General ramblings

Big Brother is Watching…

March 21, 2014

..or rather monitoring.
Or if he isn’t, then he jolly well should be.

Apparently, the thing for trying to reduce your electricity consumption (Great Energy Race or not) is to have a Home Energy Monitor.
It does what it says, and Monitors your Home Energy usage. Actually, that’s not quite true-it monitors your home electricity usage-a subtle but important difference.
Basically, it tells you how much it is costing you for all those Things That Plug Into the Wall.
And by the very fact that you have one, and it scares the pants off you everytime you look at, you are more likely to use less electricity. At least, that is my scientific explanation of how they work.

So how do you go about getting yourself an Energy Monitor?

  • If you want to buy new, there are lots of online sites like Ecotopia, Nigel’s Ecostore, etc, that have a great range
  • If you want to buy secondhand, I did a very quick search, and there are some on E-bay
  • It might even be worth asking on sites like Freecycle or Freegle, to see if anyone has one they are no longer using
  • If you want one, but don’t think you can justify the cost, you could persuade your family and neighbours that they want one too, and then share it
  • Your energy supplier might even supply them for free-always worth an ask
  • The government plans for all households and businesses to have Smart Monitors (energy monitors) by 2020, and I think I am correct in saying that they will be provided free by your energy supplier. So if you are more patient than me (and don’t have race to win..) then you could always wait
  • OR, you could do what we have done and borrow one from your local library! Yes, you heard me, the library!

How cool is that?
Each library in Wiltshire has 2 or 3 of these beauties, sat there waiting for someone to come and put them to good use. You borrow them in the usual way, using your library card, for 3 weeks, (although I guess you can re-new if you want one for longer).
So I trotted off to the library, Smalls in tow, and asked at the desk, half expecting it to be some kind of elaborate hoax and for them to laugh at me. They didn’t. They handed me a monitor, swiped my card, and looked mildly amused at my happy face.

The monitor we have is a Current Cost.
Current Cost2
It is easy to get it up and running, so easy even I managed it.
Current costYou have to clamp a clampy thing around your ‘electricity in’ wire, and then leave it there to do it’s thing.

It does tend to fluctuate a bit for no apparent reason, but I have since been told that the clampy type ones are less sensitive and reliable than other types (that I think get wired in to your system), but it was free, so I am not complaining.
It is certainly making me (and I think hubby, the Smalls are oblivious) more aware of what we are using, but it is not quite as great as the energy monitor that was in my head.
In my head, one of us could stand staring at the monitor (me), while the other one ran around the house (hubby) turning things on and off, and I could watch amazed, shouting out things like “we are never watching TV again, it uses 83kWhrs of energy per second” and “blogging is pretty much free, the computer is so economical”….
But it’s not really sensitive enough to do this. It does register big changes in electricity, and these are quite frankly scary when you put the kettle on, but I don’t think it would pick up on small things, like turning on the radio.
So when our time is up with our trusty library friend, I think we may well invest in one of the ones that needs wiring in.

As I see it, the key to the whole thing is establishing a baseline. So turn off everything non-essential (ie everything but the fridge and freezer) and then quake at how much it is costing you, as you turn all things on one by one.
For some reason, I am intrigued to know how much energy leaving the microwave plugged in with the clock showing is using. Not a huge amount I am sure, but as I have been learning, even small savings at home, equate to bigger savings up the chain. So it’s all worth it.

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  • Reply Crossing the Line | My Make Do and Mend Year April 6, 2014 at 1:25 pm

    […] was beside myself with excitement when I found out that we could get an energy monitor from the library to use for three weeks. Energy monitors are supposed to be the key to cutting your energy usage. I […]

  • Reply Emma Croft March 24, 2014 at 1:27 pm

    These measure the energy use from a specific plug-in appliance http://www.maplin.co.uk/p/13a-plug-in-energy-saving-monitor-n67fu

    • Reply Jen March 24, 2014 at 5:08 pm

      I think someone is very kindly lending me one of those-should arrive any day!

  • Reply Nic March 22, 2014 at 1:40 pm

    I think I got mine free from Energy Saving Trust or Greener Scotland, so maybe worth looking out for? I used it a lot initially but it’s only me in my flat, so it kinda wasn’t needed quickly. I’m interested in the Nest thermostat, but I’m not sure it’s available in the UK yet. It learns your patterns and can adjust your heating accordingly (my very simplistic interpretation of what it does).

    • Reply Jen March 23, 2014 at 3:33 pm

      Wow, that sounds pretty cool!

  • Reply Meg and Gosia March 21, 2014 at 7:37 pm

    I have been wanting one of these for ages. We asked our electricity supplier to Smartmeter us but they could not pick up a strong enough WiFi signal and refused us. And alas my library doesn’t offer a loan service so I am going to have to bite the bullet and buy one. Even without I have managed to persuade Mr M to turn appliances off at the main. I did some research on the typical cost saved over a year and then added new practices incrementally…

    By the way, Smartmeters are more than energy monitors. Yes, customers will be able to track the data but they also send remote half hourly data to the supplier so they can follow what we use and when. Building up these half-hourly profiles is helpful for them to plan what they buy and when and supposedly this information will also allow them to calibrate the best tariff for you, but the cynic me also reckons they will use it to still make a decent profit, even on the most thrifty user…

    • Reply Jen March 21, 2014 at 8:29 pm

      Cyncical? Or realistic?
      The monitor we have from the library, if I am brutally honest, is not that great. It’s not sensitive enough I think.
      Thanks for all your help 🙂

  • Reply sandyfaithking March 21, 2014 at 3:17 pm

    As we have a clock on the cooker, I turn the microwave completely off other than when we’re using it. I have no idea how much this saves, but getting a proper meter sounds like a really good idea. I read that microwaves are environmentally friendly because they are more energy efficient than traditional ovens, but I’d like to know by how much.

    • Reply Jen March 21, 2014 at 8:30 pm

      Microwaves are the most energy efficient cooking appliance, compared to hobs and ovens. I will try and find you some figures!

  • Reply Kate Harrison March 21, 2014 at 9:56 am

    I measured my microwave at 20p per month on standby and 18p an hour when working. Modern appliances have improved though. My LED TV doesn’t even register on standby and costs 12p for 24 hours. But leaving things on when you are not using them is just a waste

    • Reply Jen March 21, 2014 at 8:31 pm

      I LOVED your brilliant table you produced! Am on the search for an electricity monitoring socket-they look fab!

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