Over the past few years a whole host of electricity monitoring gadgets have been unveiled to try and help consumers save money. But with often high upfront costs, difficult installation and complicated functionality, are they really all they're cracked up to be? The answer probably lies in your own hands...

Traditionally, electricity monitoring gadgets have been used to try and track the use of power in a household, either by connecting to the main power source, or connecting to individual appliances that are suspected of draining power.

Do They Pay for Themselves?

Many of these devices are extremely expensive. In some cases electricity companies themselves have offered to attach monitoring devices, but consumers have often complained that these devices are not acting as they should, and companies sometimes charge heavy upfront fees for installation.

The use of these gadgets to save money has not, in fact, been terribly successful. Even
if they do end up functioning properly, the high cost of the device wipes out any small profit that is made from saving electricity. On top of that, the use of these gadgets to save money depends very much on the consumer.

Consumer Data Analysis Needed

If you have a device attached to your electricity to monitor power usage, it does not in itself save you money. This would require you to analyse the data of the device, decide where most of your usage is coming from, and cut back.

Very few consumers use these gadgets in this way. A growing trend, however, is to have devices which connect to online programmes, or special software, which makes analysis easier.

This could be the answer to money saving through electricity monitoring. If you're tech savvy enough to deal with the involved software, and have enough time to perform analysis and enact a plan based on that analysis to save money, these devices will work for you. But it's the rare consumer that ticks all these boxes.

Bill Prediction

In actuality, what most of these devices have been used for is to avoid unpleasant surprises at the end of a billing cycle. Used in this way, they are generally pretty effective. Nobody wants an unexpected chunk of change going out of the door when their electricity bill arrives, and budget conscious households have long been using monitoring devices simply to know how much they should expect to put aside for their power bills.

However, with the growing trend towards fixed price tariffs, this particular use of electronic monitoring devices is becoming more and more redundant. If you already know how much your bill is going to be, there  is no need to spend time monitoring your electrical consumption.

It has become more common to connect devices to individual appliances, such as air conditioners, and monitor their energy consumption, with some devices even switching off an appliance when it has used a certain amount of power.

This is a pretty effective way of saving money. But it's obviously not suitable for all appliances, since you don't want your fridge switched off when you're away.

. . .

Basically, monitoring devices are only going to be effective if you have the savvy and time to use them properly, and even then they might not pay back the high purchase price they cost you.

Whether or not you choose to install them is up to you, but they're an investment that should be seriously considered if you find it difficult to read your meters yourself.