Tech Talk | Mathew Dickerson

Need for Power: What we need is real-time monitoring. A device like Clipsal CENT-A-METER™ gives you instantaneous views of your current usage.
Need for Power: What we need is real-time monitoring. A device like Clipsal CENT-A-METER™ gives you instantaneous views of your current usage.

I am sure readers of my column are well aware of a range of recent electricity price increases with average increases as of July 1 around the 20 per cent mark. Average household users are currently paying around $400 more for their electricity this year than last year.

In a recent CHOICE survey, electricity bills were ranked as the Australian consumer’s number one worry, with 81 per cent surveyed saying that this is the household cost that concerns them the most.

We see finger pointing in every direction with the ongoing failure of the energy market while the transition to renewables is happening at a slower rate than is required.

If consumers are sick of waiting for governments and energy retailers to solve these problems, particularly noting there is little incentive for an energy retailer to solve a problem of high prices, then I wanted to look at what technology could do to help our consumers with their number one worry.

I am not going to talk about solar panels or storage batteries or even LED or other low-power lighting. I want to talk about awareness.

I have often heard it said that one of the most effective weight-loss tools is to stand on the scales at least once a day.

The additional exercise of stepping on the scale is not the key here – apparently if we watch our weight on a regular basis we are focused on it and more likely to do something about it.

The same goes for energy. We typically have our heart in our mouth when the dreaded electricity bill turns up but after we open the bill and get over the shock, our behaviour doesn’t tend to change that much.

What we need is real-time monitoring. Luckily that is much easier now than ever before. Many years ago I remember purchasing a little device called a Clipsal CENT-A-METER™ as a simple little device that gave you instantaneous views of your current usage.

It was a simple installation for an electrician to place a Current Transformer (CT) device in the switchboard and a wireless display was then setup in the house. It had the ability for alarms when usage went over certain levels and I found it fascinating to watch the impact of turning various devices on and off.

Today we have so much more in terms of devices that can give us a complete picture – both instantaneous and historical – of what we are using.

My favourite is the Wiser Link which allows multiple circuits to be monitored and viewed on a real-time basis from anywhere in the world via a Web Browser.

This then helps you make decisions based on your current and past behaviour. How much extra power does the older TV in the back room use compared to the newer TV in the lounge room?

Should I watch a different TV to save power? When the kids go to school and leave their lights on, what does that waste for a day. You can go as far as break it down to individual items even.

What does a TV in standby for a year cost you? (About $100 a year is the answer). Further research has shown that when people install these types of devices in their home, just the mere act of being aware of their usage will reduce their usage. Behavioural change through simple awareness.

A quick search will display a significant number of other devices of a similar nature and the small cost for the device would be easy to recover in a short period of time in realised savings.

Have a look and see if you can find something to help you address the number one pain point in our country.

With the focus on power this week, it is no surprise that my AotW is along the same lines. MeterPlug is an app and a piece of hardware. It is a plug that you can install on any power point and monitor from your phone while in Bluetooth range.

I recommend using this app on various devices and labelling the devices with normal energy usage – again with the view to make awareness an agent of change.