Arlec Electrical Energy Cost Power Meter - Review

We keep seeing the Arlec Energy Cost Meter at Bunnings, Coles and other shops. It costs about the same as our power meter, so we thought we'd give it a comparative review.

Ease of use

The Arlec Energy Cost Meter is not particularly user friendly - the biggest problem is the size of the screen. When you compare this with Steplight's Power Meter (pictured below) it is difficult to read the numbers, especially the time. Neither screen is back-lit but the larger size does make the Steplight unit much easier to read.

Arlec Energy Cost Meter (left) and Steplight Power Meter (right)


The Arlec Power Meter will display:

  • Watts, Amps, Volts and frequency
  • Kilowatt-hours and cost
  • Power Factor

Power factor and the current time is displayed on the Volts, Amps and Watts screens. It is helpful to be aware of power factor as you scroll through the screens.


Overall the manual is reasonably easy to follow. It has a helpful glossary of terms at the back which includes an explanation of power factor.

Setting the cost takes time and is quite tricky, but the manual explains it fairly well.

The Arlec Energy Cost Meter allows you to set 2 different prices for electricity. The manual suggests setting one to your ‘normal' rate and one to your 'off peak' rate. This will work to varying degrees depending on where you live and how your electricity supply is set up.

Once you have set the cost you then need to set the time of day or days that these rates apply to. This can be set in several different combinations of days or blocks of days. These include individual days, Monday through Friday, Monday through Saturday, weekend and the entire week. An example of how to set the cost would be one price set for Monday through Friday, and one price set for the weekend. Or one price could be set for night time and one price could be set for day time over the whole week. So, it is not comprehensive enough to handle the NSW time of use tariff which has 3 prices for Peak, Off peak and Shoulder which happen over 4 time periods.

The total cost and total time that the appliance has been on is displayed on the cost screen (separate from the clock). You can also see total cost and length of time the appliance has been on for each cost separately.

Arlec vs. Steplight's Power Meter

I tested the Arlec and Steplight power meters against the Power-Mate lite which is a professional energy auditing tool. In terms of wattage and power factor, both Power Meters are very accurate.

Steplight's power meter is more accurate when displaying the kilowatt-hours (kWh), which is what you pay for. The picture above shows the Arlec and Steplight Power Meter kWh screen, which shows the total energy use over a period of time. I plugged each power meter into a kettle and boiled it twice. Steplight's power meter is very accurate showing kWh to 3 decimal places. The Arlec only shows one decimal place and so it has not registered any electricity use.

- Holly Lovell-Smith

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