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Posted on: 23/09/10

Smart meter and energy monitor? The differences explained

In a survey of almost 2,400 consumers, research by Which? found that a third of people think that the Smart Meter and Energy Monitor are the same thing.  Although it is early days, and the adoption of Energy Monitors and Smart Meters has been limited so far, the survey highlights that there is a great deal of confusion surrounding the smart grid and the differences between these two devices.  So here is an explanation, along with some of the crucial differences between them.

Energy Monitors

Energy Monitors are simple devices that show real-time energy consumption.  Information is typically presented on a simple display that can be placed anywhere in the home that gives the consumer an insight into the amount of energy they are using.  Most monitors show consumption in KWh along with cost information, but there are some available that have additional features like being able to set daily targets for consumption.

The fact that consumers have more information about their usage means they can immediately see the impact changes to their consumption habits have on their bill, which in turn acts as an incentive to keep changing the way they use energy in the home.

Energy Monitors, although very good, are not 100% accurate because they are not using the meter reading to show usage information, they use a clamp attached to the mains supply, which monitors the flow of electricity and transmits this data to the display.

Smart Meters

Whereas Energy Monitors can only monitor electricity, Smart Meters can be used for either electricity or gas metering.  The Smart Meter is not a device that can be self-installed because it is connected to the mains supply and will therefore require a professional to fit it.  The Smart Meter is what will eventually replace the conventional meter, as the Government’s plans for every home to have one by 2020 get underway. 

As Smart Meters are connected directly to the mains supply they provide much more accurate information than an Energy Monitor and they have the ability to communicate this information directly to the utility company.  This means the end of the estimated bill and also allows energy providers to introduce more flexible tariffs, for example, improved time-of-day rates that offer cheaper rates during times of lower demand.

Although Smart Meters will help consumers save money on their utility bills, it will be the Energy Monitor rather than the Smart Meter that consumers will use to keep track of their consumption, the Smart Meter will just ensure that the information they are getting is accurate.  At the end of the day though, savings will come from a change in consumer behaviour and NOT from this technology.

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