/ Home & Energy

Do you keep tabs on your energy usage?

Female with cardboard cut out smile

Last week was National Baking Week so I made cookies for the team. With this week being Big Energy Saving Week I’ve been pondering how to celebrate – so I got up-close and personal with my energy monitor.

OK, so the thought of eating a cookie might be a little more appealing to most than the prospect of setting up an energy monitor, but bear with me, as I’m going to convince you it’s fun and educational.

If you’re not familiar with the concept, an energy monitor is designed to help you keep track of your electricity use and ideally help you cut your electricity consumption.

Energy monitors usually consist of a handheld display unit, a sensor/clamp that attaches to your electricity wire and a transmitter that sends information from the sensor to the display unit. If you have a smart meter it should pick up readings remotely from your meter

Some energy companies provide free energy monitors to let you keep on top of your energy usage, but you can also buy the devices yourself.

Real-time energy usage

Setting up the monitor part was easy, but I have to confess I was a little fearful attaching the sensor part to an electricity wire at the meter. It was safe to do so on my box as the wire was encased in plastic. But if you find that the wire is frayed or exposed – don’t touch it – you’ll need to call an electrician.

When all the bits are set up you need to add a few details to get the most out of your monitor. I have to confess that I had no idea what I paid per unit of electricity, and although the instruction details told me to check a recent statement, it took quite close analysis of my bill to actually work this out. Our energy experts at Which? have warned me that the unit price doesn’t take into account other costs on your bill, so you need me to take the monitor’s estimated spend with caution.

You need to have the monitor within range of the sensor for it to pick up the readings, but this just takes a few moments of walking about the flat to kick in. Now comes the fun bit – watching the dial fluctuate as you use electricity across the house.

How far will you go?

I imagine they’re quite entertaining for families with children, as it’s a nice visual way of understanding how you use energy and your children can then play a proactive role in monitoring your usage.

And if you’re a big kid like me, you’ll enjoy rushing round the house switching things off to see the usage bar go down, and in the example of my monitor, the smile gauge on the monitor widens. I’d advise against telling your partner that they can’t watch the telly or use the computer so as to not upset the monitor – I’ve learnt these tips are not well received!

My energy monitor is proving to be fun for me as I’m in a fortunate position – I live in an energy efficient flat and therefore my monitor has a permanent smile on its face. But, for those who live in less energy efficient properties, perhaps you’d prefer not to be reminded of the high prices we pay for our energy in the UK?

And maybe my feelings will be short-lived? When we surveyed Which? members last year, only 40% thought their energy monitor had helped them reduce their electricity and 28% thought energy monitors are more hassle than they’re worth.

Do you have an energy monitor and has it changed the way you use electrical devices in your house?

Comments
Member

WaveCharge
I’m sorry to hear you live alone, but it’s good to know that you know how to switch things off. However, many families don’t follow your excellent practise.
Energy monitor don’t help either in switching appliances off, they actual add you your bill in a small way.

I really dont see the point of monitoring your usage if you dont have an automated way of doing something about it.. Smart Grid devices should be able to control the appliance from a central console. Switching then on/off if necessary, by smart apps. We have a long way to go to conserving out energy usage.

We just had a power cut for 6 hours yesterday.. Our food in the freezer stayed frozen too. Just many me think, we could save power every day if we had a timer on the freezer?

Jennifer,
I’ve changed my picture, but unable to change my username.. For the record PV Solar, are not associated to the energyEgg as far as I’m aware. Its a company that I no longer wish to be associated with them any manor at all.

[Hello, we’ve just slightly edited your comment as it broke our T&Cs. Thanks, mods]

Member

Peter/pvsolaruk

You don’t see the point of monitoring usage unless you have a way of doing something about it. I disagree, and believe it is important that we are all aware of how much power our appliances, etc. consume. That will provide information to help decide how energy can be saved by an individual or family.

You might have no association with PV Solar, but what about Lovat Energy Savers? Guess what they sell. 🙁

Member

Hello Peter, unfortunately you’re not able to change your username on Which? Conversation. So instead, we’ve updated your username to display as ‘Peter England’ from now on – I hope that’s okay. Please note, you will still need to use your previous username in order to log in. If there’s any issue with this change, please contact us and let us know. Thanks!

Member

pvsolaruk – wavechange is quite right – many people are quite capable of switching appliances or lights as needed. I have a fairly typical house and have estimated what automatic (presence detecting) switching might save me. The cost of the kit outweighs any saving I might make. But there will be other households where circumstances will differ. It’s just worth doing a rough calculation before you spend your money.
Re your freezer – in the power cut your freezer temperature will rise. When the power returns the freezer compressor will work more than normal, using more electricity, to reduce it back to the correct temperature. You will use less electricity of course – none in the power cut – but your food may suffer.

Member

Wavechange, Malcom.

According to my belkin monitor my freezer is likely to use £2.70 per month, so power so the savings for the 6 hours while the power was off was between 3p and 5p.. And I would agree that it is hardly worth the effort of testing the thermal qualities of the unit to see if I used much more power when the power can back on.. I spent £28.50 on the monitor at Homebase, so it still hasn’t actually saved me any money? So how do I save and what is the pay back period i can expect after buying this simple monitor..

Perhaps the energy companies get a grant for giving you the monitor. How much is the tax payer spending on smart grid over the next 5 years?

A sensor which automates when there is no movement in the room, and then switches the power off after a time period will save you money instantly..Especially if people tend to leave things switched on. Even savings on standby power will mount up. Isn’t it worth investing if the future.

The fact is we dont know how much we power we actual waste in the home.. I was surprised how much my family wasted before my purchase. My laptops have batteries, so am I saving money by using battery power instead of mains power? Probably!

Monitors need to become a lot lot smarter to make themselves useful.. For instance They need to be able to provide a history of usage by appliance type and inform you by email when the appliance is using more than its average consumption within a varient range.. This will give you an idea when the appliance is going wrong, or in the case of a freezer when to defost it.

If you know of a good monitor that actually saves money and is reasonably priced then let all us know. I know of a sensor that could pay back its cost within 12 months and it has a 3 year warrenty..A sound investment for any family.

Pete
ps Temp of freezer was at -10c after 6 hours.. so it could have gone a few more hours before the food as at risk.

Member

Peter

My suggestion is just to switch things off when they are not being used. A little self-discipline will help ensure that nothing gets left on when it is not needed. Let’s assume that the fridge and freezer are left on all the time. You have a monitor, so you can measure how much other appliances use. That is useful to decide how best to make economies.

I suggest that you don’t switch the freezer off frequently. If the compressor has to run for a long period it will get hotter than normal and may fail prematurely.

Member

As Malcolm says, your food will deteriorate if subject to temperature variations. If it gets too warm then some of it may thaw and refreeze, which ruin it and risk growth of bacteria.

The best way to save money is to check that the freezer is close to -18C. If it is colder, the compressor will run more and waste electricity. Ensure that the freezer heat exchanger is well ventilated and away from sources of heat.