Watching the electricity meter

When the electicity bill comes, I usually phone up to give a meter reading. They use an estimated reading, but I like to keep it accurate in order to avoid any surprise charges at the end of the year. Last July I decided to jot down those readings myself in a spreadsheet, and take my own reading every few weeks just to keep track of how much electricity I use.

The reading is in kWh (kilowatt-hours), which is to say that if our house were to use 1kW for an hour, the meter would go up by 1 unit. In my spreadsheet I’ve noted the date in column A and the reading for that date in column B. On each row I’ve calculated our average power consumption for the period since the last reading, so cells in column C have a formula like “=(B7-B6)/(24*(A7-A6))” (kilowatt-hours used divided by hours between readings).

When I started, the average electricity usage for our household was 403W. In the last month, this has gone down to 312W (or 2,734 kWh in a year).

What’s the average power consumption of your household? I tried to find out the average UK domestic household power consumption, but got lost in a maze of statistics. At one point I wrote down that it was 3,300 kWh/year, which works out as 377W. I didn’t save the link though, so I don’t remember where that came from.

70 Responses to “Watching the electricity meter”

  1. Mark Cox says:

    We use 3300KWh/quarter!

  2. tim says:

    Wow! Try turning off the lights at night? 😉

  3. andyp says:

    I will have to check ours.

    More interestingly, I recently went to take a GAS meter reading (prompted by the gas company asking me to take a reading, since they have been “unable” to get one, despite the meter being outside, unlocked, and easily accessible – grumble grumble). Noticing that it was significantly different to my last bill, I then discovered that it had a different serial number. Upshot being that we have been charged for the wrong flat’s gas usage for ~3 years.

    This is going to be fun.

  4. tim says:

    How did *that* happen?! I wonder whose meter — if any! — was used for billing the other flat.

    That’s going to be a nightmare to sort out. Are you friendly with the people in that flat..?

  5. Hello Tim,

    A 2 year old contract shows me a bit over 2000 kWh per year
    for our 4 person household for electricity.

    For heating I have also some data here: House with 7 households, 21 people:
    13800 kWh. So about 2000 kWh per household. Relatively new house.

    I’ve just read that in Germany you then calculate this
    as kWh per square meter. New houses should expect
    about 64 kWh/m^2. If you get below 15 kWh/m^2 you
    can call it a “passivehouse” which does not need much
    additional heating.

    regards,

    Florian La Roche

  6. tim says:

    That’s really impressive.

  7. Stuart says:

    Hi,

    I thought we were reasonably efficient (all cfl bulbs etc) but a check showed a consumption in 2005 of 9,700kwh/annum.

    It is a 4 bedroomed house with 5 people and I run a business with a fair amount of computer equipment, some of which runs 24/7.

    Anyway I invested £14 in a socket meter to find out where all the juice was going. The result of doing some jiggling of stuff and a ruthless turning off of stuff not being used has reduced it to around 5,500kwh/annum. That is still living and working the same lifestyle.

    While I was impressed with that – a check back shows that was our consumption back in 1993 (the year of Kyoto). It had crept steadily upward ever since – multiple computers, TVs etc.

    So nothing to brag about. One of our two fridge/freezers is very inefficient. I reckon I could save £60/annum by buying a new one for £180. But it isn’t very green to landfill a working appliance is it?

  8. Stuart says:

    Tim,

    The 3,300kwh figure came from Ofgem in 1999 and has been widely quoted. I can’t find how this was calculated. There is a much higher 4,600kwh based on 2003 consumption – which was total UK domestic consumption divided by households.

    Some, but surely not all, can be explained by rising consumption.

    The 4,600kwh figuren will include electricity used in night storage heaters etc which may not be included in the earlier estimate. Average in electricity consumption between homes that are not on the gas grid and those that are is not that meaningful.

    Either way I’m a bit of a power hog atm.

  9. tim says:

    I need to take a look at our electricity use again now that we’ve moved house. This place has loads of ceiling spotlights and that can’t help.

    Stuart: those socket meters are great for finding badly behaved applicances aren’t they? Our Virgin Media set-top box was a real power hog. For about £80 you can get a “whole house” meter that clamps around the fuse box supply and transmits information wirelessly to a hand-held device, but you may as well just spot-check the meter reading I think.

  10. Stuart says:

    Yes, like many other people had been adding halogens to undo the good work of CFL lamps.

    I’ve started replacing them with LED lights. 1/2w a lamp makes CFL look an energy hog! Problem is the output and colour at a reasonable place. Best I have found are GU10 (240v) at reuk.co.uk. Even so thay make be weaker than 20w halogens and cooler. But much better than the TLC-Direct & Maplin equivelents.

    For the 50w GU10 halogens I’m going to be trying the 11w cfl from TLC. They will project out so there may be aethestic problem. I don’t see a replacement for MR16 (12v). Maybe converting them to 240v GU10 may be an option or just wait for LED technology to evolve.

  11. tim says:

    Thanks for the link to reuk.co.uk, good stuff. Have you tried these?:

    http://reuk.co.uk/buy-240V-LED-SPOTLIGHT-BULB.htm

    Each bulb contains 20 20,000 mcd ultrabright LEDs providing a pure brilliant white light (6400K colour temperature) very different from the bluish-white light generated by inferior white LED spotlights on the market.

    I’m thinking about replacing the GU10 50W halogens in this place one by one, as they go. But a colour temporature of 6400K still seems like it might be a lot “bluer” than the halogen bulbs will be, at least according to this chart. 🙁

  12. Stuart says:

    Tim,

    Yep I have 5x 20,000mcd GU10s. I have 3 on an IKEA track in the lobby outside the toilet. They are just sufficient to light a small passage. I don’t think they are as strong as 20w halogen but that may be because they are still a ‘very cool’ light. But I agree not bluish like the weaker TLC & Maplin GU10s. Elsewhere I have halogen & LED side by side and the difference is dramatic to LED’s disadvantage.

    If you need 50w worth of light – cheap LED is nowhere near (yet). That’s why I going to try the 11w TLC cfl GU10s as an interim solution.

    Sympathise with your new house problem. Our living room was halogen ceiling lit. I’ve put more table cfl lamps which are more romantic. It has dramatically cut down the use of ceiling halogens and … 😉

  13. kasia says:

    Hi All!
    I changed electricity suppliers from British Gas to Npower as the sales manager assured me it would be cheaper than the £40 per mth I was spending on my pre-payment meter. She suggested I set my dd up for £33 per mth and that I would probably be in credit after this. I swapped to n power in June and have recently recieved a statement saying that I owe them an additional £400 what a SURPRISE !!!!!!!!! There is no way through the summer that i can possibly have used that much electric for 3 bed house??????????? Jokers aren’t they??

  14. tim says:

    kasia: I’ve heard similar stories from other people, and I think in those cases it was to do with the new supplier not reading the meter when you switched. Does your final meter reading from British Gas match up with your first meter reading for nPower?

  15. kasia says:

    Hi Tim, Yes all readings match but dug out my old electricity bill for 6 mths with British Gas and it was around £240.00 from Oct 06 to April 07 and compared it to N Power for 6 mths usage from April 07 to October 07 which was a whopping …….. £600 and it was the summer!!!!!! The reading when I left B. G was 1167 kwh and at this moment is touching 8000kwh now unless I am powering the whole street God knows whats going on. I have contacted N power again and need to take readings for 1 week but finally spoke to someone that actually seemed concerned with the enormous increase and didn’t just put it down to my appliances which by the way are exactly the same as they were last yr.!!!!!

  16. kasia says:

    P.S. sorry the first figures I origionally posted were not that acurate as have had all bills and statements out today so all figures including the previous post are all correct.

    Will let you all know what happens with my war with N Power!!

  17. Dave says:

    I have had problems with n-power too!
    We moved house and kept with n-power. The meter was being read regularly but I had neglected to note that all n-powers bills were estimated! This I eventually found out was because the readings were not being read in the 7day period where n-power prepared the bill. They did have all the readings but no-one had thought to look at the previous reading before estimating the next bill. this went on for over 2 years and i now owe over £2000 (we were paying £60 per month on DD too!) So my DD bill should have been £150 per month!!
    I think this is ridiculous and am now taking daily meter readings. So far its is saying 40 units per day – this seems excessive and I suspect a faulty meter (it is very old and is overdue to be replaced) Neighbours with similar houses pay £80 per month!

  18. Nelly says:

    Plz i need someone to tell me how these meters work.i’m getting very frustrated.Ive been in a new flat for 3 months, but just last week a lad from Scotishpower came to change my meter in my absence, claiming that the meter is incorrect. Though i’ve never checked before, but i notice that the meter runs very fast when ever a heating appliance (microwave, electric kettle, electric heater, iron, etc) is switched on. is this normal?

  19. Steve says:

    I dont think my meter is working correctly, how do i check if it is faulty. The reading seems excessive. I dont seem to get anywhere with my supplier.

  20. KAREN says:

    GUESS WHAT N POWER CUSTOMER AGAIN! BEEN WITH THEM SINCE 2000
    SO AWARE OF BILLS RANGING FROM £150-£200+ PER QUARTER, ALSO
    THEY PHONE FOR READINGS QUITE OFTEN………..BILL JUST IN AT £817.00
    OOOOOUUUUCCCHHHH!!!!!!!AFTER HAVING KITCHEN FITTED AND POND IN GARDEN OBVIOUSLY RECORDED WHAT EXTRA WE WERE USING,
    BETWEEN 6&9 PER NIGHT & UP TO 20UNITS PER DAY BUT NOW ALL OF A SUDDEN HAPPY WITH MY READINGS, THEY ARE READING BETWEEN 40&84
    PER DAY!!!HORRENDOUS, THEY SAID THEY WILL PUT A METER NEXT TO IT
    TO SEE WHAT’S ON, BUT IF IT’S NOT THE METER WE STILL HAVE TO PAY IT. WHYYYY WHEN THEY KNOW WHAT YOU NORMALLY USE?????