How can I get good data on my electricity usage?

Optimising your electricity usage is the key to making the most of your solar pv system. The only way to do this is to have high quality data which tells you how much electricity you are generating, how much importing and how much exporting. High quality data will break this info down into real time (i.e. what’s happening now) and give you hourly, daily, weekly etc. info as well so you can work out when your peak loads are.

However, nobody (not even an enthusiast like me) whats to go to the trouble of doing this manually-you need a gizmo! So what is this gizmo? Its basically a smart meter. Now you may have heard that there is a government sponsored rollout of smart meters aiming to have one installed in every home in England, Wales and Scotland by 2020. When I hear this, the only thing that rolls out is my eyes. While this is government policy, it is hopelessly unrealistic and WILL NOT HAPPEN! Don’t wait for the your energy supply company to give you a freebie-they are as slow as a week in the jail-get on with it yourself now!

Strictly speaking, what I am describing is an energy monitor rather than a smart meter because a smart meter always reports to your supplier rather than you but they pretty much work the same.

A great and affordable option is the smappee energy monitor. There are a few options available-gas and water, energy and solar. These devises are great, cheap and very easy to install and use. Basically, the installation involves putting a little clamp over your electrical supply, and then linking it up to an app which you download to your smartphone (why does everything claim to be smart these days?) and then watching all the lovely graphs and charts to your hearts content.

What is great about the smappee is that it is recording data several times a second so is extremely accurate, unlike some of its rivals. You can have great fun phone in hand running around turning electrical items on and off and watching the power usage ramp up and down. The novelty of this does wear off however! What is truly amazing about smappee though is that it can accurately tell you which appliance is using electricity and give you the profile of each appliance over 30W. According to their website it does this by ‘listening’ to the background noise and identifying the appliance in a similar way to which Shazam identifies a song. Impressive.

Smappee energy monitor is prices at £169. If you have solar pv, definitely go for the solar energy monitor. This does all of the energy monitor stuff but also measures your generation and export to the same standard. This will enable you to understand when you are generating and get things turned on and off to suit.


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