Advice, News and Reviews

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

By Ryan McCarthy | | arlec, bunnings, coles, energy meter, power meter, Steplight | Read more

A Million Solar Roofs in Australia Achieved in 5 Years

In March 2013 Australia reached a significant milestone: one million rooftop solar PV power systems installed. More notable is the fact that just about all of these systems were installed in the past five years.

Keep reading One Million Solar Roofs in Australia

Philips TLED super efficient LED Tube - When to expect it in Australia

Phlips LED lighting has just announced a research breakthrough: they've achieved 200 lumens per watt of light output with an LED tube.

So when can we expect this product in Australia?

Keep reading: Philips TLED super efficient LED Tube

By Ryan McCarthy | | led, led lamps, led lights, Philips, TLED | Read more

How to Calculate Wattage (Watts) - Apparent Power vs Real Power

The power consumption of an appliance in watts is often said to be equal to current multiplied by voltage.

Unfortunately, it's not that simple.

This conventional wisdom or 'rule of thumb' will have you calculating Apparent Power rather than Real Power (what you get billed for).

Apparent Power (VA)

Amps (A) x Volts (V) = Volt-Amps (VA)

The formula above can be used for calculating apparent power consumption in volt-amperes (VA). This equation will give you a rough idea of power use in watts but is not strictly correct. For this you need to take into account power factor.

Real Power (Watts)

Amps (A) x Volts (V) x Power Factor = Watts (W)

This formula takes into account power factor, and therefore shows accurate power consumption (what you are billed for).

What is power factor?

Power Factor is a measure of effectiveness with which an electrical device converts volt-amperes to watts. Power factor is represented as a dimensionless number between 0 and 1.

The closer the number is to one the 'better' the power factor. The higher the power factor, the more effectively electrical power is used. Resistive loads, such as most electric heaters, will have a power factor of 1 as they convert all electrical power supplied into heat. Equipment with motors, such fridges and air conditioners will have a lower power factor.

Why is power factor important?

Power factor is important if you want to know the real power consumption of an appliance (real power is what you are billed for). See below for a demonstration of how power factor is used with our power meter to calculate the real energy consumption of my TV.

It is particularly important for larger businesses to have a power factor close to 'unity' (1) as they may be charged a fee if they have a low power factor. This is because the utility has to supply more current (amps) to the site than is actually required. In so doing, they incur more transmission losses. The good news is that businesses can take steps to increase their power factor. This is something we investigate in our energy audits.

Example - calculating actual power consumption of a TV

The compliance label of my TV shows the power use as 130 Watts.

The problem is that compliance labels often show maximum power rather than actual power. The only way to know the actual power is to measure it with a plug-in power meter. Over a two hour period the power meter showed a power draw of between 70 and 110 Watts - substantially less than indicated on the label.

At one point the power meter showed the TV to be using 243 volts and 0.421 Amps. If we follow conventional wisdom and just multiply Volts and Amps together without power factor, we'd work out the apparent power draw as follows:-

  • Amps (A) X Volts (V) = VA
  • 243 V x 0.421 A = 102.3 VA

...then falsely present it as 102.3 W

When we add power factor into the calculation, we get a very different figure. Since the power meter showed a power factor of 0.65 at that time, the calculation becomes:

  • Amps (A) x Volts (V) x Power Factor = Watts (W)
  • 234 V x 0.421 A x 0.65 = 66.5 W

Hopefully you can see why it's important to get this calculation right.

Thankfully, our plug-in power meters will do these calculations for you. Be aware that some cheap power meters do not perform these measurements accurately and do not always display real power.

Our power meters display real power (Watts) as well as Amps (A), Volts (V), and power factor so you can verify the calculation if you need to. 

The Reduction Revolution Plug-in Power Meter is our cheapest and most popular option. The Power Mate Lite is a high accuracy model used by professional energy auditors.

- Holly Lovell-Smith

By Reduction Revolution | | amps, apparent power, current, power factor, power meter, real power, Steplight, voltage, volts, watts | Read more

Are Electric Flame Effect or Fireplace Heaters Energy Efficient?

A reader recently asked whether 'fake fireplace' or electric 'flame effect' heaters are more energy efficient than reverse cycle air conditioning. I thought this was a great question, so I wrote a blog about it.

Keep reading Energy Efficiency of Electric Flame Effect or Fireplace Heaters

New Record: 85% of South Australian Electricity from Wind Power

Some amazing things have been happening recently with electricity generation in Australia. Now comes news that a record amount of wind power generated electricity is being produced in South Australia.

Keep reading 85% of South Australian Electricity from Wind Power

Where to get Mattress Recycling and Low Cost Beds & Mattresses

A new bed can be expensive and an old mattress is often difficult to dispose of.

Please Note: we DO NOT recycle mattresses. Click the links in this blog post for the contact details of some mattress recycling companies.

Here are some companies I found that are offering mattress recycling services - read on for further links:

A million mattresses going to landfill, every year

Dilemmas arise at both ends of the life cycle of a bed. Australian householders usually replace their mattresses every 10-15 years, resulting in over a million mattresses ending up in landfill every year.

Mattresses contain a variety of materials such as: foam, wood, metal, filler, matting, plastics and mixed fibre fabrics. Once separated these materials can be recycled into other products, including: carpet underlay, wood and coconut fibre mulch, and fabric stuffing in a variety of products. All metals removed can be sent to scrap metal recyclers. Some mattresses still in good condition can be cleaned and refurbished ready for reuse.

I have just been through the process of acquiring a 'new' bed for my guest room. Brand new off the showroom floor was not an option. I wanted to find the most sustainable option for my pocket, my guests' comfort and very importantly for the environment.

A 'second hand' mattress?

I considered accepting a second hand bed through freecycle (local groups where people give unwanted stuff away to others who can use it rather than send their stuff to landfill), only what I needed was not available within my time limit.

I was also concerned about the issue of hygiene and the condition of the bed when considering a second hand mattress.

A clean, recycled option

I'm an avid op-shopper, and had noticed Vinnies selling new mattresses. A closer look revealed the mattresses and ensemble bases are made with new and recycled materials by Land Saver exclusively for welfare organisations.

The outer covers are made from new materials while the inner sprung mattress contains recycled wadding and foam padding which has been cleaned, sanitised and ozone treated (removing any bacteria and odours).

All three of my original considerations of cost, comfort and environment were met, the bed arrived in time for my guest and they attest to having  slept very comfortably.

After this success I did a bit of research for you to find where mattresses and bed bases are being collected for recycling and who in Australia is manufacturing recycled beds.

I am always excited when I find useful products made from recycled materials. We are living in a time of change and transition where waste is becoming valued as a resource and innovation is helping to reduce our consumption of the Earth's finite resources.

- Marta Lett

By Reduction Revolution | | beds, freecycle, land savers, mattresses, recycling, Steplight, vinnies | Read more

Electricity Consumption Lower in Tasmania, Victoria, South Australia

Electricity consumption is trending down in all states. See the total annual electricity consumption numbers for Tasmania, Victoria and South Australia for the past seven years. 

Keep reading Electricity Consumption Lower in Tasmania, Victoria, South Australia

NSW Electricity Demand drops by 4%

In NSW and ACT electricity demand dropped by a massive 5.6% below predictions between 2010-11 and 2011-12. The reduction in energy consumption had three main causes.

Keep reading Electricity demand drops in NSW

Energy Made Easy - New Federal Goverment Website - Only works for ACT

Energy Made Easy is the federal government's new electricity price comparison website. Too bad it only works for the ACT.

Keep reading Energy Made Easy Website Review

One Big Switch - is it worth it?

One Big Switch has been popping up in the media all over the place. One Big Switch's current focus is high electricity bills.

Keep reading One Big Switch Review

Can I Change Your Mind About Climate Change?

Last night ABC screened a documentary titled "I Can Change Your Mind About... Climate." The story pitched climate change skeptic Nick Minchin against Anna Rose. Is this a debate about science or is it about political ideology?

Keep reading Can I change your mind about climate change

By Ryan McCarthy | | Read more

Door-to-Door Energy Sales Tactics and a New Code to Combat Them

Some energy companies receive a large volume of complaints with the energy ombudsman. Many of those complaints stem from the use of high pressure sales tactics by door-to-door salesmen.

Keep reading door to door energy sales tactics.

By Ryan McCarthy | | Read more

17 Little Known Facts About Energy Consumption in Australia

Did you know: 

  • Solar hot water usage has trebled in the last 5 years,
  • Our electricity is actually quite cheap by global standards, and,
  • China already has enough wind power capacity to cover Australia's entire electricity demand
Keep reading facts about energy consumption in Australia.
By Ryan McCarthy | | News and updates | Read more

The Truth About Electricity Price Comparison Websites

If you type into an Internet search “lowest electricity prices," or “best energy deal" you will find a large number of electricity price comparison websites.

Most of these websites are not as impartial as they would have you believe. In fact, most of them gain hefty commissions for referring you to a new electricity retailer.

Keep reading electricity price comparison websites truth revealed.

Philips Master LED 10 Watt MR16 - Secret to Long Lifetime Revealed

You will notice that most MR16 LED downlight replacements have very low power consumption. In many cases this power consumption is too low.

To address this, Philips released a lamp which consumes 10 watts and is a genuine direct replacement of a 50 watt halogen.

Keep reading Philips' hidden fan inside the 10 watt MR16 LED.

Nuclear Power in Australia - dead, but not quite buried

It’s time to forget nuclear power.

After a half-century of development nuclear energy has failed to survive without heavy subsidy and insurance from central governments.

Keep reading nuclear power in Australia.

AGL and Origin Energy Receive The Most Energy Bill Complaints in NSW

In the 2010-2011 financial year the NSW Energy & Water Ombudsman resolved a whopping 17,559 complaints about energy and water bills in NSW.

This was a rise of 17% over the previous year. Two areas which saw a big rise in complaints were marketing and billing.

Keep reading AGL and Origin energy bill complaints in NSW.

By Ryan McCarthy | | Read more

Carbon Tax Media Release Wrap-up - Who's Saying What

The Carbon Tax legislation passed through the Australian senate yesterday. It was interesting to see the onslaught of media releases coming out around this time.

Keep reading Carbon Tax Media Release Wrap-up.

Will Philips Master LED lamps work on all Dimmer Switches?

Last year, when the Philips Master MR16 LED was still quite new, Philips released some information about their dimmable LED's.

Even today very few LED retro-fit lamps are actually dimmable. One of the distinct benefits of this product is that it can work on existing dimmer switches.

Keep reading Philips Master LED's and dimmer switches.

Energy Efficiency Potential (USA) - Infographic

Yawn. Another report on energy efficiency. Thankfully, this particular report has a nice graphic at the beginning if you're short on time and wish to glean a few statistics.

Keep reading Energy Efficiency USA Infographic

Will the Carbon Tax really apply to Coal Exports?

At the rate the Australian Coal Association is pumping out media releases you could be forgiven for thinking that the upcoming Carbon Tax will apply directly to coal exports.

Keep reading Will the Carbon Tax really apply to Coal Exports?

Energy Efficiency taking a back seat at "All Energy" Conference?

I just read the blurb for the All-Energy Exhibition & Conference coming up in Melbourne. I hope that innovative energy efficiency doesn't get drowned out by all the solar panels, wind turbines and coal companies...

Keep reading Energy Efficiency at the "All Energy" Conference

Wind Farm Turbines - What is Fair Energy Policy?

Splashed across the front page of The Age today is the headline "Baillieu's wind farm crackdown."

The story outlines a stringent set of rules which will be applied to wind farm planning in Victoria. Here's the crux of it from the Premier Ted Baillieu's website...

Keep reading Wind Farm Turbines - What is Fair Energy Policy?

Halogen to LED Downlight Replacement - Installation Photos

After much testing and deliberation, I finally launched the Philips LED Downlights last week. This post shares some installation photos from the last week.

Keep reading Philips MR16 Master LED - Installation Photos


The Surprising History of Household Energy Consumption in Australia

If you asked me to put money on it, I would have said that household energy usage was drastically lower back in the 1970's than today. Surprisingly, this is not the case.

Keep reading History of Household Energy Consumption in Australia

Uterne Solar Farm, Alice Springs - Specs and Photos

An impressively large solar farm opened in Alice Springs last Thursday. It can power just under 300 (energy inefficient) homes per year.

Keep reading Uterne Solar Farm, Alice Springs

Is Standby Power really 10% of Household Electricity Consumption?

It's an often quoted statement: standby power consumption is about 10% of household electricity usage. But where does this rule of thumb come from, and is it accurate?

Keep reading Is Standby Power really 10% of Household Electricity Consumption?

The ACCC on Power Savers like Go 4 Green and Earthwise

One of the questions raised by my earlier post on a certain power saver scam is "why doesn't the Office of Fair Trading or the ACCC do something about it?" Well, it turns out they do, they just take a while to get their case together.

Keep reading The ACCC on Power Savers like Go 4 Green and Earthwise

EcoSwitch - Product Review of the Standby Power 'Kill Switch'

The Eco Switch is a simple standby power 'kill switch'. It allows you to move your power outlet's button from a bad location (under the desk / behind the cabinet) to a good one (on the desk / on the wall).

Keep reading EcoSwitch Review

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About Reduction Revolution

Reduction Revolution is a business focused on energy efficiency and sustainability. Our products will help slash your energy usage. But they also often improve comfort, save time, and reduce your maintenance costs. That's why we say waste less, live better.

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Reduction Revolution Pty Ltd is an Australian owned and operated business (ABN 74 141 672 764).

Since 2010 we have supplied tens of thousands of customers across Australia & NZ.

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