I recently had an electric bill. It was a shock. Admittedly I used British Gas and its large tariff and because of this I changed tariffs to B.G’s ClickEnergy Tariff, which will be a lot cheaper. This lead me to wonder what on earth is using so much electricity ? I have ‘B’ rated appliances, I replaced my lightbulbs and I turn the TV off and do not leave it on standby.

Now whilst I go round turning off lights like my dad did when I was a child, I’m not convinced that the rest of the family do. Boil what you need should be a mantra if your going to save money on electric. Still it can be hard for people because they can’t see how much its costing. To help me with this I purchased an Electrisave remote monitoring gadget.

The Electrisave is a simple device that monitors your electricity usage and transmits that information to a display unit in the house. It claims it can help reduce bills.

The device sensors wrap around the main power cable by the meter, so almost anyone can do it (provided your meter is standard, if your not sure get an electrician).  Once that is done and the batteries are in, a quick press of a button and it is up and running.  It took me longer to open the meter cupboard, as I had lost the keys, than it did to fit.

Here is a close up of the connector on the fourth wire on the right of the meter, apparently this is a standard installation.  
You can easily see the clip wrapping round the cable, no pliers or mole grips or hammers were required to do this.  Once the devices are communicating you can immediately start to monitor your electricity usage.

The results of monitoring can be viewed on the display panel, a well built and attractive device.  The digital display is very clear and the key values it can display are in large text.

First you need to configure this, the instruction manual is easy to follow.  You enter the currency and the pence per kwH that you are charged, you can, if you know it, alter the default setting that calculates carbon in KGs per hour, sorry no imperial rubbish here.

The device has a number of features.  It has a thermometer and humidity detector to help you know the temp of your room whether its you who need a jumper on not the thermostat turning up. 

Then come the main functions that it measures

Kilowatts.
This is the current power consumption that is being used in your house.  This is one for the techie of the house, it is easy to see how much a specific device draws when turned on in this setting, this can help identify if that budget power supply is drawing more watts than it supplies.

Amps.
One for the uber geek. I know what they are but I have no clue what to do with this information, but its there if you want it.

GreenhouseGas
The amount of CO2 you are producing in KG per hour.  This one is for the eco warrior.

What’s it costing me.
Probably the most useful and the setting most people will leave this device set to.

It takes some time and a fair bit of monitoring to figure out what your normal usage is, once you have that figured out then this device can be used to identify when you are burning more than you expect.  An example on the website is that of someone not closing the fridge door, this will cause more power to be used and you can see this power being used, you can then choose to find the problem or let your milk go off.

Here is mine first thing this morning, I am merrily burning 2.3 pence per hour.  This is slightly higher than my normal “rest” state as my PC is turned on, and the temp is a comfortable 23C.

What is key to this devices success is not the anal inquisition of the techie of the family but something else, something I noticed within one hour of “sharing” the unit with the family, a shift in mindset.

My five year old son loved it the instant gratification of turning off something and seeing the numbers go down.  Within one hour my wife was turning lights off around the house where before she would have left them on.  I’m hoping she sees it when she puts the tumble drier on and perhaps she will think, this lot could go on the clothes line.

For a geek like me this device is missing many many features.  Firstly, its single tariff most UK tariffs are stepped or dual or both, (x) pence for (y) Kwh then (x) pence for the rest for the quarter.  It only shows current usage, it does not try to calculate your bill, it does not even provide an average usage over the last 24 hours or max/min peak values over the same period.  I can understand the not calculating the bill, these devices are not electric meters, but they could easily provide the features I just mentioned.  Imagine coming home and seeing the average for the day shooting up, you can try and identify what happened. 

Personally I want this thing to write to internal memory and provide a USB or Bluetooth interface to pull the tracking data into my PC, this would allow me to analyse peaks, try and identify patterns of behavior that could better manage usage.  I found some information on the protocol so I’m investigating the possibilities of building a device to log this information.

If you have a family that needs training then this is the device for you if you have multiple devices left on 24×7 then this can be a gentle reminder of how much that Media Center and Home Server you’ve left on is costing you.  If you already have energy saving lightbulbs then I doubt you will reap the kind of savings boasted about on the box.  Only with logging and download to a PC or even at its simplest provide an additional averaging capability with split tariff monitoring to provide the ability to estimate a bill at current average usage is this going to be of any use to the already energy conscious consumer.

This device can be purchased cheaply from British Gas* .

IMPORTANT : Read instructions, hire electrician, don’t blame me if you blow your house up fitting this device, cos your an idiot.

*Cheapest I found at time of buying mine.

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