My not-so-smart Meter?

New smart meter installed February 2023

It is perhaps rather late in the day – especially for an energy professional such as myself – but I now have a smart meter, and first impressions are not positive. My new smart electricity meter was installed late on the afternoon of 10th February, so at the time of writing only 16 hours ago. Understanding energy tariffs, meter readings and even ‘user-friendly’ energy displays can be quite daunting. The following is from my diary entry this morning.

Since getting up I have made a cup of tea and a cappuccino – the sum total of my electricity use. No lights or radio or anything else. The energy display – proper name In-home Display or ‘IHD’ – is telling me I have used £1.10-worth of electricity so far today – 1.76kWh. For one tea and one coffee. That is ridiculous and surely wrong, even if the £0.51 a day ‘standing charge’ is fully accounted for.

Electricity ‘base-load’

It does not cost 59p to boil a kettle and use an espresso machine once. And to be fair the energy display is not really telling me that – I am not taking into account my ‘base load’, which I estimate to be about 80 watts. Think of the base load as the amount of electricity you use even when you are not at home – on a 2-week cruise for example. In my case the base load is primarily two fridge-freezers, one of which is in an unheated garage so not working very hard to maintain coolth. There is also the WiFi modem and routers, the music server and a few other items on standby. 80 watts multiplied by 24 hours is 1.92 kilowatt hours (kWh) per day. My electricity tariff is fairly typical, at 51p per day standing charge and 33.7p per unit – kWh. My home is empty and I am on a 2-week cruise; in those two weeks I would have paid £16.20 for electricity. Shocking isn’t it? I could make a small saving on this if I unplugged all the appliances on ‘standby’.

Using the Meters app

The screen-shot shows monthly electricity consumption for my home, and is very useful for keeping an eye on energy consumption and costs.

I usually read the meter every Sunday evening, and have done so since I moved into my present home in 2017. The app keeps a record of all my readings so I can see energy consumption (in kWh) and cost (in £) daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly or annually. For example, I can see if my energy use is going up or down from one year to the next.

In general I am using less electricity now than I was a year ago, which is good. The last time I read the meter was 11th February 2023. The ‘current’ figure is the cost of energy – in this case for the month of February 2023. It uses meter readings taken so far this month to project what my costs will be for the month as a whole – £39.83. This figure will change slightly as we approach the end of the month, but is generally a good prediction if your electricity use does not vary a great deal from one day to the next.

Reading the Meter

The energy display is colourful and addictive but is not the smart meter. I read the new electricity meter this morning: 00005, and added this to other readings in the Meters app on the iPhone. The app estimates electricity consumption for the whole month (or day, week, year) based on actual usage to date in the current month. At the moment my average daily electricity consumption for February is 6.4kWh, which is a bit lower than usual. This equates to an average of £1.27 a day.

So what am I actually spending?

My new energy display is telling me I had already spent £1.10 at 10:30 in the morning. This suggests that if today is fairly ‘normal’ I will use only 17p of electricity in the next 14 hours. We shall see.

At the end of the day the only sure way of knowing what you are spending is to read your meters once a week and use an app like Meters to keep an eye on things.

I know this is only day one, but the lesson learned – and I knew this already – is carry on reading your meter every week.

**I will follow-up with an update. You may be wondering why I am reporting electricity only and not gas. It seems the gas meter could not be replaced as it has lead pipes, so a future appointment will be made to replace it.

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