A few weeks ago I got an electric bill that was £1000 more than I expected, I have a few lodgers, but they have meters monitoring their areas and they showed no increase in electric consumption. The only area which doesn’t have a monitor on is my area in which there is a communal laundry and one lodger’s room. I hadn’t noticed any significant change in my usage, so my suspicions pointed towards my electric car charger or my “new” lodger. My electric charger has a log of all uses and showed only £100 was used in the last 6 months, so unless someone was syphoning it off and by-passing the logging system, it wasn’t from there.
I went online and read a few reviews, but one monitor kept coming up, so, given it was quite cheap at £39 I ordered it on Amazon and got it the next day. This was the Minim+ Energy Monitor, it looked good and had an ok star rating on Amazon.
In the box was a small screen, its power supply, a clip that goes around one of the wires coming out the electric supply box, and a transmitter. It took a few minutes to set up and worked immediately.
For the first day or so I was transfixed by the information on the screen. Every time someone put a kettle on, the meter went in to the red. And when the new lodger came home the meter showed a 2kw increase in usage.
“Have you got a heater on in there?” I asked.
“Yes, but I only have it on for 20 minutes” he replied.
Within a few minutes he switched it off.
I was very pleased with the Minim+ Energy Monitor, however there were three issues. Firstly, it seemed to be a bit inaccurate, well compared to the electric company’s meter it was 30% greater. Secondly I couldn’t link it to my phone, and thirdly it is possible to lose one’s collated data on the device, which, if you want to be able to look back a month or so, then that could be an issue.
In terms of the inaccuracy there was a setting to fine tune the monitoring. Once I did that it was more accurate. I did think about returning it, however the screen is very useful in terms of acting as a reminder when things may be on that don’t need to be. Not only that, but it is possible to scroll through the daily, weekly, and monthly history as well as looking at CO2 consumption (let’s not go there).
I then found out that there is a hub version of the Efergy Monitor, (I had skipped it on my first round of research) but lots of people on Amazon were complaining that it worked via the company’s website and they’d had issues with it, and on top of that it was going to cost another £79 to get one, so I decided on another route. See it on Amazon.co.uk here
I was still faced with wanting to monitor my home’s energy when I was out and about so I could both keep an eye on general usage as well as see if I could identify the reason for the recent surge in usage. So, I went back online and came across the the LoopEnergy Monitor.
It seems like LoopEnergySaver.com have recently gone through a new incarnation so as I read the reviews about their products I could see there was quite a difference between the old and new system. What was currently on offer was a product that included a clip to go around the mains cable from the main electric meter, a transmitter and a hub device that attached to the Wi-Fi router. Several things to note here. Firstly, the box did not contain a cable to attach the device to the router, fortunately I had a draw full of them, apparently there is meant to be one in there, if not do let them know. Secondly, I wasn’t informed until it was too late, that after the first year there will be a £12/year charge to use the app. So, if you’ve read this, you can’t say you didn’t know.
There are no installation instructions in the box, instead a bit of writing on the box and a QR code help the customer to download the app. Once that’s installed there are very clear on screen set up instructions. Another thing to remember is you’re going to need to inform them what tariff you’re on. They have a comprehensive list to choose from, unless you live outside of the UK mainland, in which case you can’t take advantage of the tariff related functions, so people in Northern Ireland it’s worth keeping this in mind and maybe checking with www.loop.homes before proceeding.
Anyway, it worked pretty much out of the box, and when I was out, I could keep on an eye on all those naughty family members and lodgers. I decided to check it against the company’s meter and found it was giving a 12% lower reading. I then did some A B tests with both monitor’s cables on and then not, and found it made no difference. 12% isn’t too bad, but it’s certainly worth checking the monitor’s readings between midnight to midnight to see what difference there is between it and the electric company’s meter.
In response to the issue of accuracy, Loop’s Head of Marketing, Simon Stocks, responded by saying “there’s no reason for you to take my word for this, but at low loads, Loop is actually more accurate than meters (which have no accuracy standards at low loads), however this can cause a divergence between what we’re reporting and what your meter is telling you as you have seen. As your meter readings drive your bills, it is obviously your “source of truth”, irrespective of whether it’s actually accurate. We’ve actually had many examples of Loop users challenging their utilities over inaccurate readings and using their Loop data as evidence.”
I’m currently doing some further long term tests between the meter and the monitors and hope to get back to you with the results in due course.
So, to summarise, the Minim+ Energy Monitor is worth it if you want a good-looking screen to get fixated on (which might not be such a bad idea), and the Loop one is worth it if you want to keep an eye on things via the convenience of your phone and use the data in a more constructive way, for instance the Loop app will offer advice on which companies might be better switching to given your usage pattern. So, if you can afford it, it might be worth buying both systems, as it’s still cheaper than buying the Efergy Monitor hub system, which seems to have a few issues currently.
Oh… and as for who used up the £1000 worth of extra electricity in my house, I don’t have any conclusive proof, but my gut feeling it was someone leaving a heater on 24 hours a day, and it wasn’t me…
Lesson learned, keep a regular eye on your energy usage, even if it’s the old-fashioned way by just checking your meter.
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Thank you for reading.