Review

The energy monitor

We look at a handheld device that finds those mysterious hidden energy wasters in the home.

Product details

Product name: Origin Energy's Energy Monitor

Reviewer: Joel Burgess

Price: Free (On Smart Daily Saver Plan)

Size: Handheld

Buy Online: Energy Monitor

G Rating:

4

Ever had an electricity bill that you couldn't wrap your head around? You feel guilty about the expensive bill but you never had any closure on exactly what caused you to use so much power. This may now be a thing of the past.

Origin Energy has been trialling a new handheld energy information pod called an Energy Monitor. The device is designed to give users a breakdown of their energy consumption, allowing them to make informed decisions about household power usage.

The Energy Monitor connects wirelessly to a Smart Energy Meter giving you real-time data on how much power your household is using. It allows you to upload your usage history so you can compare your daily energy consumption to yesterday, last week or last month. The device is free for Origin Energy customers in Victoria. It doesn't have the depth of information that can be accessed on a personal online portal but it's instant updates are more useful for making active changes to reduce your power bill.

As the Energy Monitors rely on information collected by Smart Energy Meters, they are only available to Victorians. These meters are essentially more advanced power meters, which the Victorian Government started rolling out in 2009, hoping to install them throughout the state by 2013. Unfortunately, other areas of Australia are yet to begin their installation.

The shift to Smart Meters has spurred the creation of products that function similarly to the Energy Monitor, though they tend to cost in excess of $100 and require some installation. What differentiates Origin's Energy Monitor is the fact that the device comes pre-set to connect to your meter. Other than charging, there is virtually no set-up required.

There has been some negative feedback about privacy issues with smart meters and, specifically, Origin's privacy agreement, which according to The Conversation seems to allow them to give your power data to a range of unnecessary businesses. Despite this, the Energy Monitor seems to be a really effective tool for understanding and managing your household energy costs. Hopefully it won't take long to weed out these teething issues.

Mark Diggins has been trialling the device in his family home for the past two months and was pleased with how it performed. “My bill has come down about 15 per cent, but it wasn’t just this device. We were also looking at the online portal. The monitor is better for saving electricity, the portal is better for a comparison point of view, to see how much other households are using,” he said.

Mark replaced an old freezer that was highlighted by the Energy Monitor as using the most power. He has also learned a lot about how much energy everyday appliances demand and how to minimise their use. “The kettle, the toaster and the microwave are the ones that really show up on the graph," he says. "When the kettle is on, the thing jumps right up and stands out. You think 'the kettle is only on for a few minutes but, hang on, it could be on for half that time if I didn’t fill it all the way up'.

“It has been good for the family too. I used to go online and look at the energy usage and complain to the kids and wife that they used a lot of power yesterday but I didn't know why and they would just ignore me. With this thing everyone can see. You can point to the bar graphs and it stops being 'Dad complaining' and becomes 'the meter says we are using too much power'.”

The device is particularly handy for those with solar panels as you can see how much power you are generating and you can maximise your savings if you use the device to shift your power consumption to off-peak times with a time-based tariff power contract.

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