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Duncan - The Low Carbon Economy Ltd

31 Mar 2009 09:03:24

Wattson Energy Meter Review

I asked for (and received - thanks Mum!) a for Christmas. It has now been connected and running for about three months, so I reckon it’s about time to share my experiences with it.

Firstly, and only a little thing, I was pretty impressed with the packaging. DIY Kyoto (the manufacturers) are clearly excellent designers, and it was good to see that their attention extended this far. The meter came in a box that didn’t have a cubic centimetre spare inside – the meter, power unit, transmitter, instructions and cables simply couldn’t have been packed any more efficiently, and in cardboard rather than in nasty thermoformed plastic.

I followed the simple instructions provided and had it up and running very quickly. Essentially, all one must do is install some AA batteries (about which more later) into a little wireless transmitter box which is attached to a cable clamp. The cable clamp goes around the main electrical supply to your house and that’s the hard part done.

The next step is to plug the Wattson unit to its power supply and plug the other end of the power supply into the wall. Finally, simply pair the transmitter with the Wattson and hey presto! You can see your electricity consumption (or estimated annual cost - your choice) in real time, displayed in funky big numerals on the Wattson. There are LEDs in the back of the Wattson, and these show different colours depending on how your current usage compares to your average usage.

When you’re being good, you get a nice, relaxing blue colour. When you’re at your average, you get a purple glow, and when you’re really chewing up the Kilowatts, you are given an angry red colour.

Enough has already been written about the beautiful design of the Wattson, so onto the results!

Having the Wattson in our front room is an enjoyable experience. I find myself glancing at it as I would a clock, just to check what the current status is – it’s kind of reassuring to know how much electricity using – after all it’s a direct correlation with the amount of cash you’re burning! Definitely a lifestyle enhancement rather than a hinderance.

Whilst I’ve always tried to keep an eye on my energy consumption, Wattson has taught me thatwhat matters isn't always what you might expect. For example, I often worried about the standby consumption of my cable modem, cable TV box, wireless router, phone chargers, etc. Turns out that what was really chewing up the juice was our microwave. 70 Watts on standby, just to tell the time on it’s little digital display. In contrast, ALL of my various other standby devices added up to under 40W.

After being used to seeing Wattson hover between the 200 – 300W mark, it was a real shock to walk into the front room one day and see 10,000W on the display, and an especially vivid red colour being displayed. That’s what a 10KW electric shower looks like in terms of electricity consumption! I’ve had similar experiences when various of our other appliances have been on (hoover, washing machine, oven, etc), but that shower definitely takes the biscuit.

I’ve found that after turning off everything that I can think of, I still have about 175W consumption. I can only put this down to the central heating controller and the fridge/freezer, but to test thoroughly I need to turn off the circuit breakers systematically and isolate the consumption.

Definitely. Although I haven’t yet quantified the reduction, simply turning the microwave off at the wall except when it’s in use has made a significant difference to our general standby consumption. I have an extensive hunt for phantom power users planned, and when I find the culprits, I will try to post some more numbers.

100% - you remember that 70W the microwave was using on standby? That equates to about £75/year. Combine that with the other savings we’ve made in terms of remembering to turn the lights off and I think we’ll have recouped the cost of the unit within the first year.

I think my only real criticism of Wattson is that the transmitter box is supplied with regular, disposable batteries instead of rechargeables. I know it's probably uneconomical and impractical to supply rechargeables with every unit (many people won't have a battery recharger, it's probably harder to supply them fully charged, etc), but it still felt a bit wrong knowing that I was going to have to throw the batteries away in the name of saving energy.

Discussion Thread  

22 May 2009

British Gas and the Gov have reannounced the plan to install SMART meters in all residential and commercial situations by 2020. Though I appreciate the improved billing, tariff selection and energy pricing features for SMART meters, it would appear that your experience with this device can have a dramatic affect on carbon consumption right now, increasing everyones disposal income by not wasting money on unneccesary power consumption.

If the Gov really wanted to make a stab at reducing CO2 they could have gone for the option of encouraging the use of meters like these to every energy bill payer now rather than over a 10 year program.

It's hard not to be cynical that utility companies don't exactly have an incentive to encourage the widespread adoption of intelligent metering other than cutting the complaints they recieve for inaccurate bills. For that matter the treasury may not be terribly enthusiastic about the loss in revenue from the utility companies profit generating machine either.

Discussion Thread  


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