Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Award-winning presents for Xmas: energy monitors

Do you know anyone who loves gadgets, likes to save money, and cares about the planet? If so, Juliet Heller knows the perfect present.

The OWL energy monitor, and similar gadgets like the Efergy, are really easy to use, but beware, they are quite addictive. I gave one to my partner a few years ago and he’s obsessed with it. He checks the temperature and electricity consumption several times a day. But I mustn’t complain. It’s cut our electricity bills by 25%.

Then I gave one to my nephew Max for his 16th birthday (really, he asked for one). Max likes gadgets and enjoys fixing electrical equipment. Now he’s Mr Energy Monitor around the house too, and is using the OWL for a school project that studies why rooms in the house are different temperatures.

Jo, our Head of Communications, says she's a compulsive OWL watcher at home.

“It’s been quite an education. I was amazed to see how electricity use surges when one of us switches on the kettle or the vacuum cleaner. And it’s great for checking if things are left on, which often happens with young children (and forgetful husbands)."

Jo encourages schools to get a monitor as the first step towards sustainability. The Ashden Awards runs a project called LESS CO2 (Low Energy Sustainable Schools) which motivates school leaders to reduce their energy consumption by working with some of our award-winning schools.

An energy monitor hasn't in itself won an Ashden Award, but OWL electricity monitors, for instance, allowed households on the Isle of Eigg to keep an eye on how much power they are using, and many schools who have won our awards, such as St Columb Minor School in Cornwall and Ringmer Community College in East Sussex, use energy monitors to track energy consumption and reduce electricity use. The teachers also use the data in maths and science lessons, which helps integrate climate change learning across the curriculum.

Another, more sophisticated tool, the Eco-Driver software programme is used by Ashley C of E Primary School in Walton on Thames to monitor the energy generated by their solar PV as well as their energy consumption. It helped reduce the school’s electricity use by 50 per cent in the first year.

The BBC News says the next generation of smart meters

“should cut electricity consumption by around 5%, so if all Brits used one the emissions savings would be roughly equivalent to taking 600,000 cars off the road.”

OWL monitors are available on Amazon for £25. It’s worth reading the reviews.

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