Can Electricity Meters Help to Control Energy Usage?

There was a time when electricity meters were nothing more than black boxes that sat quietly under the stairs or in cupboards and ticked away, measuring the units of electricity used within a property. Once a quarter, the meter was read and the readings were used to calculate a bill that summarised how much electricity the household had consumed over the previous three months. If householders had used more or less electricity than usual, they often were unaware of the impact until they received the quarterly bill. However, advances in technology have transformed meters into tools that can be used to monitor and control electricity use. Consumers can use the real time data provided by new meters to use energy more efficiently and reduce energy costs.

Smart Meters:

The government is committed to installing smart meters in every home in the UK. A roll out of smart meters to 30 million UK homes will begin in the autumn of 2015 and should be completed by 2020. Smart meters record and report on energy usage and costs in real time. Householders can see how much energy they are using and how much they are paying per unit. This can help householders to reduce costs by avoiding switching on appliances at costly times of the day. For example, electricity tends to be more expensive during the day, when demand is high, and cheaper overnight, when demand drops. The energy needs of businesses, schools, and public buildings that are open during the day can place a strain on the national grid. Energy prices rise to deter people from using electricity at peak times.

Using a smart meter, you can understand the cost impact in your own home of operating electrical appliances and devices at different times of the day and night. You can calculate the cost savings if you use your washing machine in the evening rather than at midday. By monitoring and comparing costs, households can learn to use electrical devices and appliances more efficiently.

In a survey carried out by the Energy Savings Trust, 73{c89a6dffdd0ee67d4aa3f3b61895d244099b0eeaaf5e7c2263da4c500c6f29a9} of respondents would welcome a smart meter in their home. Of those questioned, 62{c89a6dffdd0ee67d4aa3f3b61895d244099b0eeaaf5e7c2263da4c500c6f29a9} said that a better understanding of the costs of energy usage on a daily basis would encourage them to become more energy efficient. However, many of these respondents will need to be patient as they wait for the smart meter project to reach them. It could be another six years before the installation programme reaches their home.

Other Monitoring Technology:

While you wait for your energy provider to upgrade you to a smart meter, there are other methods you can use to monitor and control energy usage in your home. British Gas, Scottish Power and Npower offer consumers the option to install gadgets and software to measure and monitor electricity use. Alternatively, similar technology can be purchased from specialist companies, such as AlertMe.

Comprehensive monitoring kits are available from Scottish Power and AlertMe. These kits contain clamps that attach to existing meters to monitor electricity usage. They send the information via Wifi to software that analyses and displays the energy usage in simple, easy-to-read graphs. In addition, householders can fit plug adapters that allow them to monitor and control energy usage for individual devices. Devices can be switched on and off remotely, enabling householders to react to unexpected situations and retain control of their energy usage. Both Scottish Power and AlertMe offer iPhone apps that are compatible with their monitoring packages.

Npower’s smartpower electricity monitor and the EnergySmart monitor from British Gas are fairly basic devices. They enable consumers to monitor overall levels of electricity usage and cost, but they do not have the individual plug adaptors that are available with other monitoring kits. You can wander round the house and watch the energy usage indicator jump up and down as you switch appliances on and off. This can help family members to better understand the implications of leaving unwatched televisions playing, forgetting to turn off lights and boiling full kettles rather than filling to the minimum level.

Smart electricity meters and other monitoring devices give consumers the knowledge and information they need to change their habits and use energy more efficiently.