/ 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

The energy monitors widely available only monitor electricity use.
For most people gas provides the major part of their energy usage. ( my gas usage is 2.5x electricity usage)
In winter reducing the electrical energy used will be partially balanced by an increase in the gas energy used to provide heating.

There is nothing like reading meters weekly or monthly to get a full picture of your energy usage.

Member

rarrar I agree probably because we have nothing better to do we take meter readings every day it is a ritual at 6 o clock every evening. ( I have just discovered how to reach my favourite topic entirely about Energy saving)

Today it is in the papers by the Energy Savings Trust, that small changes can save you cash as well as emissions. They particularly mention showers.

I am happy to report that after watching a documentary on Submarines a while ago, that I am now following a shower routine which must save me at least half or maybe more of the water and the electricity to heat it. When you put the shower on, soap yourself with liquid soap and shampoo while the water heats up, then step under the shower to rinse off.

When baking the units double, I think this may be a big way of using less. by changing cooking patterns. We use a Halogen oven, and rarely use the big one. Use a tiered steamer for veg, meat and fish, even joints can be cooked this way.

Gas saving of 30% are met by a really intelligent/weather compensator central heating control.
Solar is another saving, At this time of the year we can make what we use, we are looking for every small gadget that will improve our mission. We have changed the dishwasher, washing machine fridge, but still need to change the freezer, that still keeps going though. Is it best to change and get the savings or is it worthwhile forking out for a new one?

Meanwhile we continue adding to our list of projects, some costing little some a lot. but everything must save something.
Can’t Which list some of the newer products, I realise a large part of Which is by reporting product performance by consumers, so only the larger named products seem to be put forward.

Member
Cara says:
24 October 2012

I’ve had an energy monitor for the last 2 years. It has definitely helped me to reduce energy. For one thing it highlighted how much energy all our halogen downlighters were using, so we’ve replaced most of them with LEDs. Also great for showing you when your teenage kids have left stuff switched on upstairs… I’m part of a local sustainability group called Muswell Hill Sustainability and we’ve been doing a detailed carbon footprinting project with 100 local residents. One of the findings was how few people knew how much energy they use!

Member

Hi Cara, Muswell Hill Sustainability sounds really interesting. I’m part of a new organisation, the Homeowners Alliance, (also based in Muswell Hill!) which represents homeowners and those who aspire to buy a home. We have a load of guides on everything from buying a place to how to avoid rogue tradesmen (http://hoa.org.uk/advice/). We also have one on reducing energy bills. It would be great to hear about your experiences of energy usage and how to reduce this is your community. Any information would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

[Hello Edward, we’ve removed your email address as we don’t allow contact details on Which? Conversation. Thanks, mods.]

Member

My energyEgg saves me consumption simple by switching things off.

Member

While I don’t have an energy monitor, I do have a comprehensive spreadsheet that I update at least every fortnight, which gives me a good idea of our energy usage. Luckily our meters are accessible so this is no great hassle.

The spreadsheet tracks current usage, estimated daily, monthly and annually. I also update whenever I have an electricity or water bill or top up the gas meter (we’re on CHP so pre-payment is the only to pay for our gas) so the annual estimate is more accurate. I also submit electricity meter readings whenever I take readings. As this is a new flat, first time I’ve had CHP or a water meter, and haven’t cooked with electricity for ages, I wanted to understand our usage. So far we seem to be on track with £10 a month for our water – at the last bill point we were about £2 in credit, which is not bad!

Submitting the electricity readings regularly has meant that EDF has realised we’re being over charged. 4 months in and we were almost £80 in credit on £34 a month (there’s only 2 of us in our flat and we turn most things off at the socket when we’ve finished with them). So they’re reducing our monthly payment to £1 a month from November! While that seems a little silly, I am pleased they’re keeping an eye on our credit/debit situation and not letting us build up a huge credit with them. I will now have to lie down with my feet up after being nice about an energy company!

Am tempted to get a flashy energy monitor as am basically a big child 😉

Member

I don’t have an energy monitor, though I do have a cheap device that shows how much power individual plug-in appliances use. It shows that some items use quite a lot of powr in stand-by mode.

I am fairly careful about not wasting power, and have been most of my adult life. I have just come back from staying with friends who leave everything on standy, lights on in unoccupied rooms all evening, an outside light on 24 hours a day and far too warm for me. At least they are gradually moving towards energy-saving lighting.

Member

Why not buy them an energyEgg for Christmas.. They are on Amazon so it can even be delivered!