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Real-time energy monitoring in Canberra?

By 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.

What’s Your opinion?

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26 Responses to
Real-time energy monitoring in Canberra?
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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 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 (, 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 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 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 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 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.

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