What is the difference between an AMR and a Smart Meter?

06 July 2020

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What is the difference between an AMR and a Smart Meter?

Government guidelines implemented over recent years now demand that all domestic buildings and small business premises must be offered the chance to receive a smart meter by 2024. This is part of an ongoing strategy to ensure that energy usage across domestic and business properties can be more accurately monitored.

Moving from traditional meters to smart meters could provide domestic users and SMEs the opportunity to take better control over their energy usage. Because smart meters measure your energy usage and use a secure, wireless network to send meter readings to your energy supplier each month, it means SMEs can say goodbye to estimated bills and look forward to invoices that are based on their actual energy usage.

The move towards smart meters is part of a programme dedicated to cutting energy wastage and the subsequent impacts it can have on the environment which, along with the potential for great savings, is a major benefit.

Some businesses in the UK, particularly those based in large premises, will already be using similar technology – automated meter reading (AMR) devices. This technology has helped businesses throughout the UK closely monitor their energy usage and control costs.

Despite certain similarities, AMR devices and smart meters perform differently, utilise distinct technologies and offer their own benefits. So, to remove any confusion surrounding the two technologies, we’ll explain the differences between AMR devices and smart meters right here.

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amr vs smart meters

Automated meter reading (AMR) devices explained

What are automated meter reading (AMR) devices?

There are three different forms of AMR devices:

  • Advanced meters – a remote reading device, connected to the meter
  • Data loggers – remote reading equipment provided by transporters on larger sites
  • Gas embedded meters – where the remote reading device is integral to the meter

All these different AMR devices create a remote communication channel between a business and its energy supplier.

The benefits of AMR devices

  • Consumption, or usage, information can be transmitted from an AMR device directly to the energy supplier, meaning manual meter readings are generally no longer required.
  • More accurate bills that give customers the option to analyse their energy usage data. In most cases, this data is available from the energy supplier on a daily, weekly or monthly basis, so customers have the option to monitor their consumption and develop new ways to operate more efficiently.
  • Businesses will, therefore, only pay for the energy they use each month because AMR devices provide an accurate meter reading; estimated bills become a thing of the past and it’s much easier to forecast usage.
  • Since a greater understanding of energy use is achieved, it means that businesses are in a better position to maximise their energy efficiency.
  • They provide a more flexible tariff as energy suppliers can offer time-sensitive tariffs that maximise energy use during lower demand periods.
  • Reduced carbon emissions and improved environmental credentials.

smart metering energy

Smart meters explained

What are smart meters?

Right now, smart meters are being rolled out across the domestic and smaller non-domestic market. Unlike AMR devices, smart meters operate through a centralised data communication company. These meters are produced to an industry standard referred to as the Smart Metering Equipment Technical Standard (SMETs).

There are two types of smart meters

  • SMETS1: Communicate with your supplier through a 3G mobile network
  • SMETS2: Communicate with your supplier through a purpose built network

If your smart meter was installed prior to 2018, it will be an SMETS1 unit. Meters installed during or since 2018 may be either SMETS1 or SMETS2. To discover which type of smart meter you have, contact your energy supplier.

How do smart meters work?

Smart meters replace your existing energy meter, sending your energy supplier regular readings automatically.

They calculate how much energy you’re using, what this costs over time, and the per-hourly cost as you’re using it. It is possible to stay up-to-date by reviewing your energy usage data online.

If you have a SMETS1 meter and you switch supplier, it will continue to record your energy use but may no longer communicate information remotely. This will be the case until your meter is migrated by the Data Communication Company (DCC) - the industry service provider for Data Communications. The DCC will work to migrate your SMETS1 meter in line with industry timelines.

Note: Smart electricity meters are connected to the mains and monitor how much power you’re using in real-time. Smart gas meters, however, are battery-powered and ‘asleep’ most of the time. It wakes up every half an hour to send a reading via the electricity meter.


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How to read a smart meter

If you’re looking to read your smart meter, then it depends on the type of smart meter your business has. If you’re taking a reading from a smart electricity meter, your reading will be a number followed by kWh, while smart gas meter readings will feature a number followed by m3. In both cases, disregard any numbers after the decimal place.

If your smart meter has a keypad

Press 9 on the keypad to see your reading. For gas meters, you’ll see Volume and a reading followed by m3. Electricity meters will show IMP kWh and a reading followed by kWh.

If you have a 2-rate meter, sometimes called Economy 7, to see your day and night readings, then you should do the following:

  1. Press 6 on the keypad until you see IMP R01 followed by eight digits.
  2. Press 6 again until you see IMP R02 followed by eight digits.

Some meters only display day readings during the day and vice versa with night readings. Additionally, the readings may also be listed as Rate 1 and Rate 2, or Rate 1 and Rate 4. Which number is day and which is night varies from meter to meter – the guidance for your meter may be written on the meter itself, or it may say Low or L (night) and Normal or N (day) next to the readings.

If your smart meter has a green button labelled A

Smart meters with such buttons are electricity meters. Press this button until you see the words Total Act Import. A reading should appear followed by kWh.

2-rate or Economy 7 meters will show a 01 and a 02 reading upon pressing the green button. Record both numbers; one is the day and one is the night reading, though which is which varies from meter to meter.

If your smart meter has A and B buttons 

Press the A button until you see Credit On, then press it again to show Meter Index. Press it once more to show your readings.

If your smart meter has no buttons

The screen will cycle through readings; the number starting with R1 is your reading.

smart meters for business

Does my business need a smart meter?

By 2024, all domestic properties and SME business premises will be offered the opportunity to have a smart meter installed. However, it is entirely at the discretion of the user whether or not to take up this offer.

AMR devices will continue to be used in larger non-domestic businesses but the option to install either an AMR device or smart meter at smaller non-domestic business premises has been phased out since 21 May 2018. Now, only smart meters can be installed.

taking meter readings

Smart meter and AMR devices roll-out – the current timeline

Up until May 2018 – suppliers could continue to install AMR devices at smaller non-domestic sites.

After May 2018 – only SMETS-compliant smart meters are allowed to be installed at smaller non-domestic sites, except in the following cases:

  • Installation is not feasible due to specific limitations of the site, such as lack of a mobile data signal
  • The installation is being carried out under a contractual agreement that pre-dates May 2018

requesting smart meter

Requesting a smart meter or AMR device

If your business is interested in having a smart meter installed, you can opt-in by completing a short form, here.

At SEFE Energy, we offer all gas and electricity customers a number of smart, smart-type and automated meter reading (AMR) as part of our standard offer, so you can be sure we’ll bill you for your actual consumption each month, with the choice to access your meter reading data. This is in line with Britain’s overall target to transition to a low-carbon energy system in coming years. 

SEFE Energy is a leading and award-winning business energy supplier, helping thousands of small businesses manage their gas and electricity contracts. To find out more about what we can offer your business, visit the homepage or call us today on 0161 837 3395.

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