How to use a smart meter
For the energy-conscious, smart meters are promoted as the very best way to reduce energy bills and save the environment. But what exactly do these little pieces of tech actually do for your energy usage, and how should you use one?
Checking the base level
When you buy appliances, you'll typically see an energy consumption rating or figure in the box or on marketing materials. It's not the kind of thing that will stick in your mind for long, so once a TV's in place or the washing machine has been installed you'll probably not know how much energy it's using. After installing a smart meter, make an effort to turn off as many lights, plug sockets, gadgets and appliances as you can. Try to get your energy usage as close to zero as possible. From there, you can watch the screen as you turn various plug sockets and appliances on and off.
By testing your energy use at a base level, you'll gain a more practical understanding of your home energy use and how the products in your home are contributing to your annual energy prices. You'll be able to see how much energy you use charging your phone, how much you use just leaving the phone charge plugged in and how much money you're spending to watch TV for an hour.
Getting a clear translation
Reading your energy meters can sometimes be like reading a foreign language. Someone from your energy company will visit your house, read the meter and write down a number that means absolutely nothing on its own. Then, they'll typically take the number away and use it to check that you're paying the right amount for your gas or electricity.
A smart energy meter is much easier to read. It shows you exactly how many pennies you're spending each hour on the things that you're running in your home. Many also provide information about your daily, weekly or monthly usage and your CO2 emissions.
Switch off the things that you're not using
Smart meters aren't just there to show you how much energy your using. They can also help to motivate you to spend a little less. Look at your smart energy meter regularly, using it as a reminder to turn off the TV when you're not watching it or to dry your clothes on the line rather than in the tumble dryer.
As you switch appliances and devices off, you'll get almost immediate feedback from your smart energy meter. It's rewarding to watch your hourly spending drop, even by just a fraction of a penny, when you turn off your games console or remember to switch off the bedroom light after you've left the room. Remember that over time, those individual pennies (or fractions of a penny) will add up to significant savings. A 1p per hour saving is a 24p saving over the course of a day, a £1.68 saving each week and a £21.84 reduction on your quarterly energy bill. A smart energy meter is your ticket to an extra night out, a takeaway at home or some extra spending money on your next holiday.