Despite all the offers you see on the TV ads household energy isn’t getting cheaper, and it looks like it won’t get so in the near future. We all need to save energy - if not for the planet, then for our wallets and purses.
Electricity bills are increasing a couple of times a year unless you’re in a fixed-term deal. See: Energy-saving tips around the home
So reducing these costs means cutting down your electricity usage. Buying more energy-efficient devices is a must when replacing older equipment round the home.
Monitoring electricity usage is the key to adopting a less energy-hungry home. According to the UK government’s Energy Saving Trust energy monitors could help households save between 3 and 15 percent on annual electricity bills, an average £75.
Of course, just owning an energy monitor won’t save you a penny. You need to use its information to actively change your behaviour, to cut energy waste and reduce electricity bills.
There are plenty of energy monitors on the market, and we looked at the Efergy e2 classic 2.0, an updated version of its award-winning entry-level model. It's also sometimes known as the e2 eLink, after its complementary software.
The Efergy e2 classic 2.0 is a dinky little number, in minimalist white, measuring 87mm square and 22mm deep. It even has its own back-stand.
Its portability is essential. Initially you need to carry it round with you as you go round the house switching appliances on and off so you can get an idea which are the hungriest. The e2 smart meter will fit in your pocket and weighs next to nothing.
Setup is simple. Ironically the first thing you need to do is go out and purchase a bunch of batteries (3 x AAA for display and 2 x AAA for transmitter).
Fitting the mini CT sensor to your meter is simple. Just clamp the sensor to a cable by your electricity meter, link this wirelessly to the e2 itself, and you're done.
Then you need to input some basic settings: time and date; voltage (default: 240); currency (£, €, $, Kr, R available); tariff type (will handle single or dual/multiple tariffs); electricity cost; carbon emissions ration (no idea, so I left this at the default 0.5kg CO2/kWh); and alarm (beeps when you’re using over a specified kWh number).
The default cost of electricity is set at 14p per kilowatt hour (kWh). That’s not far off my own deal’s costs, but try to calculate your own electricity kWh price first. It can be tricky to work out with different rates for first blocks of power and subsequent volumes – energy companies actually lower the rate the more you use, which isn’t exactly promoting energy saving but who’d expect them to do that anyway?
If in doubt leave it at the default, as it’s the potential change you need to see rather than the actual monetary saving.
The smart meter's display takes up most of the space on the e2, offering a large, easy-to-read digital display.
The e2 classic 2.0 comes with eLink software so you can track your energy usage on your computer.
We had some problems getting the software to link with the e2, using a Mac. This was sorted by using an earlier (v2.0) version; 2.1 was beta when we tested the device. You must make sure that your PC or Mac has Adobe Air and Java installed, and there’s also a USB utility that’s essential for proper working. All these utilities come as part of the installation package.
Once the software is installed and you’re syncing data between e2 and your PC everything’s fine, but getting there was not an easy experience for us. Efergy tells us that it’s moving to a download-only process in the near future.
You can review your daily, monthly and annual electricity usage in kWh, costs and CO2. Using this data you’ll be able to identify peak usage periods – and try to tackle those, bringing usage down.
You can track any savings you’ve made in the total cost per year data.
Another handy feature is the ability to compare how your usage would translate into costs between different suppliers.
If you’re really keen you can create daily or monthly reports in PDF or Excel formats. And you can fire off emails directly from eLink – maybe warning family members to not overfill the kettle or switch off lights in unoccupied rooms!
That’s one potential drawback to energy monitoring – it’s easy to become a bit of a nagging policeman to your fellow housemates. They might complain at first but eventually the message should get through to them. Just try to do it diplomatically, rather than follow them round switching lights and appliances off.