Review of "Electrisave"
So long and thanks for all the fish.
I do actually get my electricity from one of those companies that promises to create enough current from renewable sources to meet their commitment to the National Grid, hence in theory, what comes out of my plug point is a result of wind, wave or possibly bio-fuel energy production. It still smells the same when you blow a fuse though!So, why you may wonder am I, in the words of Catherine Tate, so 'bovvered' about using less electricity?
My 'reward' for this altruistic approach to energy consumption is that it still costs the same or possibly even more, that's why!I'm not quite sure why it costs the same; after all, wind and waves don't die down and get more expensive when coal and oil go up in price but cost the same it does. I dare say the companies will claim that they're subsidising green electricity at the moment, so there's no scope for stabilising the price of the stuff, or maybe it's just because 'they CAN charge the same, so they do'. Whatever happened to 'the polluter pays'?
As for using less, I think I've just about done what I can for the moment to cut my electricity usage by bringing technology to the rescue.Every lighting point where it's feasible to use one now has an economy bulb fitted, much as I hate plunging into a dim room and having to wait for the bulb to warm up.
In the end, I've opted for the 'next one up' in the wattage range. There's no way those 9 watt so-called '60 watt equivalent bulbs' really are, so I've gone for the 11 watt economy bulbs that claim to be 100-watt equivalents -at least I've stopped stubbing my toes as I launch into the gloom of each new room.My freezer has one of those Savapoint economy plugs fitted, and my PC now shuts down all its peripherals in one go, thanks to the Intellipanel ganged-adapter of which I last wrote.
The dishwasher and the washing machine are the best rated and short of not using them, they use as little electricity as possible.No, the rest of any economy drive needs to come from what's between my ears - remembering to turn the TV off completely, that kind of thing.
Of course, something that reminds you to do so would be a damned fine thing, and the Electrisave does just that with a vengeance.No, it can't turn things off, but yes, it can show you how much your house is costing in electricity usage at any one time.
At around £80 I had previously baulked at buying such a gadget, despite claims that it could save '25% of my usage per annum'. After all, if I've already done my 'efficiency drive' with economy bulbs, any new savings are likely to be somewhat less.Then two things happened.
a) My Mum gave me fifty quid for Christmas andb) I found one on eBay for £63 inclusive.
To a gadget freak, this was a vermilion textile scrap to a male bovine.FITTING AN ELECTRISAVE
For something that monitors all of your home electricity, fitting it is a strictly amateur one-shot affair. Nothing needs disconnecting and there's no need to apply the GALMIN principle - 'getting a little man in' to do it for you.All you need to do is locate the big thick wires that go between your meter and your fuse box and attach a little clamp to the outer insulation of the live one (should be red anyway) but it's only a 50-50 bet after all.
This clamp contains a sensor that you then plug into a small radio transmitter, using the short cable provided. It is this clamp that sets the Electrisave apart from all the single plug-adapter wattage meters you can buy - the latter only measure the cost of running one appliance at a time.Further clamps are available for around £10, so if you really fancy becoming a roving 'carbon footprint consultant' you can. In any case, the clamp is extremely easy to remove, so there's no real need as long as you don't mind putting it back afterwards
Reading your current usage is done from a remote terminal, if 'terminal' isn't too grand a term. This actually looks like one of those electronic indoor-outdoor thermometers that also use a radio link.In fact the Electrisave can also monitor the indoor temperature (and humidity), which could be useful if you were struggling with the 'turning the fan heater on full versus fleecy knickers and a thicker pullover' conundrum.
I can see the headlines now in the quality papers."Green Party bans members from wearing skimpy drawers in winter" AA batteries to install, and you're (almost) away.
There are a few things you need to alter. For a start, the currency, which being of Australian design defaults to the $ sign although £s and €s are also options.Selecting the £ sign automatically assumes that your voltage is 240 by default.
You also need to know how much your units of electricity cost. This can quite easily be ascertained from a bill unless, like me, you've a dual rate, say 18.67p per unit for the first 728 units, and 8.65p for subsequent units. This complicates things a little, but after working out how many more of my units are charged at 8.65p after the first 728 are deducted, I arrived at an average of around 10p.To be honest, it doesn't really matter if that's not quite spot-on - after all, I'm only trying to get my consumption down, rather than taking NPower to court for having the temerity to disagree with my readings, which of course can never happen since this Electrisave is just an economy aid and not calibrated to any specific degree of accuracy.
The Electrisave's accuracy seems fine when it comes to measuring wattage though. My kitchen lights are 4 x 20 watt halogens and when I switch them on, there's an almost immediate 0.08 kilowatt jump on the display.Curiously, you can also get the Electrisave to measure your carbon emissions based on some assumptions relating to coal-powered power stations. As my 'juice' is made without recourse to fossil fuel, this is a moot point (unless I want to factor in the cost of building a wind turbine out of steel from a blast furnace fed by coal in the first place). I may enquire through nPower to see if they have any carbon figures for their green 'Juice' electricity though - it can't be totally green. Nothing humans do ever is, until they start emulating bears in the woods, thereby restoring the 'nitrogen cycle'.
Another feature I've yet to find a real use for is its ability to have an 'alarm level' set, at which point it issues an audible warning if a pre-arranged level of wattage is exceeded.I could see this being useful in remote districts where the household wiring is, shall we say a trifle iffy. The kind of wiring that makes your lights go dim when you switch the kettle on - at least this way you'd get a warning that you might be 'warming up your wires' if someone puts on the immersion heater, washing machine and dish washer on whilst having a 'brew' at the same time!
Anyway, within seconds of fitting batteries at both ends of the radio link, my Electrisave started to pick up signals from the transmitter attached to the cable clamp, and I was in my element finding things to turn off, with all the evangelical fervour that only an utter nerd like me can muster.Initially, you can set the display unit to poll the transmitter every six seconds, but once you get bored with the immediacy of seeing the figures fluctuate wildly, you can settle for one minute intervals, which also makes the display unit's batteries last longer.
What is has shown immediately is that my house seems to have a standing power drain of 140 watts which I've yet to track down. It's probably down to security and heating timers, the burglar alarm, the cordless phone and devices such as VCRs that need to be on stand-by to function correctly. Knowing the minimum 'floor level' usage is important later when you come to use the Electrisave in earnest. It'll be fun seeing if I can get that rogue 140 watts down. For a start, my DVD recorder doesn't need to be left on standby as it's only ever used to archive programmes from my hard-disk TV recorder.At the time of writing, the display was showing 240 watts, which allows for the PC to be running with its peripherals (not forgetting having the 'office' light on) as well as my mystery 140 watts.
The Electrisave documentation warns against using this on installations using more than 71 amps (17 kilowatts assuming 240 volts). However, I've knocked any ideas of becoming an bauxite smelter on the head so that shouldn't be a problem. Come to think of it, I'm not sure my house's main fuse goes that high.OK CHRIS, WHAT DO YOU ACTUALLY USE IT FOR?
Well, after the first day or so or annoying my wife with a cascade of 'did you know how much your hair dryer costs to run - why not go for a jog while it's not hissing down?' and 'why can't we dry clothes without using a tumble dryer?' I've settled for something a little less 'anal'.The Electrisave main display unit comes with a keyhole slot on the back for hanging it on a wall by one screw, and this is exactly what I've done. Placed directly between the central heating programmer and the burglar alarm panel in our hall, (an area that now looks more like Mission Control) it's well placed to be viewed by anyone leaving the house. I'm usually last to leave in the morning, so I'm also best placed to wonder why the display is showing more than 140 watts and go round the house finding out why. We once left the iron on for two weeks whilst on holiday. At least the Electrisave will deter us from doing that twice!
Something else, for which I'm considering using it, is to carry out the same exercise for friends and family - that sensor really IS easy to move and refit. The lock just snaps into place like the catch on a brief case.ONE POSSIBLE SNAG
My house is one of those 'halls adjoining' semis which is great if you like cranking up the hi-fi without getting bangings on the wall. However, it does mean that the under-stairs cupboards of each house are effectively back-to-back. There's no mention in the instructions of being able to change frequencies if your neighbour starts interfering with you - ahem…actually she's single and rather attractive so maybe I should just lie back and think of Electrisave.CONCLUSION
This really is one for the gadget freaks amongst us, especially those who've been given fifty quid for Christmas and have another thirteen burning a hole in their pockets - not that I know any, you understand. I prefer to be referred to as an armchair Rainbow Warrior - the kind that will send an inflatable buzzing round a nuclear waste ship….but by radio control!Just bear in mind that despite the '25% savings' claims, it alone cannot SAVE electricity. What it does do admirably is give you the tools to do something about it yourself at a glance.
Product Information : Electrisave
Manufacturer's product description
Listed on Ciao since: 16/12/2006