Because I am a customer of e.on, who supply my gas and electricity, I was offered, free of charge, a monitor to check my usage of electricity.
Freebies always attract my attention, no matter what, so after checking the literature, watching the demo and discovering how simple it was to install and use, I clicked on the appropriate 'Yes please' buttons and a month or so later received my monitor, transmitter and CD - Free!
Now these very same monitors are on sale on Amazon for £39.95 for anyone to purchase, should they wish.
Some would question the saving achieved versus the cost of the monitor.
Be assured, it soon becomes apparent how much electricity any one piece of equipment consumes and I would not mind betting a bob or two that for most, the desire to switch off appliances, rather than ignore wastage by needlessly leaving them on, may kick in very quickly - it did for me, but I will expand on that later.
~~~~What is in the package?~~~~
In the parcel from e.on, were a monitor, power cable, transmitter and sensor jaw. Also included were the USB data cable and 'Energy Fit' software CD, for use when transferring data collected, from the monitor, onto the computer.
Along with all this came a comprehensive manual, with easy to follow set-up instructions, usage and trouble-shooting advice and some useful tips with answers to FAQs.
The monitor, with an adjustable viewing angle attached to a base unit, displays all the data transmitted to it via the transmitter. The screen size is 7.5cm x 9cm. The whole unit, i.e screen and base measures 18cm a 14cm.
The sensor jaw, dangles around the mains live-cable leading into the fuse box and the other end, plugged into the transmitter, both of which remain close to the fuse box. There is no wiring involved. The monitor or display unit can be plugged into the mains any where within a 30 meter range of the transmitter.
~~~~How does it work?~~~~
The current, flowing along the mains when an appliance is in use, is detected and measured by the sensor-jaw and the data transmitted wirelessly to the display unit or monitor.
~~~~What data is displayed?~~~~
At the very top of the display unit, are several small icons indicating the state of installation and strength of signal received from the transmitter. Once installation is completed these can be ignored.
Under the icons, are a series of headings. ENERGY NOW and COST, are at the top of the monitor.
YESTERDAY and LAST (1,7,30) DAYS are in the middle part of the monitor.
TIME and TEMPERATURE are displayed at the bottom.
The first heading, ENERGY NOW, shows the total amount of electricity, measured in Watts/Kilowatts, in use at that moment in time, by whatever appliances are using power.
For example; if nothing else is using power and a 40-Watt light switched on, the display will indicate the bulb wattage - 40-watts. If a kettle is also in use, the wattage displayed will be the sum of the wattages of the appliances in use.
Immediately under this is the COST heading, which shows how much it would cost per day if the appliance were in constant usage throughout the day, this figure changes every 10 seconds to show how much it would cost to keep it running for a month. It does not, however, take into account the 5% VAT charge.
When an additional appliance starts to use power, the monitor will also display, for a few seconds, the actual power being consumed by that single appliance, whilst it is in use. That figure will appear under the COST heading.
Useful eh? Saves having to do subtraction sums to calculate the usage of one item, when several others are also lunching on your electricity supply.
On the left side of the middle section of the display unit, is the heading 'YESTERDAY,' under which is a bar-graph displaying, non-numerically, the relative amounts of electricity used the previous day at (a) night, from 11pm to 7am. (b) during the day, from 7am to 3pm and (c) evening, from 3pm to 11pm.
It becomes obvious then, when the most and least electricity is used.
The total amount of electricity used (in kWh) is shown numerically on the right side of the middle section. The display alternates every 10 seconds to show the total amount of usage in (i) the last day, (ii) the last seven days and finally, (iii) the last 30 days.
Displayed at the bottom of the monitor, is the time, once set, and temperature whilst the monitor is on.
On the base of the monitor are three buttons, an UP and OK and a DOWN button, used in the setting up of the system.
Inside the transmitter is a long-life battery, which they say lasts 7 years - yep, 7 years, and once the plastic battery tab is removed and a tiny, inset button pressed, it becomes activated. A red flashing light at the front of the transmitter indicates that the transmitter is ready to tune into the monitor - done by pressing the 'DOWN' button on the monitor for 6 seconds; on releasing the button, the tuning icon appears at the very top of the display unit to indicate tuning is in progress, taking just a few seconds.
The transmitter is then ready to connect to the mains via the sensor-jaw. The jaw clips to the live mains cable leading from the electricity meter, into the fuse box, in the same way that a dog's lead is attached to its collar. The sensor dangles freely around the cable - no wiring involved.
My meter has two cables leading into the fuse box; neither was marked. Both looked the same, so I had no idea which was the live wire and, of course, chose the wrong one, but it did not matter, attaching the sensor to the wrong cable does no harm, it just needed clipping to the other cable - job done.
Once the transmitter and monitor are in place, it is just a matter of following the simple set-up instructions to set the time, your unit rate - that's the amount you are billed in pence per kilowatt-hour, (this information can be obtained from a current bill) and to start monitoring and displaying 'real-time' electrical consumption.
The software will run on a MS Windows 7, XP or Vista, providing the laptop or desktop have a CD drive for installation.
According to the literature, and I quote. "Virtually all new models of Mac are also able to run this software, but need an intel processor running Mac OS X v10.4.6 or higher as long as they have Windows application installed - either XP or Vista additional software."
The software, once installed, allows the data collected and stored by the monitor, to be transferred onto a computer, showing in graphical form, electrical usage during the last day, week, month or quarter; simply done by connecting the monitor to the computer via the cable provided. The monitor has a massive storage capacity allowing seven years of constant monitoring and storage of data.
~~~~My Experience and Opinion~~~~
When first connected, I was instantly aware of the amount of electricity appliances were consuming. Initially I wondered if something was wrong, because the consumption seemed to alternate from high to low without my turning on or off any appliances. Then it struck me, that it was my fridge causing those frequent changes in electrical consumption, as it switched on and off to maintain correct temperature.
It seemed to turn on every few minutes, humming gently away for another few minutes.
This alerted me to the fact that I maybe needed a more efficient fridge, or the old one was in desperate need of defrosting, I chose the latter option, and defrosted old faithful the following day.
This resulted in the fridge using less electricity to keep cool.
The other aspect of fridge electrical usage was that more often than not my fridge was only half-full. It is a well established fact that empty fridges consume more fuel than full fridges, so rather than stock up with consumables I did not need or want, I filled any empty spaces with polystyrene blocks or unopened tins or cartons, which could normally be stored in cupboards.
I was very surprised to see the low wattage consumption when charging my mobile phone and rechargeable batteries. I had it in my head that it would be far more expensive.
Here are some examples of wattages recorded when different appliances were in use.
The energy used to charge my Blackberry mobile was 22watts, for three hours. The cost for the whole day would only have come to 4p, so my mobile recharge cost me 1p plus 5% VAT:-)
Charging four 1.5V rechargeable batteries for 6 hours cost about the same.
My computer uses 166watts when active, reduced to 133 watts when the screen goes blank, costing 36p per day which amounts to £11 per month.
I now switch off my computer when not in use, rather than leaving it 'asleep.'
The same applies for my TV; I never leave it on standby now, to eat up another 55watts of power whilst not in use and I certainly use energy saving bulbs now, instead of regular ones.
I was astounded to see that the wattage of the strip-light in my kitchen was a whopping 100 watts. Once again, I had mistakenly assumed that strip-lighting was economical - I wonder where I got that idea from.
Needless to say the kitchen light is never left on longer than necessary either.
Although I was already vaguely aware that I had been wasting electricity, it did not seem to bother me much. I would leave the radio on whilst beavering away at jobs, well out of hearing distance, or the TV on whilst I popped out to mow the lawn, those sort of wasteful habits, but since becoming aware of exactly how much I was wasting, in terms of pounds, shillings and pence, my habits have changed considerably in a very short space of time.
Have I saved money? Oh yes, I have indeed.
I have had this gadget now for some time, the novelty has not yet worn off, for I still keep tabs on my energy usage. The only nuisance factor about this device is having to update when energy prices increase and it is difficult to assess exactly what the savings are because one cannot compare one year with another when the prices keep rising. Even so, I still find that I am checking to see how much energy each appliance consumes. A very useful gadget, that is for sure.
Current Cost / Wireless energy monitor to measure and record energy consumption of household electrical equipment