Smart meters help household energy savings

A German utility showed off its smart meter at the Cebit exhibition last week.

For years, consumers have gauged their electricity usage with the monthly bill. Coming days or weeks after the end of the period it isn't a very efficient tool if you want to cut you household usage, but a new breed of meter is changing all that and can provide real-time updates that give you an instant indication of the cost of running a house full of gadgets.

U.S. President Barack Obama has pledged to put 40 million of the so-called "smart meters" into American homes as part of the economic stimulus package but in some European homes the devices are already a reality and helping users to save month.

At the Cebit IT fair in Hanover last week, German utility Energie Baden-Württemberg (EnBW) was demonstrating its smart meter, which has been available to customers since late 2008.

The meter is available to homes for EUR5 per month (US$6.34) but customers who use its many reporting features can typically save more than that amount in electricity usage, said Jörn Kröpelin, from the company's strategic product department.

The meter itself has a simple LCD showing current consumption so subscribers need a PC to take advantage of its benefits.

There are two interfaces available. One Web-based interface provides reports down to 15-minute intervals via EnBW's server and includes historical data as well so users can, for example, compare current usage to that of their house the same time last month or last year or, via a recently added function, to that of an average home.

The meter reports to EnBW once every 15 minutes via your home's broadband connection and within 30 minutes that information is available online through the Web site.

A second option provides real-time data direct from the meter as long as the PC is on the same network. Through this users can instantly see energy consumption and accomplish things like analyzing the usage and the cost of running individual gadgets.

Energy usage is plotted on a graph through which its possible to isolate spikes, such as when a TV is switched on, and then calculate how much it costs to run for an hour or any desired time period. You can also plug in a usage scenario, such as 2 hours per day everyday and surprise yourself by seeing how much you'll spend annually to watch TV.

During a demo at Cebit, the meter was hooked-up to a single appliance, an espresso maker, and after making a single cup it calculated the annual running cost to be around EUR1.50 assuming four cups per day.

Among the users of the meter is Kröpelin himself.

"I was surprised by how much energy was used, even when I tried to switch everything off," he said. After cutting power to all the obvious appliances and switching off lights the meter was still registering energy usage -- the result of long various sensors and adapters around the home that did unseen and forgotten tasks. These added up to around 200 watts of constant energy use.

The next stage of the technology is to get the meters to communicate directly with gadgets. Initially this will likely work by plugging in appliances via adapters that can talk to the meter but could eventually work with products that have embedded intelligence.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags powerenergy efficiencycebit

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Martyn Williams

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?