Using energy-saving meters

Last updated Wednesday 30 April 2008

Get switched on to wasted watts

If you could see the energy that drains away while appliances are left idle but still on, you might get a shock.

Energy display monitors (EDMs) alert us to the costly trickle of energy wasted in most British homes. This awareness should make us more likely to flick a few switches to save money and reduce waste. EDMs currently cost upwards of 50, but the Government is planning to make them free to everyone who wants them from May 2008.

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Photo: Using energy-saving meters

Saves about 70kg of CO2 a year

311 Bloomers are doing this

CO2 reduction 1 out of 5

Cheapness 2 out of 5

Popularity 4 out of 5

Cost 50 - 250

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How will it make a difference?

Pub Fact

  • Britons waste the equivalent of around two power stations' worth of electricity each year by leaving TV sets and other gadgets on standby
  • By 2020 consumer electronics and IT equipment around the home will make up 45% of all electricity used by appliances
  • Newsnight's ethical man cut his electricity bills by 22%, and attributes most of this saving to an energy display monitor and energy saving light bulbs
  • The Government has the expectation that every house in the UK will have a smart meter within ten years

Switching off idle appliances can trim 6-10% off home energy bills, saving around 70kg of CO2 a year and around 18.

It is estimated that the next generation of smart meters should cut electricity consumption by around 5%, so if all Brits used one the emissions savings would be roughly equivalent to taking 600,000 cars off the road.

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How do they work?

EDMs have a monitor that clips on to the mains electricity supply in your fuse box to measure the flow of electricity into the home. When different devices are in use, a display shows fluctuations in electricity use or cost. Some models connect to your home computer allowing you to monitor energy use over time.

The next generation of smart meters will also monitor gas use for even bigger CO2 savings. They are expected to link up to energy providers enabling consumers to select their own tariff.

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What's stopping me?

"My house is stuffed with enough gadgets already"

If you just can't face mastering another gadget around the home, you could achieve similar results by monitoring your existing energy meters and learning to understand your bills better.

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What's the debate?

"What do these devices run on - fresh air?"

Ok, it might seem self-defeating to buy an electronic gadget to reduce your energy use, but they use tiny amounts of electricity and figures suggest the savings more than compensate for the energy the devices use in the long run.

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Glenn, Leeds 2009-09-06

I have bought an energy monitor off Ebay for 15. I have to say it has helped me monitor usage and I estimate an annual saving of 20 on my electricity bill (and I am already very conscious of usage). This will come from behaviour patterns identified by using the monitor. If you have lots of appliances and gadgets ( Teenagers) then you will definitely benefit from a monitor with a potential of 60 annual savings!

Jean Johnson, UK 2009-08-28

Can I suggest re-using water i.e. bath water for watering plants and for handwashing clothes.

Sharing baths.

Also not flushing the toilet after every use.

Lee, Doncaster 2009-04-17

I too have an energy meter in the kitchen which shows what i'm using at any given time, I would have liked to know how much i'm using over a period of time i.e. each day, week, month etc so I could calculate my estimated usage and from that my carbon footprint and best provider. I also wanted to find out how much my appliances were costing me to run, whilst there are varioud ways to do this for electrical appliances, it's a little harder for gas which is why I built a website to calculate all these things for everyone, you can evern compare your houshold energy consumption with other similar households.

The website is very easy and more importantly completely FREE to use, you simply periodically enter in your meter readings and the site will calculate your usage in terms of kWhs and £s, it can even email you to remind your to take your readings.

THe site is monitormyusage



Baz, Shrewsbury 2009-02-05

I purchased an energy meter recently, just a plug in thing that can handle up to 3kW, it cost 4 FROM B&Q in one of their sales. I would agree with Geoff in Truro as to their value except that this gadget has allowed me to see the standby consumption of appliances (they don't tell you that on the tin!). This has then allowed me to make a more informed decision about which appliances I leave on standby, rather than just following the dogmatic approach of switch them all off. As for the energy meters that monitor your whole supply, keep your 40 and put it towards your next tank of petrol, or evening out, it will be better used.

Heidi, Guernsey 2009-01-01

Having an energy meter has made a huge difference to us. We couldn't believe how much energy we were wasting and ended up going round our home finding out what we had left switched on. It has meant we are now really switched on (pardon the pun) making sure things are not left on standby or kept plugged in at the mains when we don't need them. I would say we have saved at least 15% on our electricity bill since we had it and not only that, we can now tell when the kids have a light on and their CD players on when they are meant to be asleep!

Breadon, Pershore 2008-08-15

Do read the full instructions. With mine, the bit that clips over the mains supply has to go in the outside meter box. It takes 4xAA batteries and transmitts back to a separate display in my home run from mains electricity. I followed the quick setup guide. This meant that the batteries in the external transmitter in the meter box went flat in around 2 months. Reading the full instructions, I learn that there is a button on the transmitter that enables me to reduce the data transmission rate. Supposedly, now I am using the low update rate I could 'extend the life of my batteries by up to 12 months'.

The Bloom Team, London 2008-08-11

Energy meters let you see how much energy your gadgets are guzzling. Admittedly, there's no point installing an energy meter - which itself guzzles energy - for purely ornamental purposes. But there is a point to energy meters if knowing how much energy your gadgets use makes you more likely to turn them off standby, or use them less frequently. On average, people who buy energy meters cut their energy bills by 6-10%.

Of course, some would say that there's no point to energy meters because they barely cut CO2 emissions compared to other actions. For example, investing in an energy meter is less than three times as effective as halving how much beef you scoff - and 80 times less effective than installing a biomass boiler in your house. All the best, the Bloom Team

Geoff, Truro 2008-08-01

i can't see the point of energy meters

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Glossary terms used on this page
CFL bulbs
CFLs are compact fluorescent lamps. They operate on the same principle as fluorescent lights but the tube is folded into a more compact design so they are more versatile and can be used in devices designed to take traditional incandescent bulbs. They use about 80% less electricity than traditional bulbs to produce the same light and last considerably longer. Their mercury content means disposal, especially of broken bulbs, requires extra care. Also referred to as low-energy lightbulbs.
CO2, or carbon dioxide, is made up of the elements carbon and oxygen. It exists quite naturally in our atmosphere, as part of the carbon cycle. Everyday processes in the plant and animal world both add CO2 to the atmosphere and take it out. However, because it is a greenhouse gas - meaning it affects the temperature of the earth - the exact level of CO2 is important. Burning fossil fuels releases CO2 into the atmosphere, hence the anxiety that extensive use of these fuels is causing climate change.
Emissions are the CO2 (and other greenhouse gases) produced by energy use, usually calculated and stated as an annual tally: also referred to as your carbon footprint. Your personal emissions can be direct - such as the gas you personally use to heat your home or the petrol you burn to power your car - or indirect - meaning the energy use that has gone into the products or services you buy. The latter, such as the emissions caused by the manufacture of your new TV, or the packaging your food comes in, are also referred to as embodied emissions.
Kilowatt-hours (kWh)
A kilowatt-hour is an amount of energy equivalent to a power of one kilowatt (a thousand watts) running for one hour. The unit is commonly used on electricity meters. If you know how many kilowatt-hours of energy your household uses, you can translate this into kilograms of CO2 emitted by multiplying it by 0.527. A megawatt hour (MWh) is an amount of energy equivalent to the power of one megawatt (a million watts) running for one hour. Similarly, a gigawatt hour (GWh) is a billion watts for one hour, and a terawatt hour (TWh) is a trillion. While your domestic gas bill will be set out in kWh, the output for a power station, for example, will obviously be expressed in one of these much larger units.
Standby, or 'sleep mode', is a mode in which electronic appliances are turned off but still drawing current and ready to activate on command. Although legislation has limited the energy new appliances can use in standby mode, they still use more energy than if they are switched off at the wall. navigation


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