back to article New smart meter tells Brits exactly what they already know

We're all going to be much richer thanks to British Gas, which will push kit from Cambridge startup AlertMe into 10,000 homes this summer. The rollout will reach the rest of the energy giant's ten million customers in the autumn. Not that AlertMe is guaranteed to be supplying all the kit, which will integrate with smart meters …

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  1. edge_e
    Big Brother

    But the government, along with industry, thinks differently.

    I not sure the government or industry cares what the customers think. It's being rolled out for their benefit, not ours, and they damn well know.

    The rest is just marketing spin to make you think you want it. This prevents the uproar that would otherwise be created by the fact that we've got to pay for something the majority of us really don't need.

  2. Tom 15

    Nonsense...

    Most people I know who have installed smart meters are now sitting in the dark...

    Joking aside, it does really help to cut consumption. A lot of people don't understand the relative values of a TV v PC v washing machine v kettle v lights, etc. and this will definitely help.

    1. Mad Mike

      Re: Nonsense...

      @Tom 15.

      I really dispair for the future of the human race sometimes. Any idiot that doesn't have some idea of the relative consumption figures of these devices should be put down for the sake of the human race. I can see it being difficult between like devices, but others.....really. If they can't work out that things with heaters in them (e.g. kettles, washing machines etc.) take more than consumer electronics, they really need shooting.

      By the way, all the studies show that energy displays don't work at all. They initially reduce consumption by around 10-20%, then after a period of time (3-12 months depending on customer), it reverts to normal for almost everyone. Only the very diehard greens continue with the reduction. The reason is simple. It's initially a novelty and people like the idea of paying less. However, after a while, people simply get fedup with watching a meter all the time and it dictating their lives, so simply stop. Then, consumption goes back up.

      It's all a complete waste of time.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Nonsense...

        @Mad Mike - Sorry, I don't buy the "only idiots don't know what energy they're using" line. I've been working in IT for 14 years, specifically in data storage - so energy consumption is a significant issue - before that I had a history in electronics, lighting etc. I couldn't have told you how much energy my washing machine used or what the load profile, during a wash was until I'd made a system which monitored and graphed the use of 'leccy and gas in my house. As it happens rather than "the washing machine uses a lot of juice" I now know which are the most efficient cycles, some of the 60C cycles actually use less energy in total than the 40C cycles, which I doubt anyone would have guessed. I also now know that my partner's Mac G5 sucks an enormous amount of power when on standby, we always switch it off now.

        Not a waste of time.

        1. Mad Mike
          Thumb Down

          Re: Nonsense...

          @AC.

          I'll amend my quote. 'Only idiots and those who can't be bothered to find out through simple means don't know how much energy they're using'. You don't need a smart meter to tell you any of this. You simply need a meter display of your incomer, or a plug in meter between the device and socket.

          You certainly don't need to spend £10-12billion to find out.

          Some people are idiots and don't know and don't know how to find out. Replay my earlier comment about their fate. If you can't be bothered to use one of the other means to find out, you won't take any notice of what a smart meter tells you, so it's irrelevant. The point is, smart meters won't make any difference.

          I have a simple plug in meter, into which I plug the appliance etc. It records both the instantaneous load and usage over time. So, I could find out the energy consumption of my washing machines programmes by simply using that, very easily. However, as I'm sure you're aware, this doesn't actually work as washing machines (and plenty of other things now) use differing amounts depending on various constaints. For instance, my dishwasher determines whether it needs to do another rinse by looking at the last rinse water. If it doesn't, that saves a lot of electricity.

          Any which way, smart meters are delivering nothing that a reasonably intelligent person couldn't find out through much lower cost/benefit means.

          And, if you're in electricity and can't work out that a washing machines consumption (per minute or whatever) will be more than say a lightbulb or a kettle against a telly etc., there's clearly something wrong with the education system today.

          1. Wild Bill
            Headmaster

            Re: Nonsense...

            So your point is that the majority of people are idiots and need things spelled out to them? No shit, that's why this is being done. If people weren't mostly stupid this wouldn't be necessary. But they are. So it is.

            Unfortunately there's no magic cure to stupidity, and no amount of ranting on the internet is going to change that.

            1. Mad Mike
              Thumb Down

              Re: Nonsense...

              @Wild Bill.

              Interestingly, you've got the wrong end of the stick. The point I'm making is that the vast majority of people can work it out for themselves. Yes, there are a few who can't, but not that many. So, if the issue isn't stupidity, the issue is will. As they don't have the will now using very simple and cheap technology, implementing something costing £10-12billion isn't likely to give them the will either!! So, the whole expenditure is wasted.

              Even if you accept some people are too stupid, it would still be cheaper to give these people plug in meters and lessons in how to use them rather than install smart meters. Demand side management is seen as a panacea for the industry and government. Problem is, the customer has no interesting in being demand side managed!!

              1. jonathanb Silver badge

                Re: Nonsense...

                At the end of the day, all the smart meter tells you is that you can save electricity by switching things off. Yes, it can help you work out that switching off your 3kW grow lamp will save you more electricity than switching off your 3W LED Christmas lights, but is it really that important? Switch both off if you don't need them.

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Nonsense...

              Although, after reading your post, if there is one person in the world who could discover one my money's on you...

              ;)

          2. peter 45
            Happy

            Re: Nonsense...

            'Only idiots and those who can't be bothered to find out through simple means don't know how much energy they're using'

            Too right. I had a tenant who dried clothing indoors, with all the ventilation closed and the heating switched off and then complained that there was condensation. Well colour me surprised.

            I even supplied a dehumidifier, which she refused to use as it 'costed too much money'.

            I finally ended up being taken to the small claims court for being a nasty horrible Landlord. Best bit was when she repeated that it was too costly and I handed over calculations that showed that it would cost about 10p per day.

            The Judge actually asked her whether she was serious about not being able to afford 10p per day, and followed it up by dismissing the claim.

            1. NomNomNom

              Re: Nonsense...

              there are a lot of people in this country today who pretend they can't afford things. It seems to be fashionable to reach for that excuse whenever there is a cost involved. You know a new tax or something goes up by £10 a year and people cry that they can't afford it.

              What is it all about? Are so many people really right on an exact fine edge that an extra £10 a year tips them over? Or do they simply mean they are already living beyond their means. You know after the mortgage, holidays and cars, etc another £10 is just too far? Or is it more perverse than that? Do these people actually enjoy playing the victim? Being part of "hard times"? Or are they just using it as an excuse to argue against paying it?

              It's so rampant it's making me unable to tell the difference between people who are genuinely unable to afford stuff and ones who are pretending.

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Nonsense...

              People like you are what got the UK into the state it's in today.

  3. ppp.an
    Pirate

    Coal powered fun

    Dig and then burn your own coal from the disused coal seam down the road. It'll keep you warm in the winter, heat your water, and make for great summer barbies.

    On top of all this, it may well be free! (What no coal seam near you? Just substitute coal with some pine trees - The local country will pay you to take those away.)

  4. AndrueC Silver badge
    Meh

    Are the meter displays AC or battery? I used to have that was battery powered and it went through the buggers at a stupid rate. Not much point saving electricity if the meter burns it up again or requires you to dump dozens of batteries into landfill every year.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      AC or battery?

      > dump dozens of batteries into landfill

      You should be taking your used batteries to be recycled, most grocery shops have the buckets these days.

      1. TeeCee Gold badge

        Re: AC or battery?

        Correct. There remains the slight problem of the fact that, when I have a dead battery in my hand, there's a bin within a few feet but the grocery shop is some way away.

        My inclination to not being arsed about this sort of thing completes the process.

  5. SImon Hobson Silver badge

    It'll only work when ...

    It'll start to have an effect when phase 2 kicks in. What few supporters of the tech are talking about is what smart metering is really there for - demand management. Not persuading us to switch a few lights off etc, but real demand management where people will think twice before putting the oven on for Sunday lunch, or putting a load of washing on.

    When all the windmills stop turning (as they do in those calm, bitterly cold spells), and we've no nuclear left, and the coal stations have been shut down to meet EU legislation, and Russia puts it's foot on the gas hose ... Well we'll be short of lecky - anyone else remember the rolling power cuts of the 70's ?

    What will happen is that lecky costs will rise - dramatically enough that few will be able to afford to use it. So magically, wind power will still be seen to be working, but only because people have turned everything off and are sitting in the dark. If that fails, then the smart meters allow a more fine grained remote turn off facility that can plunge individual houses into darkness and cold (yes cold, gas is no use if your boiler is switched off - and those with combi boilers will find themselves with no hot water either).

    Government claims smart meters won't be compulsory - but I bet the disincentives (by way of vastly overpriced tariffs) to not having one will be huge.

    1. Mad Mike
      Thumb Down

      Re: It'll only work when ...

      @Simon Hobson.

      I know this is what the government thinks will happen. But, if they really believe they can implement any form of remote power cut and get the population to accept it, they're dreaming. Yes, it happened in the 70s, but people are vastly different now. Rolling power cuts of any type simply won't be accepted. And, if they really think people will allow them to turn devices on and off in the home, they are equally deluded. People want to use appliances when they want to use them. Yes, it will work for some heating (economy 7 effectively), but there was already a method for that. Doesn't need smart meters. The majority of household consumption is actually non-neogtiable. People don't make a cup of tea when the government or demand says, they make it when they're thirsty. People don't watch telly when the government says, but when there programs are on, or they have time. Maybe some kitchen appliances might be possible, such as washing machines, tumble driers and dishwashers, but that's possible now using a simple timer.

      In reality, this is not practical in some cases anyway. If you have a seperate washing machine and tumble drier (more efficient that a combined device), how do you get the washing from one to the other in the middle of the night whilst you're asleep?

      The government are absolutely bonkers if they think they will be able to dictate this without widespread public disorder. And, if they think people will believe wind power is working when this is going on, they're even more mad.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: It'll only work when ...

        TV keeps the masses subdued, turn off the power and they will start coming out of their homes and onto the streets. That is the last thing the banksters want.

      2. Karl H
        Mushroom

        Re: It'll only work when ...

        "The government are absolutely bonkers if they think they will be able to dictate this without widespread public disorder. And, if they think people will believe wind power is working when this is going on, they're even more mad."

        yep , the government (labour or tory) is mad, they've been listenning to the eco-I-hate-nuclear-and-coal-mentalists for so long they're starting to believe the drivel that comes out of their mouths.

        I feel like starting the "free nuclear leccy if you don't mind living within 10 miles of a nuke power station party" . Anyone want to help me ? :-D

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: It'll only work when ...

        I think you'll be surprised what the general public is willing to put up with. In many parts of the U.S. people had similar smart meters installed last year and the power companies went ahead cut power during "non-peak" times (non-peak usually meaning mid-afternoon on the hottest summer days. There were lots of angry phone calls and lots of public apologies/statements by the electric companies but no rioting and no changes in policy. After a few harsh news stories, most people decided the incentives of a smart meter were not worth the costs but the government still tries to push them.

        1. Eguro
          Stop

          Re: It'll only work when ...

          So because people objected to something, got an apology, and are not forced to use the meters, you say that they aren't ready to riot over this, because they didn't then.

          If they had been told "tough shit" and then the companies had proceeded with it on an ever increasing scale, and then nobody rioted, then you'd maybe have a point...

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: It'll only work when ...

            But once you have them, you are forced to use them. That is the point.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: It'll only work when ...

            Also, when I say apology, it was more like, "We are sorry you didn't understand what you signed up for but we retain the rights to turn off your power." Essentially to the people who already had them installed the companies did say "tough shit."

  6. John P

    I used to have one of those usage displays (not sure if it constitutes a smart meter) that had a loop that hooked over the main cable and a wireless display. After the initial "ooh that uses a lot of power", we never looked at it and did not change our habits in the slightest as a result of having the display as all the things that used lots of leccy were things we couldn't do with out.

    Once again, the gov takes action "for our own good" because we just can't be trusted to look after ourselves these days...

    Where's the nanny state icon?

    1. TeeCee Gold badge
      Megaphone

      Once again, the gov takes action "for our own good"

      I am firmly of the opinion that whenever politicians are legislating or spending money to protect people from themselves, they have fucked up most egregiously.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "only thing preventing us from switching off lights, or hanging the washing out on a line, is the lack of a Web 2.0 front-end to tell us how much juice we're burning."

    Complete and utter British (Shite!)

    If I need clean clothes, i put the washing machine on. I need extra light, I put the lights on.

    An energy meter will not stop the need for clean clothes, lights, heating, entertainment, etc...

    So the whole smart meter helps reduce enegery consumption is a complete huge steaming pile of British!

    If you don't turn off/unplug unused appliances AND you don't relaise that there is a cost involved in leaving said items energised, you deserve to pay more for your electric. But to claim a smart meter is the answer, NA! No it is not.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You can refuse a smartmeter!

    1. Justicesays
      Alert

      Hmm,really

      You might be able to refuse to have one put in on your current property.

      Whats the odds of them letting you change it to a "dumb" meter if you move house to one that already has a smart meter?

      "Sorry Guv, we dont have those old fangled meters no more, just the smart ones"

      1. JetSetJim Silver badge
        Unhappy

        Re: Hmm,really

        Unlikely, if the water industry is anything to go by:

        The water industry regulater, Ofwat, says: 'Customers moving into properties with water meters cannot have the meter removed and must pay for their water on a metered basis. (The Water Industry Act 1991, section 144B, amended by the Water Industry Act 1999).'

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Hmm,really

          That Act needs to be reviewed as I believe it was bribed by the water industry to go in their favour.

  9. dittytwo
    FAIL

    woohoo free ADSL for everyone....

    So how is the data getting from my house with no phone line back to there data..

    this could be interesting,.

    as for my 98 year old next door neighbour is still struggling with the concept of the tv remote.. internet lost totally lost.. what are they going to do to these people force them to get ADSL £20 (cheapest in my area due to distance/lack of BT support) per month on top of this meter. i doubt they will go for it.

    1. Roger Greenwood
      Boffin

      Re: woohoo free ADSL for everyone....

      "how is the data getting from my house" - try telegraphic communication through the ether (radio). Currently they just drive past. Simples.

      Expect future signals via the power lines themselves.

      1. Mad Mike
        Thumb Down

        Re: woohoo free ADSL for everyone....

        @Roger Greenwood.

        Interesting, but wrong. None of the current proposals actually use powerline carrier. The utilities aren't interesting in fitting kit in every substation as powerline doesn't really cross transformers. Not in sensible levels anyway. Radio requires them to buy frequencies. Strangely, they're not interested in that either, especially after previous frequency sales. So, what's left. A load are using mobile phone technology, but that tends to be very expensive and not all pervasive. Nobody has ever talked in any meaningful way at driving round areas either, especially as they want to collect the data daily.

        In reality, nobody has yet suggested, let alone agreed, a means by which every property can communicate back in a suitable manner at a suitable cost. It's still up for discussion, but nobody is looking at powerline carrier at the moment, or driving past or radio. (Except possibly the 2.4GHz frequency as it's free!!

        1. Roger Greenwood

          Re: woohoo free ADSL for everyone....

          @mad mike You may be right, but many businesses are already on drive by download, although I don't know what the current size threshold is. I do know when you change suppliers they change the meter as they like their own kit (I saw one changed yesterday). Gas supplies are the same.

          I also know many (larger) substations already have radio telemetry, usually as a backup to the landline. Easy then to plug in directly to the 400V system, not via the transformers or HV network. I agree that powerline tech is not there yet, but I am sure they are still trying to sort it as people knocking on doors are very expensive. Time will tell.

          1. Mad Mike

            Re: woohoo free ADSL for everyone....

            @Roger Greenwood.

            Ah. Now, businesses are somewhat different and run to a different set of rules to domestic. I work for a utility and as far as I know, no electricity or gas company does drive by on a large scale. Yes, some small scale, but the various consultations (principally in London) are not proposing doing this for smart metering as they want to get the readings every day and drive by is impractical for this. Business meters may not be read at this frequency.

            Substations do have some telemetry, but that is for management of the network upstream, not downstream. The issue with using powerline from the home to the substation is that powerline receivers have to be attached everywhere as transformers stop most of the signal. Again, it isn't really being looked at, although I would have thought it the obvious choice. A variety of ZigBee is one option, but they have looked at all sorts. As I said, at the moment, it's mostly mobile phones networks, but these are extremely expensive on a large scale unless the mobile phone operators change charges. Also, mobile phones don't get everywhere.

            There are two reasons why no decision on the method has been made yet. The utilities will never agree with each other on anything and no method has yet proved to be both practical and reliable for a majority.

      2. P. Lee Silver badge
        FAIL

        Re: woohoo free ADSL for everyone....

        How long until the system is hacked?

        Cos we all know how secure SCADA systems are...

    2. JetSetJim Silver badge

      Re: woohoo free ADSL for everyone....

      They could stick a SIM in it and it probably and the very most basic level will send an encrypted SMS if it can't open a data session to a server. Other methods include short range radio to "drive-by readers" as I believe they do in the US - changing from a "person inspects dial on physical meter locked in a box somewhere around the property that may or may not be inside it" to a "drive past at the legal speed limit and all your meters are belong to us" will save a lot of money. Sure there will still be houses that can't be read this way, but all they'd need to do is get reasonably close, rather than disturb the householder, and it's still a durn sight quicker

  10. Fuzz

    Smart meter

    My meter already tells me how much energy I'm using, the clue is in the word meter.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Smart meter

      No, it tells you how much energy you have used, not how much you are using at a given point in time.

      1. P. Lee Silver badge
        Paris Hilton

        Re: Smart meter

        Is the little spinny thing going around slowly or quickly?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Smart meter

          Ah, the spinny thing, hardly easy to read though, is it? Twenty graduations have gone past in the last thirty seconds, that means, hang on, err...

          vs

          LCD display with a number on it.

          In any case the spinny thing, still only tells you what you were using, not what you are using, albeit be bit more up to date than the tumbers.

  11. Anonymous Coward 101
    Unhappy

    Also...

    The way power is priced now, the marginal cost of each extra kWh used tends to fall. If one has a standing charge of 20p per day and is charged 10p per unit, one unit for that day costs 30p, but two units costs 40p. An increase in usage of 100%, but only a 33% rise in cost. So, cutting one's power usage by a given percentage will reduce one's costs by a lower percentage.

    It's just another problem for those wanting us all to be green.

    1. AndrueC Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Also...

      You have a standing charge? Wow. I think the 1980s called - they want their billing systems back :)

      1. Anonymous Coward 101

        Re: Also...

        I was speaking hypothetically. In any case, most tariffs these days charge a higher rate for a given number of kWhs, and a lower rate after that. And yes, a number still have standing charges.

        1. Mad Mike
          Thumb Down

          Re: Also...

          @Anonymous Coward 101.

          I'm almost afraid to write this, but here goes:-

          Some tarrifs openly show a standing charge as xx pence per day. Those tarrifs that charge two different rates, for above and below a certain number (note not for time of day....economy 7) are effectively implementing a standing charge. The difference in the two rates is the standing charge. This only works in your benefit if you use less than the cutoff point. If you use over, whether you pay by this method or using a tarrif with an overt standing charge is irrelevant.

          Effectively, all tarrifs have a standing charge, it's just that most now hide this by showing two uinit rates.

  12. JetSetJim Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    Better budgetting method?

    Just a thought (perhaps a crap one), but howabout supply consumer units to households with a fixed capacity of power draw, and a meter that shows how much you are currently drawing. Try and go over it and you risk "in house brown-out" on low-priority circuits (eg lighting, or whatever you configure). Consumers can also buy multiple units if they wish to up their capacity (at increased cost) but it might make you more likely to switch things off when you're not using them.

    1. Kevin Johnston

      Re: Better budgetting method?

      I rather doubt that would work if only because there is a rather large risk of someone having to pay to replace equipment damaged by said 'brown-out'. Your insurance company are going to be reluctant to pick up the bill and will be trying to pass the cost to your power company. Don't see that ending at all well....at least not for the consumer.

    2. Martin 37
      Thumb Up

      Re: Better budgetting method?

      Yep, been there, done that. Most incoming circuit are 100A, so that's your limit. Just try and draw more than 23kW and see what happens.

      1. Ross 7

        Re: Better budgetting method?

        "Just try and draw more than 23kW and see what happens"

        Your weed hot-house gets raided?...

      2. JetSetJim Silver badge

        Re: Better budgetting method?

        Yes, sure, there is a limit to what you can draw through the current consumer units, but I think I'd struggle to hit that 100A even turning everything on in the house (1 iron, 1 oven, 1 kettle, 1 tumble dryer are probably the biggest culprits, washing machine and big flat telly with surround amp underneath are probably the next one, and then a smattering of low ampage devices). Lights can use a lot, but I've got a load of low energy bulbs installed.

        Now, reduce that input maximum to 50A and I'd think a bit more about when I use what. Could always leave some headroom in the CU and allow over-draw (with a higher cost per kW).

        Or the government could just get on with it and build a few more nukes instead of shovelling money at the greenies

        1. Mad Mike

          Re: Better budgetting method?

          Funny this is, they're not shovelling money at the greenies. They're subsidising 'green' generation methods (solar pv etc.) that are totally uneconomic and the majority benefactors are companies setup to exploit them. Energy companies are making fortunes through subsidies on wind farms etc. Other companies are giving people 'free' solar pv and them pocketing the subsidy and making lots of money themselves. Very little of this is going to consumers/greenies and most into company executives and shareholders.

        2. J.G.Harston Silver badge
          Boffin

          Re: Better budgetting method?

          "Yes, sure, there is a limit to what you can draw through the current consumer units, but I think I'd struggle to hit that 100A"

          It's not the consumer unit that limits the current draw, it's the incoming power cable! Put in a 200A consumer unit and draw 200A of current and you're still going to blow the service fuse - or melt the incoming power cable and the tarmac in the pavement over it.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Better budgetting method?

      "supply consumer units to households with a fixed capacity of power draw [etc]"

      I've read that nuclear-powered France already works a bit like this, would appreciate confirmation from informed readers.

      E.g. Your contract specifies a given maximum demand. If you go over it, you get surcharged (or maybe internal load shedding occurs?).

      So, what's not to like?

  13. Andy Livingstone

    Sub- Editor

    Could you please shackle the one who does not like the English language. Thank you.

  14. Alan Dougherty
    Thumb Down

    Switch it off..

    I really don't understand why people need a smart meter to tell them to switch off any electrical device they are not using.

    Are the lights on? Yes. Is there anybody in the room? No . Then switch them off

    Is the TV on at the wall? Yes. are you watching it? No. Then switch it off

    Is your tivo on? Yes. Do you need to record/watch something? Yes. Then leave it on.

    Washing machine on at the wall? Yes. Washing anything? No. Switch it off.

    The inability of people to reach their hand down/out 2 foot to flick a switch is the reason we can't have nice things, but instead get landed with higher bills to pay for telling idiots to fucking switch things off.

    Isolated equipment won't be damaged by power fluctuations' either.. another reason to not be lazy.

    1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

      Re: Switch it off..

      Washing machine on at the wall? Yes. Washing anything? No. Drag it out and scramble behind it to try and find the socket and switch it off, and go through the same hassle to try and turn the bugger on again when you need it.

      There, fixed it for you.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Switch it off..

        Buy a washing machine with a mechanical on/off switch.

        There, fixed it for you. :)

    2. Richard 12 Silver badge

      Re: Switch it off..

      You are aware that modern TVs draw under 0.5W in standby?

      Considerably less than a smart meter, and probably less than a dumb one as well.

      Standby is irrelevant these days.

      The biggest 'hidden' consumer is probably phone chargers. They are built tiny and cheaply so have relatively high quiescent consumption, and are easy to forget about.

      Some set-top boxes are pretty terrible though - some of the 'Top-up TV' ones draw a good 20W in standby, becuase they never actually power down.

      None of these will be even visible on a smart meter display if course, as they will be hidden by the fridge or freezer, which draws small bursts whenever it warms up inside.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: phone chargers

        "The biggest 'hidden' consumer is probably phone chargers. They are built tiny and cheaply so have relatively high quiescent consumption, and are easy to forget about."

        Rollocks. Please refer to Mackay at www.wtihouthotair.com for full details.

        Ancient phone chargers with transformers might have used a watt or two. You can tell these, they weigh more and get warm (even when not charging).

        Modern ones are transformerless, and barely get warm even when charging. No warmth usually means not much energy being used.

        TopUp TV boxes can't really power down; their receiver needs to be on and recording to filestore even when you're not watching anything at that time.

        Next...

        1. Richard 12 Silver badge
          Boffin

          Re: phone chargers

          I don't mean they are necessarily very significant, just that they're probably the biggest hidden consumption in an average family home.

          What power consumption is there in a home?

          Lighting, fridge/freezer, hob/oven/grill, kitchen appliances, white goods, computers, TV/STB/HiFi, chargers, heating/HVAC, garden appliances, CNC milling machine...

          The average home will have more chargers than TVs/STBs, so if you assume they all consume the same quiescent power, the sheer numbers mean that they draw more in total.

          In reality, they have lower-quality PSUs than TVs and STBs, and draw a bit more. The various proper measurements I've found imply they are between 450mW and 900mW when not charging.

          Thus assuming the chargers are idle for 20 hours a day (4 hours to charge the phone), that's between 3.3 and 6.6kWh wasted a year by each charger!

          That's between one and two kettle-hours per charger.

  15. Citizen Kaned

    well, thank fuck for such devices.

    i leave my oven on constantly and just pop food in when i want it heating. i never realised i was on a meter and paying for what i use. i thought the spinning disk on my meter was purely for showing off to friends.

    now i realise i dont HAVE to waste energy. i have also stopped washing clothes, boiling water for baby bottles and dont have lights on. unfortunately my baby is now sick, we all smell and i have a broken leg from walking in the dark

    /sarcasm

    how do they think this will save us money?? we know we should use the minimun leccy and gas. we try but they just keep putting prices up when we cut down! less for more eh!

    we switch things on when we need to. we wash when we need to. we have low energy lights everywhere and some are led. we also have an eco kettle (strange little device but works well as the mrs kept filling kettle for one drink)

    how will a wall meter tell me how much energy one device uses? surely it just tells me how much im spending? we always have various appliances on at any time apart from the night. how does this help us telling us which are costing more (apart fromthe general knowledge that heating burns eleccy at a fair rate)? pointless!

  16. JimmyPage Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    I think people are misunderestimating phase 2

    I suspect when we have a majority of homes with smartmeters, we will start to see new tarrifs offered, where, instead of pricing by volume, you will be offered pricing by time, and the cheaper tarrifs will be made "variable rate". That way, if demand starts to climb towards capacity, the energy companies will start increasing the price per unit, until people start switching things off.

    If you want an equivalent model, look at the M6 toll road legislation. It provides for the road operator to increase the price to limit demand. And the operators have a stated policy of keeping demand as low as possible, as it means they don't have to pay to resurface the road - unlike the public M6 which needs resurfacing every evening, thanks to the HGVs, which the M6 toll operators DEFINITELY don't want anywhere near it - look at the pricing if you doubt me.

    1. Mad Mike
      Thumb Down

      Re: I think people are misunderestimating phase 2

      @Jimmy Page.

      Yeah, right. Bearing in mind the regulators and government have been complaining to the utilities about tarrif complexity, I don't see this happening. Charging different amounts at different times has been done with Economy 7 and is OK, but changing throughout the day through many different rates is mad and will simply confuse us more. As to having a variable rate............absolutely certifiable. You program your washing machine to turn on at 02:00 because the electricity is cheap, but too many people are doing it, so the price goes up, and you pay more. Bonkers...absolutely insane.

      If they think people have trouble understand the tarrif structure now, just wait for these!!

      The government and greenies have plumped for the 'great in theory' answer without actually considering the practicalities. Epic fail.

      From an energy point of view, this is mad and that's before you consider the security point of view and all the breaches there will be. It's already happened in the USA and is pretty widely accepted that keeping meters (which will need to sit on walls for at least a decade) secure over that time is impossible from a practical perspective. Just wait till states and terrorist get access to them and see what happens.

      1. Anonymous Coward 101

        Re: I think people are misunderestimating phase 2

        Yes, variable pricing sounds good, until you realise that charges have to be transparent. If people cannot understand pricing, they cannot modify their behaviour accordingly, negating the purpose of variable pricing in the first place. If a simple pricing scheme can be introduced, then maybe that will change.

        1. JimmyPage Silver badge
          Mushroom

          @Anonymous Coward 101

          Oh, you mean like the simple pricing structures we have today ?

      2. JimmyPage Silver badge
        FAIL

        @Mad Mike

        you make the mistake of assuming things happed in a vacuum ... why should a future regulator (if there is one) be concerned with tariff complexity, anymore than someone awarded DLA "for life" should be surprised when it's discontinued next year ?

        Similarly, your smart washing machine (where did you think those Raspberry Pis are going) of the future will be connected to the grid anyway, and will understand the setting "run when power is cheapest", I'm sure they are already designing the icons for it. My bet is 3 shrinking currency symbols over the text "24".

        Never assume something won't happen, because of a particular law, or set of circumstances today.

        Also, why should the state have any particular concern over the security of meters ?

        1. Mad Mike
          Thumb Down

          Re: @Mad Mike

          @Jimmy Page.

          I made no such mistake and am completely aware things can change. Even retrospectively nowadays given recent precedent. All these things can change and I appreciate that.

          You are correct the washing machine will be attached to the grid and could be given a tarrif of 'run when cheapest'. But, how will it know that? Powerline carrier isn't going to be used for smart metering, that's pretty much decided. So, how will the washing machine know? It could get a wireless signal from the smart meter (even though they haven't worked out how that will communicate with the hub yet). But, all this requires one thing. A lot of co-ordination between an awful lot of governments and suppliers (including appliance). It won't happen!! Look at everything electrical and they can't even agree a standard voltage!!

          The state will have concerned on the security of meters because the population will get royally irritated when their supply keeps turning on and off according to some spotty oinks whim, especially when it's a change forced on them by government. Additionally, turning the power supply off on a widespread basis can play havoc with a countries GDP, ability to trade etc.etc.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Mushroom

          Re: @Mad Mike

          Because if I can find a way to turn them all off at once, every house, every business in the country; would the power company(ies) be able to handle the load of the entire system dropping to zero during a single cycle?

          (a most appropriate icon)

  17. John A Blackley

    Brave new world

    Britain has become a society that, once upon a time, aspired to be so well-off that everyone could own spiffy, shiny machines in their homes and consume leccy to run them.

    Nowadays we can still afford (well, on credit) the spiffy, shiny machines but we can't afford the leccy.

    Something is fundamentally and very wrong in our country.

  18. AJames

    Open your wallets

    We just got these so-called Smart Meters installed in our Canadian province of British Columbia last year. The provincial power company BC Hydro put out some ridiculous publicity claiming that there would be no net cost in the long run because it would "help catch marijuana grow-ops" among other things (how? grow-ops bypass the meter). But subsequent investigations reveal that they hid costs of almost $1 billion, and now they want to raise our power rates by 50%! Somehow I fail to see the benefit to anyone except the company selling the meters and all the insiders they paid off.

    1. Mike VandeVelde
      Megaphone

      Re: Open your wallets

      It also has to do with the crown corporation BC Hydro being forbidden to build any more of its own new power stations. Instead small scale hydro is put in place by private companies, and BC Hydro signs lengthy contracts at inflated rates to purchase the power. I think there are something like $40 billion of those contracts lined up already.

      http://www.vancouversun.com/technology/Hydro+awash+private+power/6605915/story.html#ixzz1uZzivKep"

      http://www.pacificfreepress.com/news/1/6835-bc-hydro-in-extreme-financial-peril-due-to-campbell-private-energy-policy.html

      Go capitalism!!

    2. Nuke

      @ AJames - Re: Open your wallets

      Wrote :- "BC Hydro [claimed] that it would "help catch marijuana grow-ops" among other things (how? grow-ops bypass the meter)"

      Even if they did not by-pass the meter, why did the company think a Smart Meter would make a difference? The game would be given away by the large consumption, as on the quarterly bill, for the type of premises, wouldn't it?

      1. Alan Dougherty
        Pint

        @nuke

        The 'company' cannot see a large consumption if the meter has been bypassed. Traditionally, a bypass would be a large coil on the feed, with a large coil on the output (the meter being in the middle). AC induction does the rest. You may not get 100% free lecky, but your bill will be substantially reduced, if you haven't managed to melt your hand to the cables. Smart meters change nothing about that setup.

        The 'large consumption' bit is based on the meter reading, which you will notice, has been bypassed, so there isn't one.

        Grow ops will bypass the meter as a matter of course.. They are generally found by being run by illegals, have strong smells of cannabis out in the street, and by thermal optics in police choppers that notice a bloody big heat sig from one roof..

        If they get caught by leccy metering, then they deserved to be caught.

        1. Nuke
          Meh

          Re: @nuke

          Alan Dougherty wrote :- "The 'company' cannot see a large consumption if the meter has been bypassed."

          I understood that point. The GP post made it.

          My point was to question what is going on inside the heads of the electricity company. Because even if we assume that it does not occur to the company that the crooks bypass the meter, what would a Smart Meter tell the company that the quarterly reading would not? There would be a lot of consumption evident in any case.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: @nuke

            Because growing cannabis uses clearly identifiable patterns of power draw: 18/6 hours on/off in veg, and 12/12 on/off in flower. An average personal grow might use 1, or 2 400W lights, which is quite an obvious signature in the power profile for a house. Any intelligent cannabis grower would ensure they are squeaky clean anyway, and pay all their bills. The saying is "only break one law at a time".

            Most of the larger scale "factories" the police love to "swoop" on, are simple decoys set up to keep them happier, while the real factories are properly set up in a kosher unit with insulation, carbon filters, all bills paid, and nobody noticing comings and goings. Still, if it keeps the press happy.

            If you look at the number of hydroponics shops near you, and work out what sort of population they must be catering for, and how much they must have to make to stay open (bearing in mind they are totally legitimate businesses) you'd pretty quickly determine that the home-grown cannabis (as in personal use - not dealing the stuff) is worth a few billion pounds when you add up the money spent on electricity, consumables, and equipment.

  19. FunkyEric
    Facepalm

    Oh dear......

    Dogma 1

    Common Sense 0

  20. FrankAlphaXII

    Just a question

    And im not trying to be offensive at all, Im just ignorant of the way metering is in the UK. Can you guys go outside and check your own meters? These smart meter things sound like a gigantic waste of money but then again I dont know much about it.

    After the 4th time the local utilities commission overcharged me by around 100 bucks I started photographing my meters on the 1st and the 15th. Funny thing is they've never tried to overcharge me since one of their readers saw me doing it.

    1. Nuke
      Meh

      Re: Just a question

      FrankAlphaXII wrote :- "in the UK. Can you guys go outside and check your own meters?"

      Outside? To hell with that, most here are inside (except newest houses where it is a carbuncle on the front wall). The company keeps nagging me to convert to an outside one, which is ironic as these days they expect me to take my own readings most of the time (but I get a discount for that). When their own monkeys do read it they get it wrong half the time - I am not exagerating, that is the track record so far where I now live.

      The older meters had a wheel you could see turning, and you could instantly see the speed changing. I remember helping my father by switching things on and off around the house while he timed the wheel - doing years ago just what is now being touted as a bright idea.

      However, newer meters are wonderful wonderful digital and mine only changes every whole kWh. With that it is not practicable to "see" what you are consuming at any moment.

  21. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    FAIL

    I foresee a rash of house fires caused by people making amateurish attempts to bypass the meters when they switch off.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Err?

      What do you mean, when they switch off? If you mean when someone is cut off, maybe, but that is incredibly rare and I believe the companies need a court order to cut someone off these days.

  22. suburban guy
    Holmes

    Customer Engagement

    DECC says that they are going to get customers interested in their energy consumption.

    In theory any boring subject could be made interesting enough that people would engage with it. The problem is not the theory but the practice.

    No one has yet thought of how to make this interesting to the average Joe or Jane. If the government or enegy suppliers can do this I will take my hat off to them .. and maybe even eat it.

  23. Nuke
    FAIL

    Consumption might INCREASE

    Years ago Which? magazine looked into a telephone meter that displayed the rising cost of a call while you were making it.

    Many of their respondents said that they were surprised how LITTLE the call was costing them minute by minute, and hung on for longer than they would have done without the meter!

    Of course, all those "little cost" calls added up and at the end of the quarter their bills were higher than ever.

  24. P. Lee Silver badge

    All change is handy

    Provide different plans and tariffs for people to choose from and you can raise each one in s staggered manner and avoid a universal outcry. Didn't anyone see the $localCurrency -> Euro changes in the continent? Do you think the mobile phone companies keep all those plans around to amuse themselves?

  25. Graeme Ross
    Holmes

    It's (Big) Business - Stupid

    You have to remember what these companies exist for. It isn't to make it cheaper for us to run our homes - It is to make money, a lot of money, as much money as possible (preferably without anyone screaming, but if they do, so what)

    Historically a perceived shortage never ever hurt the suppliers (the price just went up, as did their profits), in fact it is when there is a surplus that the suppliers suffer.

    It is in the suppliers interest to frustrate any technology which looks as if it will make power generation cheap and plentiful. Wind power, tidal solar etc are ok in this perspective as the power will never be plentiful and it will never be cheap and they can claim "Look we (the power suppliers) are doing our utmost best to secure supply for you our customers"

    At the moment the power supply industry is just one huge cartel bleeding the consumer for what they can get.

  26. Alan Denman

    Calling it smart meter is massive exaggeration

    There are 4 digits on the dial that tell us what has been used.

    Replacing all of the current meters is financial madness considering account monitoring via the internet is here already,

    Fruitcake politicians are wanting to spend our billions yet again.

  27. Alan Brown Silver badge

    Standing charges

    Are making an increase in their penetration, not a decrease.

    Hint: if there's a "meter fee", it's a standing charge - and in my case it accounts for 1/2 the power bill (EDF)

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I just completed a survey on smart meters. The survey focused on what the new name of the smart meter tariff should be called, and how likely you would accept the smart meter and tariff under the following names:

    Tracker Tariff

    Clear Price Tariff

    Remind Me Tariff

    3 Rate Tariff

    Response Tariff

    Active Tariff

    Equilibrium Tariff

    I took screen shots of the survey, and here is the introductory text for the survey:

    "An energy supplier is looking at some new tariffs that will be available to customers with a smart meter. A smart meter is a new electricity meter that takes automatic readings of your energy usage and does not need to be read by a person. It sends the readings via a mobile communications link to your energy supplier. An electronic monitor (in-home display) shows you your current energy usage, how much you are spending, your current tariff price, historical data and can display messages from your energy company. All households in the UK will have a smart meter and in-home display installed, for free, over the coming years."

    Apparently we are all to get smart meters whether we like it or not, they are just going to take the long term view and install them gradually.

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