What’s the difference between an AMR and a smart meter?

What is an AMR Meter?

An AMR meter is often confused with other types of energy meters, but hopefully after reading this article the differences as-well as the pros and cons of each become easy to see!

An AMR meter creates a connection between the business client and their energy supplier. The communication only transmits in one direction, from the client to the supplier. Suppliers will receive a meter reading once a month in order to calculate accurate billing based upon usage. This completely negates the need for monthly manual readings, a common pain for many. By using an AMR meter, it not only allows for more accurate billing – but allows analysis of energy consumption by customers, which could have many knock-on effects.

AMR stands for Automated Meter Reading device, which because now you know how it works, makes a lot of sense!

Are there different types/forms of AMR meters?

Yes, there are.

There are a multitude of manufacturers of AMR meters, all offering something slightly different at different price-points. This is not the main area to focus on however, as form-type of devices offers the most variety.

Form TypeDescription
Advanced MeterRemote reading device that is connected to your meter.
Gas Embedded MeterSituation where remote reading device is integral to meter.
Data LoggerEquipment provided by transporters for remote reading – usually on larger sites.

What are the benefits of an AMR device?

There has been some serious innovation in production of different types of energy consumption meters – which have led to some pretty serious consumer benefits. Gone are the days of panicking about a forgotten manual meter reading submission. AMR devices have shown some incredible benefits for businesses:

  • Direct transmission of readings, removing the need for manual submissions!
  • More accurate billing based upon reliable usage figures.
  • Ability to analyse consumption habits and trends.
  • No more estimated bills!
  • Maximising energy efficiency through improved knowledge, understanding, and data provision.
  • Flexible time-sensitive tariffs can be offered, allowing access to lower cost energy during demand lulls.
  • Potential for reduced carbon emissions and environmental credentials through increased data provision.

What are Smart meters?

Smart meters are similar, but also completely different. Confused? Keep reading then!

Smart meters are also a relatively new type of metering technology, with the most recent generation-type being introduced around 2018. There are two types of smart meters – SMETS1 and SMETS2. The SMETS1 is the predecessor to the more modern SMETS2. This is not just a catchy name, but actually refers to the technical standards they are produced to – Smart Metering Equipment Technical Standard.

There are currently an estimated 18 million SMETS1 meters in use across the UK. SMETS1 meters transmit data over 3G to communicate directly to your supplier. SMETS 2 are slightly different in that they transmit data into a central data network that all suppliers have access to.

This minor difference is hugely important when switching supplier or moving into a new property. SMETS1 meters will lose a huge amount of their functionality following a switch as they are directly connected to a supplier, and will behave more like a traditional meter. SMETS2 meters have offered a handy solution to this problem by feeding directly into a central data network that allsuppliers have access to – retaining smart-meter functionality.

Smart meters are more targeted towards both domestic and business customers, whereas AMR meters are more specifically aimed at just businesses.

What are the benefits of a smart meter?

A lot of these benefits may seem to overlap with AMR meters – showing that the historical problems within the energy industry have been shared between domestic and business customers. Benefits from smart meters are as follows:

  • Automatic transmission of readings, no more manual submissions!
  • More accurate billing based upon reliable usage figures.
  • No more estimated bills!
  • Improved security and tamper detection.
  • Optional smart energy display, showing real-time billing in chosen currency.
  • Feedback on energy habits and trends, allowing reduction in usage.
  • Provides a better data source for UK energy market, providing further innovation and accuracy in energy procurement and supply.
  • Optional operation as a prepayment meter.

They sound very similar, what are the main differences between AMR and Smart meters?

Due to the similarity between these meter types, and some shared functionality – this often leads to confusion.

There are a few small differences that will help you to differentiate between the two meter-types. Firstly, AMR meters only communicate directly between business customer and supplier – whereas new smart meters have a two-way connection between energy supplier and customer. This may seem like splitting hairs a little, but these minute differences are quite important to energy suppliers (as-well as customers).

Secondly, the volume of information that is transferred differs between the two meter-types. AMR meters only send kWh usage information, and sometimes peak kW demand for the month. Conversely, smart meters send a litany of information. This often includes, but is not limited to:

  • Cumulative kWh usage
  • Daily usage and consumption
  • Peak kW demand
  • Voltage information
  • Outage information
  • Time of use kWh and also peak kW readings
  • Tamper notifications to supplier
  • Optional Smart energy display (running total of monthly billing)

What meter should I use?

Luckily, the UK government has issued guidelines to help you with this decision.

Any businesses who have AMR devices are allowed to keep them. Most businesses who have had any meter installations since 2018 will have already received a smart meter, so this really only includes any businesses who had meter installations predating 2018. From now, any meter upgrades will automatically be to a smart meter rather than an AMR.

This is in-part due to the additional functionality of new-generation smart meters. They allow a much greater degree of control over energy consumption, as-well as providing incredible insight through data collection. These new guidelines exert just a little bit of pressure towards transitioning into energy consciousness throughout the UK, for domestic customers, business customers, and suppliers. This can only be considered to be a good thing!