter?
A compatible smart meter will be in constant communication with our systems. This means we’re always up to date with the amount of energy you’re using, and can tell quickly if there is any interruption to your supply.
We can check the information from your smart meter at any time, and use it to:
- Manage your energy supply, and spot any problems as soon as they happen.
- Help us (and the energy industry as a whole) to work more efficiently.
- Give you relevant advice to help you reduce your energy use and lower your bills.
- Improve our service to you and our other customers.
- Keep an eye on our products and services and give us ideas for new ones.
- Identify and stop energy theft.
- Develop and manage energy supply and demand.
- Work out your bills, so they’re always up to date and accurate.
If we need to use the information for anything else, we’ll get in touch with you first to explain why and talk it through with you.
If you contact us with a question about your OVO account, we might need to take some details from your smart meter, but we’ll tell you before we do. We won’t take any information about individual appliances in your home, unless it affects a product or service you’re using.
Who else can see my smart meter data?
If we need to, we might share your smart meter information with:
- Organisations and agents that help us provide your products and services.
- Other energy industry organisations, like network companies, who help manage energy supplies and distribution.
- The police or other organisations, including industry bodies who help spot and stop theft or fraud (under data protection laws).
If you've given us permission to share your data with other companies for marketing, we might also share it with them. However, you can ‘opt-out’ at any time, just call to let us know.
Is my data safe?
Yes. We use encryption, controlled access and other security, including ways agreed with the government, to make sure the information transmitted from your smart meter is always secure. There are strict new regulations and codes of practice, governed by Ofgem, to keep smart meter data private and safe, and all your personal data is safeguarded by the Data Protection Act.
Your smart meter uses its own secure, wireless network, known as a home area network (HAN), that works in the same way as other wireless systems in your home. It then uses a wide area network (WAN) to send the data to your energy supplier. This works in the same way your mobile phone sends and receives information.
What’s the Data Protection Act?
The Data Protection Act 1998 sets out rights and obligations about the use of personal data – for more information, go to the website of the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).
How can I see my smart meter data?
We’ll tell you how you can see information about the energy you use, whether it’s on our app or on an IHD. You can ask for a copy of your personal information too. We’ll tell you who to contact to get this and if you have to pay a charge for it. If you think any of your details look wrong, we’ll also tell you who to contact.
Can smart meters be hacked?
Security is at the heart of the whole smart meter rollout programme, so the smart system has been specifically designed to prevent hacking.
Smart meters don’t use the internet, and have their own closed, dedicated communications system. They’ve been designed with top cyber security experts, including the government and GCHQ, to incorporate security best practice.
As smart data is sent automatically, will you ever need to visit my home?
We’ll need to send someone once a year to get your meter reading, even if you’ve got a smart meter. We also may need to come round every now and then to do a safety inspection, carry out repairs or install a replacement smart meter if there are any problems.
Can you read my In-Home Display (IHD) remotely?
It depends on whether your IHD is connected to WiFi or not. Your IHD can show you how much energy you’re using in real time and normally we can’t see this. But if your IHD is connected to WiFi, and we need to access your real time data because it affects an OVO product or service you’re using, we are able to see it.
However –we’ll always check with you in advance if we can access your real time data, and you can always say no.
We may also use your IHD to send you messages (you can ask us not to send you any marketing messages through it).
Where can I find out more?
Find out more about the UK’s smart meter roll-out and the energy industry’s smart data policy.
If you’d like independent advice about your rights and choices around the way we collect and use your data, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) will be happy to help. Or you can call their helpline on 0303 123 1113.