Are you suffering from SMS? Smart meter stress, that is. When we decided recently to accept our energy provider’s offer to install a smart meter, I had no clue how anxiety-inducing the digital display on the little black monitor could be.
Smart meters tell us (and our suppliers) how much energy we’re using, minute by minute. In theory they make life easier, helping us identify where we can reduce consumption and sending automatic readings so that we’re less likely to underpay or overpay on our bills. There are already 29.5 million smart meters installed across the UK, and by the end of 2025 every home and office in Britain will have been offered one. But there’s a growing acknowledgement that many of us are experiencing heightened stress and anxiety because we’ve become obsessed with checking them.
Last month, a survey by Nationwide found that homeowners check their smart meter four times a day on average to keep tabs on soaring costs – with one in ten checking as often as ten times a day. And I’m one of them. Mine sits on the worktop in the utility room, so I see it repeatedly as I go to and from the washing machine, tumble dryer and fridge-freezer. While the dip in outside temperatures coupled with exorbitant energy bills may have persuaded many previously reluctant workers to return to their employer’s warm office, I don’t have that choice, having worked from home for almost 20 years. So it’s just me and the smart meter at home all day in our five-bedroom, four-bathroom barn conversion.
Once upon a time I’d have flicked the heating on without a thought to warm my office or ahead of my husband and son coming home from work and school.