Want to shave money off your energy bills? The secret lies in monitoring and managing their use, as Nick Peers reveals.
Doing this by hand is time-consuming and not particularly efficient, which is where a new generation of smart energy monitoring devices comes into play. You may have already benefitted from the planned rollout of smart energy meters across the UK, but it all depends on your supplier. Visit the Smart Energy GB site for more information and to find out where you currently stand.
While these smart meters should ensure you get more accurate bills in future, they also allow you to view in real-time how much electricity and gas you’re consuming, plus provide figures of your overall consumption in pounds and pence. What they can’t do, however, is help you track down which individual appliances are costing you the most money, helping you regulate their use or even consider replacing them with more energy efficient alternatives.
If you want to really make a difference with your electricity, gas and even water consumption, you’ll need to move beyond your traditional meter and invest in some smart home technology – which is where we come in.
Smart energy monitoring explained
The simplest way to record the electrical consumption of an individual appliance is through the purchase of a suitable smart plug. A basic energy saving power meter like the Energenie ENER007 costs under £15, and can be used to track individual appliances over a period of time to see how much they’re costing you. The big drawback of this approach is that you can only read consumption on the plug’s own display, which may not be practical if it’s tucked away somewhere awkward.
The next step up from a basic power meter is a smart plug with energy monitoring capabilities. These are paired with an app on your phone or tablet that allow you to not just monitor that appliance’s energy consumption, but also take steps to manage it too.
One of the cheapest is Edimax’s Smart Plug Switch with Power Meter, which Maplin is currently selling for £24.99. It’s controlled using the free EdiPlug app, which allows you to switch the plug on and off both manually and to a custom-set schedule. There’s even a Budget Control setting, which allows you to set daily, weekly and monthly limits as well as automatically power off the device if its consumption exceeds a certain amount.
The plug is capable enough, but we find the EdiPlug app is a little clunky to use, and setup wasn’t as straightforward as we’d hoped (we had to perform a full reset on the switch to get connected, for example). There’s also no easy way to integrate the plug into a wider smart home setup, so with this in mind it’s worth taking a look at the competition.
- If you’re using D-Link’s mydlink products, for example, then its mydlink DSP-W215 Home Smart Plug is currently also available for as little as £24.99. It includes a thermal sensor that’ll switch off the plug if it starts to overheat (handy if you have a habit of leaving the iron on). It can then be paired with other mydlink devices, while there’s even an IFTTT D-Link Smart Plug Channel that lets other devices control the plug too.
- Other smart plugs with energy monitors that offer similar functionality (and their own IFTTT channels) to the DSP-W215 include Belkin’s WeMo Insight that costs £49.99, and SWANN’s SwannOne Smart Plug for £34.99 – note the latter requires the SwannOne Smart Hub to work (an additional £70), so steer clear if you’re looking for a simple smart plug without any additional dependencies.