Smart and smarter: how to bring down bills

Despite recent price reductions, we still pay a fortune for our gas and electricity. Chiara Cavaglieri looks at the technological developments that can save us money

Customers are still digging deep into their pockets to pay their gas and electricity bills, despite five of the six biggest energy companies recently announcing price reductions. The painful truth is that the new round of cuts has only scratched the surface. No energy firm has brought bills down by more than 10 per cent, against rises of 40 per cent in the past year. As a result, according to the Government's Energy Saving Trust, the average household spends around £1,300 a year on heating, lights and other appliances.

So it's still crucial for cash-strapped customers to reduce their consumption in order to cut bills. Fitting energy-saving light bulbs, lagging the boiler and insulating walls are all ways of preventing waste, but just as important is simply being aware of how much energy they are using.

This, at least, is the theory behind the smart-metering concept – a wireless transmitter now being sold by several UK energy suppliers that displays readings taken from your meters. "One of the fundamental barriers stopping individuals from saving energy is that they don't understand how use at home relates to their gas and electricity bills," says Philip Sellwood, the chief executive at the Energy Saving Trust. "Smart meters give householders the power to work out exactly how much energy they are using."

AlertMe, a firm specialising in home security, has come up with an even more ingenious way for people to keep on top of energy consumption. Like smart meters, the AlertMe smart-plugs system allows customers to monitor their energy use from a central display, but it displays the readings in pounds and pence rather than kilowatt hours.

Where AlertMe's products differ markedly from smart metering is that they enable customers to switch appliances on and off automatically through a website. They work as part of the online wireless AlertMe system, which uses a hub plugged into a broadband modem. Originally designed for home security, the technology has been adapted to allow consumers to understand and, more importantly, to control their energy consumption.

The hub acts as a gateway between the internet and the devices in the home and can be set up to monitor and react to changes in the house. In the same way that home-security customers can receive a text, phone or email alert warning them that a smoke alarm, say, has gone off, they can also be told if their energy consumption goes below or above a set level. So if a freezer or fridge were to stop working or lose power, the AlertMe system can be set up to send a text to let customers know.

Smart plugs can also be used to avoid costly standby wastage simply by plugging in particular appliances, such as a home-entertainment system, and then turning them all off through a special key fob that sends a message to the hub whenever customers leave or enter the house.

A main benefit of the system is that it allows customers to check the accuracy of meter readings. "The way energy consumption is currently measured is ridiculous, with accurate measurements being taken just once a year on average by the energy firms," says Pilgrim Beart, co-founder of AlertMe. "If you paid for your shopping that way, you would never know how much anything actually costs."

The big question is whether the potential savings with such devices are outweighed by the cost, but AlertMe claims its service pays for itself in less than one year by cutting consumption by 20 per cent. At the moment individual smart plugs cost £25 each, but you'll also need to buy the central hub, which starts at £149.

The company can be contacted at www.alertme.com

Big switch: 'I just laughed – the bill was so cheap'

Toby Cruse, 23, an IT manager from Oxted in Surrey, has had the AlertMe system on trial for six months in his new flat. Toby likes the idea that he is saving money and that installation was hassle free. "All the sensors are battery powered and wireless, so there's no need for carpets to be ripped up. It's really easy to set up by yourself and you can customise the system to fit your home."

As Toby has no billing history at his new address, he isn't sure how much he is saving through AlertMe, but he feels it's making a difference: "When my first energy bill came in, I just laughed because it was so cheap. The ways you can learn to save money in your home through a structure like this are endless. If you actually throw figures at people, they really begin to understand how much energy they're using. It's all about connecting power usage to cost, and if you use the smart plugs for all your appliances, you will start to see exactly how much can be saved by switching them off."

This is only the beginning, says Toby: "The end goal in my eyes is complete home automation, so you don't have to think about what you've left on or off, whether it's heating, lighting or security. You could set it up to the exact requirements that you want and your house would be looking after you."

Independent Partners; Do you need financial advice on your investments, pension or insurance? Book a free consultation with an independent Financial Adviser at VouchedFor.co.uk

Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Sport
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
News
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
arts + ents...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
Sport
Jose Mourinho on Sky Sports
footballEXCLUSIVE COLUMN Paul Scholes: It was not a leg-breaking tackle, as the Chelsea manager had claimed
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Marketing Executive - B2B - OTE £25,000

    £17000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity to join this new...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £18000 - £21000 per annum + OTE £45,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

    Recruitment Genius: Business Control Manager

    £36000 - £44000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Encouraging more businesses to ...

    Day In a Page

    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
    How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

    Time to play God

    Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
    MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

    MacGyver returns, but with a difference

    Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
    Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

    Tunnel renaissance

    Why cities are hiding roads underground
    'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

    Boys to men

    The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
    Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

    Crufts 2015

    Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
    10 best projectors

    How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

    Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
    Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

    Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

    Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
    Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

    Monaco: the making of Wenger

    Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

    Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

    Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

    This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
    'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

    Homage or plagiarism?

    'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
    Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower