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Last updated: 07 April 2021
Hit with high energy bills every month? Do you bills show sky-high energy consumption, but you can’t figure out which appliance, or habit, is the culprit? Energy monitors can help you see just how much electricity you’re using and can even pinpoint the consumption of each appliance.
Energy monitors can also help you get a handle on your energy use and identify savings. However, many of their features are duplicated by the more advanced and accurate smart meters,
which will be offered for free to every UK household by suppliers before the end of 2024.
What is an energy monitor?
‘Energy monitor’ covers a range of devices that monitor the amount of electricity your household is using.
Most energy monitors consist of three components:
- A sensor, which clips onto the power cable connected to your electricity meter and monitors the magnetic field around the cable to measure how much electricity you’re using.
- A transmitter, which sends this information wirelessly to a visual display
- A hand-held or table-top device with a visual display, showing you how much electricity you’re using. More advanced meters can also relay that information to a smartphone, tablet, or laptop.
If you don’t want to spring for a ‘whole home’ monitor and are particularly concerned about a few very electricity thirsty appliances or devices, you can get a plug-in monitor for individual plug-in appliances.
Energy monitors start at around £30 and run up to £150. The more expensive monitors will measure your electricity use the most accurately and offer the best display options.
How much can an energy monitor help me reduce my energy use?
Energy monitors themselves will not reduce your energy consumption, but they can make you more aware of your energy using habits and encourage you to change your daily behaviour to save kilowatt hours, along with pounds and carbon emissions. This may mean not keeping appliances on standby and switching off lights in rooms you’re not using.
With some energy monitors, you can switch off appliances to isolate the ones that was consuming the most energy. Some models also allow you to set daily electricity use targets and alarms which can alert you when you’ve exceeded those targets. According to the Energy Savings Trust, an energy monitor can help you reduce your electricity use by 5% to 15%. With the average annual electricity bill running to £699 a year, you can rack up significant savings by trimming your use.
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What’s the difference between an energy monitor and a smart meter?
Energy monitors have largely been made obsolete by smart meters, which replace your old energy meters. Smart meters provide more accurate measurements of electricity and gas consumption and offer other functionality, including the transmission of that data to your energy supplier, eliminating the need for manual meter readings.
Here’s how energy monitors and smart meters differ:
- accuracy: Energy monitors collect data about your electricity use via a sensor on the cable running from your electricity meter and not directly from the electricity meter, so they’ll never be as accurate as your meter itself.
- energy measured: Energy meters only measure the electricity your household is consuming, leaving off a substantial portion of your consumption and your energy bills: gas. In contract, there are individual smart meters for both gas and electricity.
- other functions: Smart meters, unlike energy meters, communicate with your energy supplier, giving them daily updates about your consumption. This eliminates the need for manual meter readings and for energy bills based on estimated consumption.
- cost and installation: You’ll have to buy an energy meter on your own and install it yourself (although installation isn’t complicated). Conversely, your energy supplier will offer you a smart meter for free and install it for you. Ultimately, the cost of the £13 billion smart meter rollout will be spread across all our energy bills, but you don’t see upfront charges for the meters. It’s also expected that smart meters will deliver enough savings to the household to offset that cost.
So do I need an energy monitor?
Energy monitors are an earlier solution for monitoring energy use. While they were once very useful for conscientious energy users, they’ve largely be supplanted by smart meters.
However, with the delay of the smart meter rollout deadline until the end of 2024, many households could be waiting years for next generation meters. You can specifically request smart meters from your energy supplier, but they won’t necessarily comply. If you’re eager to get a jump start on measuring your electricity use and identifying savings and can’t receive a smart meter quickly, you could consider buying an energy monitor in the meantime.