Top five ways to make the most of your energy monitor
By Matthew Knight
Top five ways to make the most of your energy monitor
Find out how you can use an energy monitor to help save electricity and slash your energy bills. Follow our five expert tips and save money.
Want to know how to make the best use of an energy monitor? Use our five tips and start saving money on your energy bills.
The GB Cycling Team has used the concept of marginal gains to great success. The philosophy is based around breaking down an activity into constituent parts, creating tiny efficiencies in each, which then scale when every part is put back together.
You too can use the same philosophy to cut your electricity consumption and slash your bills – you just need to identify those marginal gains. And that’s where an energy monitor comes into play.
Small-scale trials have revealed that you can save anywhere between £25 and £75 a year on your electricity bill, although you could save more. When we surveyed Which? members who own an energy monitor*, 72% said it had increased their understanding of usage and 48% said it helped them to use less electricity.
Read our top five tips below to get the most from your energy monitor:
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1. Choose the best energy monitor for you
While all energy monitors offer similar basic functions, some are much better designed than others to help you take action. You will also want to make sure that the monitor you get has the most useful features for you.
You will need to pick between a static monitor, a monitor with a battery-powered portable display, an online-only monitor that uses your existing smartphone, tablet or laptop as a screen, or a combination of all these features.
Some energy monitors make it easier than others to check where you're using the most power. Ones with display units that take batteries are portable, but mains-powered ones must stay plugged in so you’ll have to re-plug it in every room you want to investigate.
2. Investigate your energy usage
Once you’ve chosen and set up your energy monitor, you’ll start getting almost instant feedback on your electricity usage. Take this opportunity to play with your new gadget and investigate your energy use thoroughly.
A good way to discover more about your energy use is to turn off everything you can in your home – this will get the reading on the monitor as low as possible. Then walk through all the rooms in your home and try turning on different appliances, watching the monitor reading increase. Try and make a list of the top 10 worst appliances or rooms for energy use in your home.
Your energy monitor may come with instructions that give estimates on how much you can save by taking certain actions. You can find plenty of additional advice in our guide on how to use less electricity – including tips on using your washing machine, dishwasher, kettle and fridge efficiently, and details on how much you could save by switching various items off standby.
3. Change your habits
Once you understand where you’re using a lot of electricity, you can identify areas where you can save. This doesn’t mean depriving yourself of the appliances you need – it’s energy wastage rather than simple usage that you want to cut down.
This means watching out for appliances that are being left on unnecessarily, turning things off standby and making sure all your energy-guzzling appliances are working as efficiently as possible.
The biggest savings are likely to be made by cutting down how often you use energy-hungry appliances and how long you use them for. If you can, consider replacing older appliances with newer, more energy-efficient ones. You can use our reviews to help you choose appliances that won't rack up your energy bills.
Some light bulbs also use a surprising amount of electricity, so consider replacing them. Do this initially in the rooms you use most often. Not sure which bulb to buy? See our five tips for choosing the right light bulb.
It’s true that you don’t need an energy monitor to make any of these changes. But an energy monitor can help you identify which changes will make the biggest difference in your home and will give you almost instant feedback on the effect your changes are having.
4. Get everyone involved
It will be easier to reduce your energy use if you can get your whole household involved in the challenge.
By explaining the energy monitor’s purpose and helping your family (or housemates) understand their energy use, too, they will hopefully be more inclined to reduce their energy wastage.
Most energy monitors are fairly easy to read, so even children can join in – if the usage figure is creeping higher, encourage them to seek out an appliance to turn off.
Some energy monitors allow you to set daily targets for energy usage, and some have high-usage warning alarms – these functions give you something to aim for together.
5. Monitor your energy usage over time
Energy monitors have the potential to be a novelty item that gets neglected once you’ve checked the energy use of all your various appliances. However, they can offer even more useful feedback when used over a long period of time.
The quality of historical data offered by different models varies significantly, but most of the energy monitors we've seen offer some kind of historical information.
You can use this information to spot inconsistencies from day to day, or week to week. If your energy usage was particularly high on a certain day, question why this was. There may be a simple explanation - like you had relatives visiting or a mountain of washing to do. But if not, there could be energy wastage to investigate - and money to be saved on your energy bill.
To fully understand your electricity use patterns it makes sense to keep a note of your weekly or monthly usage. Or, if your energy monitor allows, download this data to your computer or phone.
It’s also important to read your energy meter regularly (at least quarterly) and provide these readings to your energy supplier. This will ensure you are getting accurate bills, which will be easier to compare with the data your energy monitor is providing.
*(Online survey: 1,210 Which? members, Dec 2013.)