Perhaps you’re moving into a new home and you need to choose which type of electricity meter to have. Or maybe you want to replace your current meter. If so, an explanation is needed on how each type works!


Summary


Single-rate, dual-rate, night only, budget, or smart: there are many types of electricity meters in Belgium. Each has its advantages and disadvantages, and it is extremely useful for consumers to be familiar with them. Consumers may be faced with choosing which meter to install when connecting their home to the electricity grid, or when moving house if the existing meter is not suitable for them. This is also true when there is no special occasion since consumers are free to change their energy meter whenever they want. They simply need to pay the fees charged by their distribution network operator (DNO).

However, before choosing another model, it’s important to know what type of device to request. For this is no random decision: it is essential to consider the characteristics of each meter as this will affect how you consume energy and determine the price charged per kWh. Find out about the five types of meters you can install.

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What is an electricity meter and how does it work?

An electricity meter, also called an electrotechnical meter, is a device that allows you to measure the energy consumption of your household or home. It records every kilowatt-hour that you consume.

Your electricity meter provides important information: your consumption reading. Your electricity supplier will need this to calculate your energy bill.

However, it is the role of the distribution network operator (find your DNO) to read the energy meter and maintain it. They will then send the information relating to your energy consumption to your electricity supplier so that they can prepare:

  • your adjustment bill (which corresponds to the difference between your actual consumption and the consumption estimated by your supplier to prepare your instalment bills);
  • and your future instalment bills (in other words, your monthly bills based on an estimate of your future consumption).

The unit of measurement used by the electricity meter is the kilowatt-hour (kWh). This is the energy consumed by an appliance with a power output of 1,000 watts for one hour.

The single-rate meter: a single price

Your meter is a single-rate meter if it has just one index. This means that the electricity price per kWh remains the same during the day and the night. This is referred to as a normal or standard rate.

From a financial point of view, is the single-rate meter cheaper than the dual-rate? It all depends on your consumption habits. The standard rate is cheaper than the day rate used by the dual-rate meter but higher than the night rate. In addition, standard meters are generally recommended for solar panel owners who produce enough to cover their consumption. A single-rate meter will cost them less in fixed charges than a dual-rate meter.

The dual-rate meter (peak hours vs off-peak hours): ideal for night-time consumption

The dual-rate meter has two indices: one day-index (corresponding to peak hours) and one night-index (corresponding to off-peak hours). Consumption during off-peak hours is cheaper than during peak hours.

The time slots for peak/off-peak hours are determined by your network operator. But, during weekdays, the peak hours are always spread across 15 hours, compared with 9 for the off-peak hours.

As a general rule, consumption from Monday to Friday from 7 am to 10 pm will be charged at the day rate whereas consumption from 10 pm to 7 am on weekdays and all consumption at weekends will be charged at the night rate.

Clock with moving hands
The dual-rate meter can distinguish between peak and off-peak times.

This means that the day/night arrangement is beneficial for people who mainly consume electricity during the night and at weekends. To do this, you need to ensure that you run your appliances, such as your washing machine, dishwasher, or boiler, during this time. Clearly, you also need to ensure that the electricity meter is powerful enough to allow several appliances to be used at the same time.

In general, it is considered that switching to a dual-rate meter is advantageous if the consumption during off-peak hours is more than half of the total consumption. If this is not the case, it is probably more appropriate to keep a standard meter.

The night-only meter: reserved for heating

The night-only meter operates exclusively at night for the water heater and/or for electric storage heating. Although it is possible to use the accumulated energy during the day, you will need to wait until night for the device to start working again. In other words, it’s better not to run out of hot water in the morning!

As with the dual-rate meter, you need to contact your DNO to find out the times of the night period. However, unlike the dual-rate meter, weekend day times are not considered off-peak hours.

From a more technical point of view, you should be aware that the night-only meter is never installed alone. It must be linked to a single-rate or a dual-rate meter.

In addition, the price per kWh is generally identical to the dual meter night rate. The benefit actually comes from the distribution rates. Being lower, they make this electricity meter a slightly more attractive alternative than the system of off-peak hours used by the dual-rate meter. However, since the possible savings are now lower than they were previously, the option of a night-only meter is now disappearing.

The budget meter: prepaid energy

Budget meter with top-up card
© ORES

The pre-paid meter, which is not available in Brussels, shares the same purpose as the traditional meters: to measure electricity or gas consumption. However, it also has a pre-payment facility which means that the user is not able to consume more energy than the amount loaded on a smart card inserted into the meter reader. When the customer has used up their balance, they must top up their card, otherwise their power will be cut offer after they have used the emergency credit to which they are entitled.

Note that protected customers, in other words, those who benefit from the social rate, will be entitled to a power supply of a minimum of 10 amps for three months if they do not top up their card.

The pre-paid meter, which is recommended for and sometimes imposed on customers who fail to pay their bills, gives customers better control over their budget since they pay for their consumption in advance. They are also free to choose their supplier. Another advantage is that this type of meter does not lead to any changes in terms of how the household appliances are used or how much power is available.

The same is true for the price per kWh: it stays the same as the price indicated in the customer’s supply contract, apart from protected customers who will be supplied at the social rates in force.

Finally, it should be noted that a budget meter can also have a dual-rate mode.

The smart meter: a transition to digital and a “dual flow” option for solar panel owners

Society is changing, as are the climate priorities. To ensure an effective transition to renewable energies, we all need to change our consumption habits. In this context, communicating digital meters, also called smart meters, are proving very useful.

Their main advantage is that they can send meter readings to your network operator automatically. You no longer need to do your own meter reading for your adjustment as you can automate this process!

Next, they may ultimately help to optimize our electricity consumption by indicating the off-peak times for network use. This could allow us to dispense with the principle of the dual-rate meter in the future, as it would become obsolete.

Lastly, this meter will also allow solar panel owners to know exactly how much electricity they have drawn and how much they have fed into the grid. In this case, it is referred to as a dual-flow meter. This is even more useful now that the system of the meter that runs backward is on the way out.

Note that, for the time being, none of the three Regions has planned a massive rollout of this type of meter. Only households that explicitly request one or which need to replace a defective meter actually have them installed.

The price of an electricity meter

Energy meter index with euro notes

Choosing a meter and having one installed for the first time is, unfortunately, not free of charge. The same applies if your gas or electricity meter is replaced. So, before you request a day/night rate, for example, it is essential to ask your DNO about the cost of installing a dual-rate meter.

For information, to supply, install and turn on a new electricity meter, whose power is less than 25 kVA, Sibelga charges 71 euro excluding VAT. To replace a standard meter, the Brussels DNO charges between 250 and 400 euro on average.

For a budget meter, ORES advertises a maximum cost of 500 euro. But please note that these prices are only applicable if it is the customer who requests the change. If, however, it is the supplier who requests the installation of a budget meter, the customer will have to pay 100 euro. Better still, if the customer has protected status there will be no charge.

And the rest of the time? Once the gas or electricity meter becomes obsolete, the DNO is legally required to replace it free of charge! Similarly, the customer will pay nothing to exchange a defective unit.

Conclusion

Choosing an electricity meter depends solely on your preferences and your lifestyle. A person living alone who consumes little electricity can manage very well with a standard meter. A household that mainly consumes electricity in the evening would be well advised to choose a dual-rate meter. Forgetful consumers may prefer the smart meter with its automatic meter-reading function. What type of meter would be best for you?


Now that you know what type of meter you need, take the opportunity to compare the prices set by your energy supplier and switch supplier now using our energy comparison website or by calling 0800 37 456.

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