Smart meters and energy monitors: we're confusedWhat’s the difference?

25 August 2010

Energy Monitor

Energy monitors can help you understand and reduce your electricity usage.

A third of Which? members think energy monitors and smart meters are the same thing, according to a Which? survey.

Which? has uncovered large-scale confusion surrounding smart meters and energy monitors. Our survey found that most Which? members don’t understand the differences between smart meters and energy monitors – and 36% wrongly think they are the same thing. Only around one in ten answered all four of the questions we asked them correctly.

Which? energy researcher Hazel Cottrell said: ‘We’re not surprised people are puzzled –with messages about both coming from all directions, it’s easy to get the two mixed up. And confusing marketing tactics like British Gas naming its free energy monitor tariff ‘EnergySmart’ certainly aren’t helping the situation.’

Our online guide, smart meters and energy monitors explained, shows you what each gadget does and why the differences are important. Here you can also check out our video guide, to see the differences for yourself.

Energy monitor confusion

The online survey of 2,391 Which? Connect members in June 2010 found that although 91% of members are aware that energy monitors can show electricity usage in real-time, there was much misunderstanding surrounding their capabilities.

Nearly half of those asked wrongly thought that they could show your gas usage and 19% thought they could send information directly to your energy supplier. In fact, only smart meters can measure your gas usage and communicate with your supplier.

What is a smart meter?

Smart meters are the new sophisticated meters that the government wants to roll-out across the country, and that several energy companies have already started installing. These will replace your existing meter, measure you gas and electricity usage and crucially, they will be able to communicate wirelessly with your energy supplier.

Smart meters are likely to come with separate handheld display units, which will allow you to view your energy usage, but they are different to energy monitors as they will allow you to view your real (not estimated) electricity usage, and will display gas usage info too. To see a smart meter in action, see our smart meter and energy monitors explained video guide.

What is an energy monitor?

Energy monitors are simple handheld gadgets (with a separate part that clips onto your existing meter) that give you a good estimate of the amount of electricity you are using in real-time. These are widely available and you can install them yourself.

To find out which energy monitors we rate as Best Buys, see our .

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You can compare energy prices and switch to a new gas and electricity supplier on Which? Switch. People who switched with us between 1 October and 31 December 2013 are predicted to save an average of £234 a year on their bills.

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