How to Settle Disagreements About Energy Consumption

Having completed thousands of energy audits, we've heard many squabbles about energy consumption.

I should clarify here that I'm talk about relatively petty or inane disagreements. Not full-on "I'm calling my lawyer" disputes (which I will cover in a separate blog post).

Energy Disagreement Cartoon

Even petty arguments can be frustrating or cause friction at home or work:

"So-and-so doesn't switch off their computer when they leave work. I bet that's the reason our power bill has gone up"

"It's your beer fridge that's chewing up all the power!"

"No it's not, I bought the 5 star model - I reckon it's the washing machine!"

The funny thing about these disagreements is they usually completely miss the point. In my experience, the appliances people argue about tend not to be the biggest energy users.

So in settling your argument about energy consumption, I hope you'll uncover the real energy guzzlers and fix those as well.

1. For all plug-in electrical appliances

Whether it's the hair dryer, electric blanket, or standby power on your mobile phone charger - all these things have one thing in common: a power plug. The good news is that anything with a regular power plug can be measured easily with a plug-in power meter.

I'd recommend that you first check your electricity bill and note down the daily average kWh figure. This will give you something to compare against.

For Example: You may measure the disputed beer fridge over 24 hours and find that it consumes 1.2kWh/day. If your total power usage is 14kWh/day, you now know the beer fridge is responsible for about 9% of your power bill. 

At the time of writing we have three plug-in power meters available:

  1. Reduction Revolution Power Meter - low cost option, does the job for all ad-hoc monitoring (not suitable for continuous data logging).
  2. Efergy Ego Smart Socket - a great solution if you want added features in addition to the power metering function. For example, you can use it to remotely switch appliances on and off from your smart phone.
  3. Power Mate Lite - this is a professional tool for energy auditors or electricians. There is also a 15 amp model for 15 amp appliances that you may find in commercial kitchens, or elsewhere.

Power Meter Options

Power Meter Options: Watts Clever (left), Efergy Ego (middle), Power Mate Lite (right)

2. For Lighting, Air Conditioning, or Hot Water

You'll soon realise that some of the biggest power users cannot be plugged in. Items such as: ceiling lights, reverse cycle AC, outdoor spa, and electric hot water systems.

For these items you'll need to install a wireless energy monitor.

These give you a real time display of total power consumption. This allows you to do several things to reveal underlying energy usage and costs, for example:

  • Switch the item in question on and off. Note down how much the 'kW' figure goes up and down by on the energy monitor. What is the impact on the cost figure?
  • Check your usage before going out. How much power is being used? What could still be on?
  • Check your usage overnight. Should usage be this high when everyone is sleeping?

At the time of writing we have four main wireless energy monitoring options:

  1. Efergy Elite Classic - basic display screen model (no data download function).
  2. Efergy Engage Hub - connects to an internet router and allows you to view usage on your computer, smart phone, or tablet. You can even check usage when you're not at home or work. Solar energy monitor also available.
  3. Power Tracker - a solution for customers who want higher accuracy, or for larger premises over 100 amps per phase.

Energy Monitor Options

Energy Monitor Options: Watts Clever EW4500 (left), Efergy Elite (middle), Efergy Engage Hub (right)

3. For Gas Appliances (BBQ, Hot Water or Heaters)

You might have noticed that none of the devices above measure gas consumption. 

To track gas usage we generally recommend that you closely monitor your gas meter and gas bills. Reason being: there tends to only be one or two gas appliances in a home (say gas hot water and a gas heater). As such, it is typically fairly easy to hone in on the device in question without the need for individual appliance monitoring.

4. For Physically Separate Areas (Workshop, Sub-Tenancy, Granny Flat, Cabin)

The other issue I often encounter is one of suspicion about a certain area of a property. Said area may be occupied by a tinkering-husband, law-unto-themselves-teenager, or parents-in-law.

Or you might run an accommodation business with lots of separate areas (rooms, cabins, or sites), but only receive one power bill.

The good thing about these areas is that they normally have their own power circuit. This makes them an ideal candidate for an electrical sub meter. An electrical sub meter allows you to meter a circuit for the purposes of on-billing usage, or just being better informed.

Once you now how many kWh a certain area is using, all you have to do is deduct this usage from your main bill to understand its relative impact.

At the time of writing we have three main sub meter options:

  1. 45 amp sub meter - for small single phase areas.
  2. 80 amp sub meter - for larger sub-tenancies (larger granny flats, commercial offices, etc)
  3. Three phase 100 amp sub meter - for large, three phase sub-circuits.

kWh Sub Meters

Electrical kWh Sub Meters: 45A (left) and 80A (right)

Still not sure what solution you require? You might like to check out our energy audit services, or drop us a line.

By Ryan McCarthy |

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