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Smart Meters – Eco-warrior to worrier?

Electricity Supplier Smart Meter

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Not so long ago I requested to receive a free Smart Meter from my generous energy supplier and after a few weeks received a package in the post. The meter comprises of a little battery powered clip, a little unit with an LCD display and an instruction manual. The instructions were easy enough to follow and involved clipping the transmitter round a power cable. The book contained a couple of diagrams showing which cable the clip needed to be attached to accompanied by several safety warnings. The display unit needed to be plugged-in into a power supply and then ‘paired’ or linked with the clip on the cable. This was done by pressing a couple of buttons at the same time on each unit. Once ‘paired’ it was simply a matter of setting the clock and we were up and running.

Our particular unit gives you the option to view your current usage in pounds and pence, or in KGco2 per hour and KWs. It also allows you to view you usage history for yesterday, the previous week and to set targets.

The first couple of weeks with this gadget were pretty interesting not just for me but also the rest of the family. I had my eyes opened to what certain appliances around the home were costing to run. The kids however found me switching off lights as soon as they stepped out of rooms, and my wife would have to put up with me debating how most efficiently we could load the dishwasher (this one is still a touchy subject).

I’m not too sure of the accuracy of these units since many suppliers do and will change their tariffs (some units may allow for this to be set), but It has given me a level of transparency over how costly it is to run the iron, play on the Xbox or watch a movie for the night. (I think this could be a good justification to upgrade from my old TV?)

Pros

  • Easy to setup

Cons

  • Low on features
  • Dull display
  • Cheap build quality

Verdict

It does what it needs to and the fact that it’s free is a bonus although the build quality does reflect this. If this is a concern for you, you could consider purchase one for anything upto £50

The effect and novelty of the unit does wear off but there are those little gems of insight for example where I now try and run some items for a shorter period of time or now l put in that extra effort hunting down the kids in order to get them switching things off. Ultimately it’s basic and has little effect.

One thing I would say though is that the display unit is pretty dull and I just can’t help wondering whether the cost of manufacturing and distributing the product could have been reduced. Perhaps pairing the transmitter to other devices such as mobile phones and android or iOS apps would have been a smarter way to go. That way new features and tariff information could be updated easily from a distance.


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