Real-time energy monitoring in Canberra?

Dacquiri 24 July 2012 26

Having just received my jaw-dropping gas and electricity bills for the past quarter, I’m interested in those devices that give you real-time feedback about how much energy (let’s just worry about electricity for the moment) you’re using and what it’s costing you.

Same thing could presumably be achieved if the meters were inside the house, but they’re not.

Not interested in appliance-specific devices, but one that monitors total electricity use.

The internet is full of advertisements for various products, so I wondered if anyone had any actual (or ACTEWal?!) experience of these things.


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26 Responses to Real-time energy monitoring in Canberra?
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steveu steveu 8:44 am 28 Jul 12

+1 for H.E.A.T. assessment. Well worth the $30 and you can claim it back if you do some of the recommendations etc.

Also, Innovation is right, efergy meters are not that accurate – but I guess they give you an idea, and are cheaper than other devices out there I think

malarky malarky 8:22 pm 27 Jul 12

I don’t want to be teaching people how to suck eggs, but if you have a bill that’s two or three times what other people have, then I’m not sure that seeing how much power you’re using instantaneously is going to help you very much, nor is stand-by power, or CFL light-globes. You’re probably looking at more serious options like insulation and using gas.

Smart meters also might be a good thing to recommend to the world in general, but if you live in the ACT in a house older than 2006 then it’s a better idea to get a h.e.a.t. energy audit (http://www.heat.net.au/), and they’ll write you a report, and at the top of that list will probably be ‘get more insulation’ and a long way off the bottom will be ‘smart meter’, and they will give you $500 to go towards getting the big things done (see the website).

If you get gas from ActewAGL then they’ll help you finance a gas hot water system or other gas appliances. I’m not 100% sure that was the best way to do it, but it’s easy, and better than not doing it. And use your gas and reverse-cycle to heat up areas you need before using any kind of electric heater.

Personally I find the appliance specific meters more useful than the whole of house ones because my objective is to find power-hungry devices and turn them off when I don’t need them. You can’t do that if you’re metering the whole house. The appliance specific devices put things into perspective with nice solid numbers too e.g. Turning the tv off at the wall saves 4watts, turning off the spare fridge in the garage saves 400w. And they’re cheap. I got one on ebay for $14.

laura laura 9:26 pm 25 Jul 12

I just got my electricity bill as well and we are using 5kwh per day, the average 2 person household in our area uses about 5 times as much, which I was really suprised about. We have gas heating and cooking (not that we have a choice as we rent), there are 2 of us in an apartment and we are careful about our electricity use. We don’t have an energy monitor but reading the other comments on here I don’t really see the point as it probably unrealistic to expect our usage to get much smaller.

Dacquiri Dacquiri 1:05 pm 25 Jul 12

Thanks for all the info — very interesting. Didn’t know there was a ‘walking around’ gadget, as I was assuming there was just something that connected to the outside meter that could display usage & cost in a more user-friendly way. Have been thinking about this since reading ‘Nudge’ by Thaler & Sunstein, who make the point that improving feedback to consumers thru better info can be both effective and politically acceptable. They discuss a number of actual ideas & initiatives including an Ambient Orb which glows red when you use a lot of energy & green when energy use is modest. General view is that people modify their behaviour when they receive real-time meaningful feedback. However… we have to have the ability to make these choices, and there are practical barriers to doing things like switching appliances off at the wall: outlets may be blocked by furniture or otherwise inaccessible, and many appliances have digital display panels that need to be reset (or constantly and annoyingly flash) whenever their power supply is cut.
BTW, we are a 2-person household with gas hot water & ducted heating + a separate 22sq.m. room with under-floor off-peak electric heating. Quarterly elec bill was $600 for average daily use of about 0.042. ActewAGL’s comparison chart tells me that our average daiily consumption is 3 times that of other 2-person households and twice that of an average 4-person household. Obviously, they don’t take the physical size of the home into account, but this still seems staggering, given that we are not profligate electricity users. It would be useful to see what it costs me to have the Tastic heater on in the morning, and also to settle that on-going argument about whether appliances draw more power when you turn them off and then on again (eg, colour tv) or whether it’s cheaper to leave them on.

banjo banjo 9:47 am 25 Jul 12

On the topic of TOU, the ActewAGL site states that to go on the Time Of Use policy you need to have one of the newer style meters, the ones that can obviously record 3 lots of usage across the 3 time periods outlined in the TOU. “Apparently” ActewAGL are slowly replacing the older meters with newer ones… is there any truth to this? I don’t know anyone who has just had there meter replaced because ActewAGL offered to do so. There is a request form, and a fee of ~$64 if you wish to arrange for ActewAGL to come and do the work on request (which might be good value depending on what your expecting to save) but I can’t see that it is in ActewAGL’s interest to just go out there and replace them all. The old meters are no doubt reliable enough and although I imagine it is in ActewAGL’s interest to have customers reduce peak time usage, they are probably making more money off of those households with the older units.

I just ordered one of those efergy meters, I’ll trend my usage over a normal week and if I can save money going onto TOU then I guess I will be filling out an order form…

wildturkeycanoe wildturkeycanoe 5:55 am 25 Jul 12

To get an idea of your daily usage, just write down the kWh from the Actew meter at the same time every day and subtract it from the previous figure. Of course this means you will have to go outside, but it’s cheaper than investing in a toy that saves you from walking.
As for then reducing the bill, if that is your aim, just turn everything off in your house [except for the hot water] and then as you need to use something, turn it on. If you feel you can’t live without any of your appliances, then you will have to pay for the jaw dropping bills, simple as that. I believe, as I’ve said before, that heating and cooling are the biggest chewers of power, next to cooking. This is where your energy can be really manipulated the most. Large powerful items that run 24/7 are more likely to cost you money than a light bulb in the toilet, so energy saving fluorescent lamps are insignificant in my opinion. Electric or gas heating by any chance – go split air con [inverter style]. Ours runs almost continuously [ 2 systems at opposite ends of the house ] and we’ve not run into a bill near $1000 for the quarter, the June quarter was only $400 [ but we have solar boosted hat water].
We have a 5 person family and run out of hot water often too. Hope some of this helps you save, I know [knew] the pain of getting a $1500/quarter power bill.

arescarti42 arescarti42 11:41 pm 24 Jul 12

caf said :

I’ve been wondering about this. We’ve got one of the peak/shoulder/off-peak meters but are on the flat tariff. I’d like to calculate if we’d be better off on the time-of-use tariff, but the three meters aren’t labelled on the bill – they’re just numbered :1, :2 and :3. Which one is which?

I’m actually not sure about this, I’ve not had a TOU metered service for long enough to get a bill yet.

At a guess I’d say 1 is peak, 2 is shoulder and 3 is off peak, as that’s the sequence my power meter displays it in (by the way, if you’re interested in reading your TOU power meter, ACTEW have a nice guide here.

caf caf 9:46 pm 24 Jul 12

arescarti42 said :

One thing you and others might want to consider is time of use metering (assuming your hot water system is already on the off peak tariff). Without consciously modifying my behaviour, time of use metering reduces my electricity costs by about 7% compared to the static tariff.

If you are able to shift electricity guzzlers like heating to off peak periods, you could probably save a lot.

I’ve been wondering about this. We’ve got one of the peak/shoulder/off-peak meters but are on the flat tariff. I’d like to calculate if we’d be better off on the time-of-use tariff, but the three meters aren’t labelled on the bill – they’re just numbered :1, :2 and :3. Which one is which?

arescarti42 arescarti42 9:23 pm 24 Jul 12

Actually the other thing you could try and do is use less electricity, 80kWh per day is actually quite a lot. It’s about the equivalent of leaving 15x 42 inch LCD TVs running 24/7.

arescarti42 arescarti42 9:16 pm 24 Jul 12

LSWCHP said :

Anyway, the electricity bill that arrived today said we’re using around 80 kWh per day, which is about 2.5 times “other households in our area”.

Total charge for the quarter was about $1250 or around $14 per day.

Does anyone else have recent cost figures? I thought we were using a lot of electricity, but 2.5 times other households is a helluva lot.

That sounds about right, there’s a number of factors at play here. For a start, the average household in Australia is about 2.6 people, so you’re likely to have more than 2x as many people living in your household as other households in your area (2x+ as many hot showers, computers running, rooms heated, etc).

Add in the fact that you run everything electrically and also the fact that your house sounds like it is both pretty big and also a thermal sieve, and 80kWh per day would be achievable. For comparison, my house is reasonably energy efficient, has 3 adults, gas hot water, and electric (reverse cycle) heating, and we average about 23kWh per day. On the other hand, my parent’s house has 3 people living in it, they run electric in slab heating, hot tubs and all manner of things, and would easily be hitting around $1k per quarter.

One thing you and others might want to consider is time of use metering (assuming your hot water system is already on the off peak tariff). Without consciously modifying my behaviour, time of use metering reduces my electricity costs by about 7% compared to the static tariff.

If you are able to shift electricity guzzlers like heating to off peak periods, you could probably save a lot.

Innovation Innovation 8:55 pm 24 Jul 12

I’ve got an efergy as well. It’s pretty thirsty on batteries and I suspect it is not terribly accurate. We also had to replace the receiver after new batteries leaked in the first one in the first couple of weeks.

I think all utility companies (electricity, gas and water) should get their act together and develop and use a meter transmitting system that can be remotely recorded and monitored by them – eg just by driving down the street (ala Google style) – and by the home owner.

LSWCHP LSWCHP 8:08 pm 24 Jul 12

I’ve just had a similar sticker shock, and I was going to write an almost identical post!

We have an all-electric household, apart from our fireplace. We do heating, cooling, cooking, hot water electrically, as well as televisions, guitar amps, computers, phone chargers etc. The place is also about 30 years old with lots of exposed glass. Great views, but not so good for heating in winter. The first thing I thought when I walked into the place was “This would cost a lot to heat”. We also have two adults plus up to four teenagers coming and going.

Anyway, the electricity bill that arrived today said we’re using around 80 kWh per day, which is about 2.5 times “other households in our area”.

Total charge for the quarter was about $1250 or around $14 per day.

Does anyone else have recent cost figures? I thought we were using a lot of electricity, but 2.5 times other households is a helluva lot.

OpenYourMind OpenYourMind 2:33 pm 24 Jul 12

I’ve got one that plugs into a socket and measures current drawn on the particular powerpoint. Using a bit of diligence, I managed to narrow down the items in my house that are using heaps of power. Items on standby can nibble away at your consumption.

pirate_taco pirate_taco 2:10 pm 24 Jul 12

patrick_keogh said :

frontrow said :

Why would such a device ever need to be battery powered rather than plugging into the mains?

No, for the whole of house monitoring there are two bits. One goes in your meter box and clamps to the main supply wires. It transmits using wireless to another bit which is the display and PC interface.

The bit in the meter box is battery powered because there are typically no powerpoints there 🙂 The other bit is typically mains powered.

The efergy model I have has AA batteries in the transmitter, and AAA batteries in the receiver.

kmaftoum kmaftoum 1:58 pm 24 Jul 12

I’ve generally used the ‘appliance’ style meters so I can measure the individual appliances/rooms, which have proven to be quite useful, even the cheap Jaycar ones.

I did once have a Cent-A-Meter but never got around to getting it installed.

What would be nice is if ACTEW would allow access to the real-time data via their new smartmeters somehow….

Karl Maftoum
Labor Candidate for Brindabella
http://www.karlmaftoum.com

Grrrr Grrrr 1:31 pm 24 Jul 12

The reading from sensors that clip around cables (AKA Clamp Meters) vary from pretty good to wildly inaccurate.

I know you want a display to carry around inside, but don’t forget that ACTEW’s meter tells you accurately how much you’ve used – and therefore, if you compare readings across time, how much you’re using.. If you have a new “smart meter” it might show consumption rate as well as total. (Analogue meter at my place still..)

patrick_keogh patrick_keogh 1:17 pm 24 Jul 12

Tony said :

http://www.smartnow.com.au/

The problem with it is you only get 1 days graph at a time. Id like to see 1 day, 1 week, 1month, 1year, 5 year, 10 year graphs.

That was why I wrote my own software.

patrick_keogh patrick_keogh 1:16 pm 24 Jul 12

frontrow said :

Why would such a device ever need to be battery powered rather than plugging into the mains?

No, for the whole of house monitoring there are two bits. One goes in your meter box and clamps to the main supply wires. It transmits using wireless to another bit which is the display and PC interface.

The bit in the meter box is battery powered because there are typically no powerpoints there 🙂 The other bit is typically mains powered.

arescarti42 arescarti42 12:42 pm 24 Jul 12

frontrow said :

Why would such a device ever need to be battery powered rather than plugging into the mains?

Ostensibly so you can walk around the house with it and watch what happens when you do things like turn the dryer on.

frontrow frontrow 12:33 pm 24 Jul 12

Why would such a device ever need to be battery powered rather than plugging into the mains?

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