Energy monitor reviews: FAQs
What is an energy monitor?
Energy monitors are designed to help you keep track of your electricity use, discover how using different appliances affects your energy bills and, ideally, help you to cut your electricity consumption and therefore your energy bills.
Energy monitors usually consist of a handheld display unit, a sensor/clamp that attaches to your electricity wire and a transmitter which sends information from the sensor to the display unit.
Most energy monitors allow you to view your real-time electricity usage in units of energy used (kWh), cost or carbon emissions. Some have additional features, such as allowing you to set daily electricity usage targets or alarms to alert you when you have used a set amount of electricity.
The Saveometer from Eco1 Limited is the first energy monitor we've seen that also allows you to monitor your gas usage (if you buy an additional gas transmitter).
Is it difficult or dangerous to set up an energy monitor?
Some energy monitors are easier to set up than others – we give each model a star rating for ease of set-up in our energy monitor reviews – but you should be able to install any of them by yourself.
Setting one up does require you to attach a sensor to a live electricity wire, but this should be safe enough as long as the wire is encased in plastic. If you find that the wire is frayed or exposed – don’t touch it – call an electrician instead.
How much money can an energy monitor save me?
According to the Energy Saving Trust’s small-scale trials, energy monitors can typically help households save between 5% and 15% off their annual electricity bill – that’s £25 to £75 off a £500 bill.
However, an energy monitor itself won’t slash your bills - it will simply highlight where you can save money, and show you the instant impact that your energy-saving actions are having. The savings are down to you.
See our guide how to get the most from your energy monitor for top tips on how to make the biggest savings.
Do I need an energy monitor to cut my bills?
No. You can change your habits and reduce your energy usage without using an energy monitor – our guide on how to use less electricity has several tips on how to do this.
However, an energy monitor can help you get a better understanding of how you are currently using electricity and which of the appliances in your home are the most power hungry. Plus, it offers almost instant feedback so you can see the effect your behaviour changes are having immediately.
To make sure you are spending as little as possible on your energy bills, you should also check you are on the cheapest energy tariff available – compare gas and electricity prices with Which? Switch to find out which deals are cheapest for your home.
Is an energy monitor the same as a smart meter?
No. It’s easy to get confused between energy monitors and smart meters – our online survey of almost 2,400 Which? members (June 2010) found that a third of our members think they are the same thing. However, energy monitors and smart meters are actually very different.
Smart meters are high-tech electricity and gas meters that the government wants to roll out to homes across the country at a cost of around £10 billion. They are much more sophisticated than energy monitors as they will replace your existing meter, measure your exact gas and electricity use, and, most importantly, send all the information back to your energy supplier – meaning no more estimated bills.
Smart meters are likely to come with separate handheld display units, which are expected to look like energy monitors but be more accurate. You can find out more about the differences between smart meters and energy monitors, and see a video of both devices in action in our smart meters and energy monitors explained guide.
Can I use an energy monitor if I have solar panels?
Most energy monitors are not able to deal with energy generated by solar panels as they are unable to calculate your net usage based on energy consumed, energy generated and energy fed back to the grid.
Most will just be able to measure your consumption or your generation (and where you will need to attach the sensor in order to do this will depend on your solar setup).
However, several manufacturers including Green Energy Options are developing new energy monitors that are specifically designed to deal with solar technology. We hope to test these when they become available – and if you have solar panels it may be waiting until these are launched before buying an energy monitor.
If you're thinking of buying solar panels, see our full guide to solar panels.