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How to monitor electricity usage at home

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Learn how to monitor how much electricity your appliances are using so you can make smart, energy-efficient decisions for your home.

With TVs, washing machines, dishwashers, kettles, tumble dryers, phone chargers, routers, games consoles and many other appliances in regular use in our homes, do you ever wonder how much electricity you’re using at any given time? Monitoring your electricity usage will give you precise answers to that question.

Article Contents 

  • Understanding energy monitoring
    • What is energy monitoring?
    • Why is energy monitoring important?
  • Ways to monitor electricity usage at home 
    • Bill readings 
    • Energy monitors 
    • Smart meters 
    • Prepayment meters
  • How to monitor electricity usage at home 
    • Whole house monitoring
    • Appliance monitoring
  • Other ways to save electricity at home 

Understanding energy monitoring

What is energy monitoring?

Just as the name suggests, energy monitoring is the steps you take to check and track energy consumption in your home. With modern technology and energy monitoring software, it’s now easier than ever to see how much energy you’re using in real-time or over a set period of time.

Why is energy monitoring important?

Energy monitoring gives you two key things: knowledge and control. By building your understanding of your consumption patterns, energy monitoring allows you to prioritise energy efficiency and take control over how much you’re spending. This has several benefits.

  • Save money on your electricity bill - Seeing which appliances are pushing up your energy bills can help you to cut costs. Limiting or adjusting the way you use energy-hungry appliances can generate big savings.
  • Identify electricity wastage - Energy monitoring makes it easier to spot electricity wastage, like appliances or lights that have been left on by mistake. You can also find devices on standby that use more energy than you might have expected.
  • Accurate data in real time - You can act immediately to cut your energy consumption. You don’t have to wait for a bill to tell you that you’ve spent more than you expected — monitor and adapt instantly.
  • Reduce your household carbon footprint - By identifying energy-guzzling appliances, cutting out electricity wastage and seeing how your household is using energy, you can easily take steps to cut your usage and benefit the environment.

Ways to monitor electricity usage at home

There are multiple ways to monitor electricity usage at home. Electricity monitoring is not a new thing — people have always tracked how much they were spending — but there are modern, up-to-date options to complement the traditional approach.

Let’s explore some of the most common ways to monitor electricity usage.

Bill Readings

The original way of monitoring electricity usage: studying your bill to see what you can learn about the energy you’re using and how much it’s costing. Your Power NI bill will give you information including how much electricity you've used, how this compares to your previous use, and the rate you're paying for electricity.

If you’ve got an online account with us, you can also estimate your electricity usage. By entering your meter readings into our handy calculator, you can predict your next bill before it arrives. 

This is all valuable information that helps you to adjust your energy consumption. But compared to more modern ways of monitoring your electricity use, you don’t get the full picture of which appliances are using the most energy. You’re also reacting to the cost of electricity you’ve already used so you’re not able to make changes in real-time.

Energy Monitors 

Energy monitors are small devices or apps that measure how much energy you’re using. They connect to your electricity meter to give real-time energy usage data. A small unit usually clips into your meter. You then monitor electricity use on either a display supplied with the monitor or an app on your phone.

  • Energy monitoring devices - These attach to your monitor and come with hand-held screens that you can mount or place around your house. Data from the meter is displayed on the screen in real-time so you can always see how much electricity you’re using. Some devices give tips on cutting energy use. Top-of-the-range monitoring devices are usually products you’ll have to buy and not supplied by your electricity provider. 
  • Energy monitoring apps - Apps work in a similar way to energy monitoring devices, but the data is displayed on your phone rather than on a separate screen. This gives you the same real-time data without bringing extra clutter into your home.

The free Power NI app helps you to monitor your electricity use. Depending on the type of meter you’ve got, it enables you to monitor your electricity use in real-time and keep track of consumption over time with handy graphs. 

Find out more about the Power NI App and how it would help you to keep track of electricity usage.

Smart Meters

Smart meters are replacements for traditional electricity meters. They come with an in-home display showing electricity usage, making it far easier to monitor how much you’re using. Some smart meters also have an app. This is a big improvement on monitoring with traditional meters but how up-to-date the ‘real-time’ data is can vary between different makes and models.

Prepayment Meters 

Prepayment meters are electricity meters that you top up in advance instead of paying a bill later. That’s always made it easier to keep track of your spending with a prepayment meter than a standard meter — and it’s now better than ever. 

Power NI’s keypad pay as you go plan connects to our Keypad+ app to give you real-time monitoring of your electricity use and spending, as well as graphs showing your past electricity consumption.
Find out more about the benefits of switching to a Power NI keypad.

How to monitor electricity usage at home 

We now know the various ways of monitoring electricity usage, but how do you put that information to use to monitor how much electricity you’re using? Let’s look at how to monitor electricity usage across your home as well as how to track down energy-hungry appliances.

Whole house monitoring

To monitor electricity usage across your entire home:

  1. Gather your monitoring data. Check your electricity bill, prepayment meter, top-up receipts and app to  start building a picture of how much electricity you’re using. 
  2. Compare current and past usage. Using your most recent bill or historic usage data on your app, see how your usage last month compares to the same period in the previous year. If you’re able to see usage in kWh this will make it easy to make comparisons even if your tariff or price has changed in the period you’re monitoring.
  3. Check other time periods. If you have an energy monitoring device or app, repeat the process for different time intervals. How does your usage this Monday compare to last Monday? How does this week compare to last week or last month to the previous month? 
  4. Compare different times of day. Depending on your energy monitor, you might be able to see when you’re using most electricity each day. 
  5. Look for trends. Start to find patterns in your usage. Some will be obvious, such as using more electricity during winter or using less in months when you were away on holiday. But dig deeper to gather the most useful insights
  6. See what you can learn. Can you pinpoint spikes in your electricity use? Are there specific reasons why you use more at a particular time, on certain days and in some weeks or months? Crucially, can you make changes to any of these things to cut your electricity usage?   

Appliance monitoring 

To monitor electricity usage by each of your household appliances:

  1. Switch off your lights and appliances. Turn off everything except for the essential appliances that you never switch off, such as your fridge and freezer.
  2. Check current usage. Using your Power NI Keypad+ app, an energy monitoring device or app, see how much electricity you’re currently using. Most energy monitors will give the amount you’re currently spending per hour and the number of kilowatt-hours (kWh) being used.
  3. Switch on your kettle. Use your app or energy monitor to see the impact on energy usage and cost. Make a note of the figures.
  4. Do the maths. Divide the energy cost per hour by 60, then multiply by the number of minutes it takes your kettle to boil to calculate the cost of boiling the kettle. Don’t forget to subtract the amount of electricity you were using before switching on the kettle.
  5. Repeat this process. Do the same for other household appliances, such as your oven, microwave, dishwasher, washing machine, tumble dryer, hairdryer and television. Use each appliance separately so you can monitor its impact on your electricity usage and work out how much it costs.
  6. Examine the results. You’ll now be able to see which appliances make the biggest contribution to your electricity consumption and take steps to start saving electricity.  

Other ways to save electricity at home 

Monitoring your electricity usage helps you to understand how your electricity bills relate to the various appliances in your home. You can then start to use that information to save money on your electricity. Here are a couple of ways to do that.

  • Change the way you use energy-guzzling appliances - Simple changes to the way we use electrical appliances can cut our electricity costs. Filling the kettle with just the amount of water you need, only using the dishwasher when it's full and washing your clothes at a lower temperature are a few examples. You’ll find more in our guide to which appliances use the most electricity in homes.
  • Update old appliances with energy-saving appliances - If you’ve identified some key culprits when it comes to hiking up your electricity bills, you could look at replacing inefficient old appliances with modern, energy-efficient ones. Our guide to energy-efficient home appliances is packed with tips to help you find appliances that will help to cut your energy costs.