The problem

The current system of quarterly electricity bills mean that if you accidentally leave the oven on for half an hour it could be up to ninety days until you get any indication of what that slip up cost you. At which point the difference in consumption from previous bills is likely to be lost in a stack of other variations relating to seasonal differences, holidays, visitors, new appliance purchases etc.

Simply recognising your electricity bill is high and wanting to do something about it falls short of the kind of instantaneous feedback that is required to address energy wasteage in most homes. The quicker you can receive feedback on your consumption the quicker you can modify your behaviour and save yourself some money. One way of doing this in the past could have been to walk outside to your meter box every 15 minutes or so and check the reading, do a simple calculation and then walk back inside to take action. Far from practical, I can't imagine too many people having that much spare time on their hands. So how would you achieve a tighter feedback loop?
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A convenient solution

A few weeks back I was waiting for a windscreen to be repaired and decided to get a hot drink at a nearby cafe. As it turns out in a stroke of marketing genius the cafe does not rely solely on people's thirst for its business and has established other potential revenue streams. As I sat and enjoyed my drink I looked out into the remainder of the building which was actually a store specialising in sustainability-related products. From rain water tanks, grey water systems, solar panels, composting bins the list seemed endless. Prior to departing I thought I would just have a look around and stumbled upon the Efergy Wireless Electricity Monitor ( http://www.efergy.com/ - currently can't purchase from this site if in Australia). I had recently moved house and found my new electricity bill to be significantly higher than it had been previously so I did some quick return on investment calculations and decided to give it a try.

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How it works

I am not an Electrical Engineer so I will save you the details about how induction and magnetic fields work but basically the device works by picking up signals produced at the supply to your electricity meter. These are then transmitted wirelessly to a display unit that you place in a handy spot in your house. The display unit also stores the information for analysis later on. This means that when you turn an appliance on you can see the impact to your consumption in real time. The display can be changed to show you either the rate of energy consumption (kW) or the cost per hour. Other views include daily, weekly and monthly averages. The system can also be supplied with software that then allows you to analyse your consumption and identify what behaviour changes to make to reduce your bills by shifting consumption to times of the day when tariffs are lower. You don't need a fancy device to start doing this though, just contact your electricity retailer about the different times of day and associated rates and you can start making savings today.

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Installation

The manual is very clear about the fact that you require a qualified electrician to install this device. No responsibility taken by the manufacturer if you try to DIY.

Conclusion

The device is very good at encouraging you to make changes on the spot as the feedback is near instantaneous. The return on investment has the potential to be high, however, it is only early days for me so I can't skite about any significant savings to date. If you are interested in saving energy and want something that provides simple, immediate feedback on your current consumption habits this is the way to go.

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Where do you get it?

The device can be purchased online ( eg. www.todae.com.au no affiliation) or at your local sustainability product reseller ( eg. The Greenhouse Emporium, 277 Canberra Ave, Fyshwick ).