Many people want to decrease the amount of energy they use. Doing so will not only lower your bills but can also be a great way of reducing your carbon footprint. Putting this into action is often easier said than done. Here we explain how an energy monitor might help.
We all know that not leaving lights on or turning the heating off in the warmer months can save energy. However, it is more complicated to discover where you and your family are using the most energy.
Taking the time to do this, however, can make a huge difference when it comes to understanding how to lower your energy consumption.
What is an energy monitor?
An energy monitor is one of the devices you can use to find out how much electricity you’re using. So when you boil the kettle or switch on a light you can see exactly how much power it takes to do so. Most models show your real-time electricity usage and can tell you the units of energy used in kilowatts per hour (kWh), as well as how much your usage is costing you. They can also tell you about your consumption in terms of carbon emissions.
The purpose of an energy monitor is to make people more aware of how much energy they are using and be better informed on how to lower their energy consumption.
How does an energy monitor work?
The most sophisticated energy monitor systems consist of a small portable device with a screen that displays the amount of energy you are using in the home.
For the device to receive information, a sensor must be attached to the electricity line that connects to your energy meter. This measures the amount of energy used by tracking the magnetic field around which enables it to measure the electric current passing through.
A transmitter then links up the two, sending the information to the device for you to read.
Some energy systems also allow for this information to be sent directly to your mobile phone so you can even track your home energy usage when out and about.
More simple plug-in versions also exist, and these energy monitors can measure the energy uses of single devices - providing they plug into an electrical socket.
An energy monitor allows you to see how much electricity individual appliances are using by switching them off and on again. This will give you a clear idea of those that use the most energy, and help you make decisions about where you can save energy most effectively.
What are the pros and cons of installing an energy monitor?
An energy monitor can be incredibly helpful when it comes to saving energy and reducing your energy bills.
A good energy monitor can show you how much energy you’re using, the cost of this, and the level of your greenhouse gas emissions too.
It makes it easy to see how much money you are saving when you begin to reduce your energy consumption. Some models even allow you to create daily energy usage targets and will let you know if you’ve gone over them. This gamifies the process, challenging you to keep finding ways to reduce your consumption even further.
Energy monitors are also simple to install. You can purchase and set up your monitor yourself by simply attaching the sensor unit to the power cable of your electricity meter and making sure the transmitter and portable device are communicating with one another.
However, an energy monitor isn’t for everyone, and there are some drawbacks.
For a start, an energy monitor only measures electricity usage. So when you switch your gas central heating on or use the gas hob in your kitchen, you won’t know how much this is costing you.
To make the best use of an energy monitor also requires effort. If you don’t use it, you’ll soon lose track of where you use the most energy and be back to square one.
For it to be truly effective, you need to get your whole household on board too. Remember, the monitor itself won’t help cut costs - you still have to make an effort to use less energy.
The accuracy of cheaper models can also be questionable. With those that only measure apparent power low wattage appliances could easily slip through its radar.
Models that measure actual power are far more accurate. Since electricity providers charge for actual power used it’s important to be precise if you want to lower your energy bills.
It’s also worth noting that an energy monitor is not the same as a smart meter. It does not give meter readings, and it won’t automatically send your energy usage to your supplier. If your energy supplier requires meter readings from you before sending out a bill, you’ll still have to provide them with this information too.
How much could an energy monitor reduce my energy costs by?
Just having an energy monitor in your home isn’t going to reduce your energy bills. You need to use it to make better decisions about how to reduce your energy usage, and then put them into practice.
If used correctly, the information an energy monitor will help you learn where your most significant cost savings can be made.
The Energy Saving Trust reported that using an energy monitor could reduce a households energy use by 5% - 15% in just one year.
It might be that by making small changes here and there you end up saving more and more money. So, depending on how big your electricity bill currently is, you could make some significant savings. But you do need to put some work in!
How do I know which energy monitor to choose?
There is a wide range of different makes and models of energy monitors, and choosing the right one for your home depends on your individual needs.
Prices range from around £20 to an eye-watering £150 for the most technologically sophisticated kind. The quality does match the price. The higher-end and more expensive models are likely to give more accurate readings as well.
Some energy companies offer energy monitors free as part of their package. However, make sure you check that the tariff isn’t more expensive to cover the cost of this. In this case, it may make purchasing one yourself better value.
Other energy-saving tips
To reduce your energy consumption, you can:
- stop leaving devices on standby if you’re not using them
- turn down your thermostat
- only boil as much water as you need in the kettle
- do your washing up in a bowl rather than continually running the tap
- regularly defrost the freezer
- switch to energy-saving light bulbs
- buy energy-efficient appliances
- replace your old boiler with an energy-efficient version
- don’t set your clothes to wash above 30˚
- insulate your roof
- invest in double glazing
- use an insulating jacket on your hot water tank to stop heat from escaping
In conclusion, an energy monitor can provide you with useful information to help you make smarter decisions when it comes to reducing your energy use. However, it won’t save you money by themselves. For people that are intent on lowering their energy consumption one can be a huge help. It can fundamentally change the way you use energy in the home, both saving money and also reducing your carbon footprint.
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