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Energy monitors

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What are energy monitors?

If you’re looking for ways to cut the cost of your household energy bills, you’ve probably already taken the two key measures that can have the biggest impact – namely comparing the energy market to switch to the cheapest available deal, and adopting energy efficiency measures in your home.

In addition to these measures, you might consider investing in an energy monitor for your household. An energy monitor can give you better visibility of your energy consumption habits, which should make it easier to figure out any behavioural changes you could make in order to reduce your consumption and cut your bills. In fact, according to the Energy Saving Trust, using an energy monitor could cut your bills by 5-15% in the first year of use.

What is an energy monitor?

Energy monitors are available either as a plug-in monitor or as a two-part portable monitor. Plug-in monitors are plugged into your wall socket, ready to be connected to any appliance that is normally plugged into the wall socket. As you go about your day, the monitor automatically and continually calculates how much electricity the appliance is using, and how much that usage is costing you. You could use a power strip to measure more than one device at a time.

Two-part ‘whole home’ energy monitors are more convenient as they simultaneously monitor all electricity usage at your home. The portable screen communicates with a transmitter – a separate unit that is clipped directly onto your electricity meter. Together, the devices can tell you how much electricity you’re using in real time, the cost per hour, as well how much carbon dioxide you’re emitting as a result.

It can be more difficult to measure the consumption of individual devices with a whole home energy monitor, although they are more appropriate for devices that do not have plugs – such as alarm systems, lighting, immersion heaters, showers and cookers.

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

Smart meters are a new kind of energy meter that display your real-time energy usage and automatically submit meter readings to your supplier. On the other hand, energy monitors are simply an addition to your existing energy meter and do not communicate with your supplier nor directly affect your bill. While your supplier can use the reading on a smart meter to create your bill, the data created by your energy monitor is available only to you.

Tips for using an energy monitor

  • When you set up your energy monitor, you’ll probably see that the unit rate is pre-set. Adjust the unit rate to the amount you’re actually paying so the readings are more accurate. You can find your unit rate on your latest electricity bill.
  • Check what the reading is just before you go to bed, and try to turn off as many appliances as possible to get the reading as low as possible. Consider turning off the devices you usually keep on standby overnight.
  • Keep your energy monitor somewhere prominent so you can always see the reading, and consider moving it around regularly so you’re always aware of your usage.
  • Many energy monitors come with extra features such as alarms to notify you when your usage rises beyond a certain level or when temperature and humidity reach a certain point. This should help you regulate these factors in your home.
  • Depending on the model, you might be able to access historical data – including your daily, weekly and monthly usage. Alternatively, you might consider downloading one of the many smartphone apps that create these statistics when you enter usage data.
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