One small swap that lowered my carbon footprint, reduced my energy use and saved my family money
Back in 2017 I switched my energy company over to a then new player in the market, Octopus Energy. They offered me great value for money on my energy usage, highly rated customer service (now the only company to be recommended by Which), a renewable energy tariff and a smart meter.
I had seen lots about smart meters in the press and was keen to give one a try. I wanted to know how much energy I was using on a real time basis. And I was keen to get in control of one of my biggest monthly bills. Until this point my energy bills were a complete guess. The old analogue meters would only show correct bills when meter readings were taken and recorded, something I rarely did!
My smart meter was installed soon after switching over to Octopus and I have made full use of it. From that point onwards my energy bills were always correct and reflected actual usage. I still paid the same direct debit amount each month to cover the high usage during the colder months and lower usage during the warmer months, but the difference was I always knew that my account balance was correct at that point of time.
The main benefit of a smart meter is that it gives you the information you need to make changes. And a change in your behaviour can have a big impact on energy usage, carbon footprint and consequently the money you spend on energy.
Here are the benefits I have found having a smart meter.
It made me more conscious of energy wastage in my home
I always knew that leaving electronics on would increase my bills, but before I had my smart meter installed I never realised exactly how much energy we were still wasting, and what that was costing us; little things like filling my kettle up with more water than was needed or leaving a light on were having a pretty big impact on my energy use without me even realising it.
Once I realised how much energy was just being thrown away throughout my house, I was really motivated to try and cut it down to a minimum and it was great that I could see how my efforts were paying off. Now I make sure that I do all the little things, like turning switches off at the wall and it’s really helped me improve the efficiency of my house. If everyone got a smart meter and found it as inspiring as I did, I think we would be able to lower the nation’s energy use by a pretty significant proportion.
It has changed my behaviour in the home of which I appliances I use the most
I did an experiment for a week where I measured the energy usage of all the main appliances. I looked at the cost per hour of things like using the tumble dryer compared to hanging clothes to dry on washing line or airer. Next was the cost of heating the house up to 21 degrees for an hour versus heating the house to 20 degrees or not even switching the heating on.
I looked at the cost of using the microwave compared to the hob. And compared the cost of the using the oven compared to the slow cooker. I even looked at the cost of using a hair dryer compared to letting my hair dry naturally.
Its so surprising to see how much all these things actually cost when compared to a cheaper alternative. And it made me change my behaviour. I rarely use the tumble dryer; I will often use the slow cooker for dinner and always leave my hair to dry naturally. And yes, I wrap up warm in layers and a blanket for those working at home days to ensure I don’t put the heating on.
It encouraged my kids think about their energy usage
I gamified my smart meter as a way of teaching and encouraging my kids to use less energy, and found it worked well. I challenged each of my sons to be in charge of our energy usage for a week, and whomever got our usage to the lowest amount got that sum of money to keep.
My middle son ended up winning but I think the activity has helped to make them all think about their energy use a lot more. Although they are very aware of climate change, it can be hard to link the environment to leaving the TV on but now that they physically see what it is costing they are a lot more diligent at turning things off, and that’s really helping to make energy saving a family effort. They also help keep me in line and I think we’re a lot greener as a result.
It has made us as a family think more about the environment.
Getting the smart meter and reducing our energy usage was just the start of the environmental changes we have made as a family in recent years. We have made efforts to increase our recycling and reduce our purchase of plastic. We took part in plastic free July and managed (mostly) a month without plastic.
I made a big investment in 2018 and changed my diesel guzzling S-Max over to a hybrid Toyota. The reduction in fuel use is huge, as well the saving in fuel cost. As a family we have made a huge effort to buy less clothes, not buying fast fashion and wearing second-hand clothes passed down from friends or from brother to brother.
We have saved money
The change is our behaviour as a whole family has no doubt saved us money on our energy bills. I recently compared a day of heating on during the day to heating off during the day in January. The heating on day cost £3.50 and the day without the heating on cost £2.50. If we did this every day this is a saving of £30 a month!
The small changes we have made, including switching off plugs at the wall, switching off lights, using less heating, not using a hair dryer or straighteners have made a significant difference to our energy bills.
I have shared my knowledge and savings with friends who have had smart meters installed
I have shared my learnings and savings with my friends and readers of Mrs Mummypenny. This in turn has resulted in them having a smart meter installed and being better informed about their energy usage. If we could all have smart meters installed just imagine the impact on reducing energy wastage, saving everyone money and helping to reduce carbon footprint.
It’s a win win to save money and reduce energy usage for us as individuals and the planet.
This is a collaborative post with Smart Energy GB, who are behind the campaign for a smarter Britain. You can find out more about smart meters here. Or call your energy company to arrange to get one fitted.