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You should install smart meters even if they're dumb, says flack

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FAIL

> The UK’s controversial smart meter programme will only succeed in saving consumers cash if people are made aware of the benefits, says mouthpiece

They've been bleating about this for ages, but I've yet to actually see anyone mention what the benefits (to me) are. Letting me know that my house is consuming xWatts at time T is not a benefit - it's just another readout I can do very little about.

Remote meter reading is about the only thing that could credibly be touted as a benefit - but even that is a bit marginal seeing as my supplier will let me upload a photo of the meter as a reading - all through their "app" (all very trendy).

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Pointless

Completely agree I can't see any advantage to me at all in having one of these except possibly a time-related pricing scheme. Butt such a scheme is never going to save much (because the leccy company wouldn't want that) and who wants to have their washing machine rattling away in the middle of the night anyway? (yea ok - some people do).

As for all the rubbish about doing away with estimated bills, you can send meter reading in on-line now anyway (as previously mentioned).

I seriously question who (if anyone, including the leccy companies) will benefit from this?

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I want one, but only because our meters are in an awkward spot

I'd like to never have to dig about in the under-stairs cupboard to take a meter reading, but that's the only real benefit I can see.

In reality most people have limited scope for significantly reducing their electricity consumption unless they pointlessly leave everything turned on, and they clearly are not that bothered if they've not done the obvious.

We've changed all the bulbs we can for LEDs, don't leave kit on when it's not used, and so on. I can't really see what else we can do. It's not as if I can heat the oven more efficiently.

Even standby modes on modern kit is much better than it used to be.

The silly amounts spent on this project could have gone on the solar feed in tarriff for a few more years and had far more effect on our energy supply.

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But isn't the "fail" part there you, for failing to do anything about information given to you?

I have my little readout thing visible - not in my face, but it's on a shelf and I can glance at it. If the light is red and the little graph is cranked around to the right, then I have a look what's been left on and turn it off. I'm maybe saving a few quid a week doing that as normally it's the 3KW immersion heater, as the switch is in a cupboard. Kids turn it on for a bath, then forget. I can also see the difference between using the gas water heating for 2 hours per day, vs the immersion for 30 mins.

I'd be surprised if I don't save money by reacting to it in a timely manner rather than waiting for the bills to arrive, and looking at what my DD is for pervious years vs what I can see it using each day, it should be a decent three figure amount.

Ironically, I don't even agree about the remote meter reading - mainly because for six months after the meter was installed, we still got requests for a manual read. Apparently npower have to set this up manually. That was the only PITA bit of the installation.....

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Mushroom

Downvoted

for even suggesting that solar power UK-style would have any effect other than siphoning money into peoples pockets.

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FAIL

"readout thingy"

Pleased to hear you got one. We've had a smart meter for about 8 months and in spite of numerous chases, still haven't received something that tells us what the smart meter is doing. PP

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Anonymous Coward

I wanted a smart meter, so I could track my energy usage by time and shift things into the cheaper rates,They couldn't get a mobile signal so I was out of luck! I will be on a dumb meter until they fix mobile coverage!

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Remote meter reading is about the only thing that could credibly be touted as a benefit

The actual benefit and use case in the original white paper very carefully edited by all the usual energy suspects is turning off grannies' supply and freezing them without having a human involved. See, machine did it, we are had no clue it will do it.

There is _NO_ other benefit. If the benefit is "remote metering", then can we have a regulatory mandate the smart meters not to include a power cut-off function of any type (local or remote). Can we? Asking once... twice.. thrice... Nope, do not think so, suddenly there is a silence from the industry.

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> But isn't the "fail" part there you, for failing to do anything about information given to you?

Failing to? There's nothing that I can realistically do that will reduce my bill by any non-trivial amount:

a) all my lighting is LED, and I still switch it off when I leave the room (hopefully not contributing to deterioration of lifetime of the LEDs)

b) perhaps I can save a little turning off a few standby devices, but they're usually in the low numbers of W per hour anyway

c) the main users of it in my house is the heating and hot water, which is driven by a heatpump and is already rather efficient and timed, combined with uber-insulation there is not much I can do there apart from shivering when I turn the room thermostats down (all living rooms individually controlled)

d) I could conceivably turn off my wifi at night - but the only way to do that for me means my phones stop working. Arguable whether I need them, I suppose, but I don't think I'd use more than 1-2 kW in the whole night on those appliances.

e) will not turn off fridge-freezer! All other appliances are at least A** rated (except a naughty tumble drier, which is a B I think). Not going to use them any less, and running a night-time cycle is impractical and will keep me awake with the noise

Agreed, mileage may vary for different users with different appliances and usage patterns - I am in the fortunate position to have built my house recently, and it's very efficient overall. But I'd still contend that a "Smart meter" doesn't really tell you all that much that will help you save all that much money - particularly when compared to the cost of making and installing that smart meter.

Personally, I think the energy industry would be better served by offering a service to analyse your usage and suggest ways of improving your consumption/reducing waste - in theory what the EPC/SAP stuff could do but doesn't very well. For example, tweak your heating settings, which is probably what would give me the biggest benefit if I'd left them on the default.

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DJO
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Re: Pointless

I seriously question who (if anyone, including the leccy companies) will benefit from this?

The meter manufacturers and the fitting companies will do very well out of this thank you very much, as for domestic customers, not much.

Non-domestic industrial, public and commercial customers however have had these for a while and as long as the data is accurate and of high enough resolution (at least half hour reading) they really can make a big difference to high consumption users.

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> They've been bleating about this for ages

I had a call from Siemens (on behalf of my energy company) about this.. I vented slightly to the poor bloke at the other end of the phone (poor security, no benefit to me etc etc).

At the end of my rantette he said words to the effect of "so, when do you want it installed then?"

My reply was fairly short and to the point ("Never") which, I think, miffed him slightly. I wonder if he was on commission..

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Happy

It is to laugh.

"...my supplier will let me upload a photo of the meter as a reading..."

Hmm, I'd love to see my supplier do that. The piddling little box that they fitted when they found out that there was no possibility of fitting a smart meter (piss poor mobile coverage) means that you practically have to use a magnifying glass to see what the damned thing is reading.

I don't miss the "magic box" as I agree that I can see no benefit to me of the thing, just reduced costs for the supplier.

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I got a letter *telling* me there were coming to fit a smart meter!

I phoned them up, said I didn't want one - they asked why, I said that they weren't secure. He made a note and that was that.

However, if I hadn't already known they weren't compulsory there was nothing in the letter to indicate this - quite the opposite in fact - very shady.

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Re: It is to laugh.

>Hmm, I'd love to see my supplier do that.

Mine is EDF

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"Remote meter reading is about the only thing that could credibly be touted as a benefit - but even that is a bit marginal seeing as my supplier will let me upload a photo of the meter as a reading - all through their "app" (all very trendy)."

Mine doesn't do that - and if that's an app that runs on a phone, I'd probably be unwilling to install it anyway. However, I can upload meter readings through their website, and they usually send an email asking for one when the bill is about to be prepared.

I've just had a bill, and did indeed get that email as usual - but I decided not to upload readings because the meter was actually read by an actual real meter reading person about two weeks previously - so I figured an estimate for those final couple of weeks wouldn't be too far out.

And the electricity one wasn't. It shows the actual reading from the last bill, the actual reading by the actual real meter reading person, then a final estimated amount that was close to what my meter said when I checked it after receiving the bill.

The gas one, though, estimates that between the meter actually being read by the actual real meter reading person and the bill being prepared, I somehow pumped 2000 cubic feet back into the system.

WTF?

Needless to say, checking the actual reading suggests that, in fact, I used some more gas since the meter was read.

As it happens I'm a small amount in credit, and a back of envelope calculation suggests the amount roughly tallies with the actual gas used, so I've left it at that.

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Re: Benefits

You would have thought, with 3.5m of the things installed there would be plenty of hard evidence of the real savings being made. The fact that Rob Smith doesn't mention any is sufficient evidence to conclude there aren't savings to be had by consumers.

I seem to remember reading somewhere (El Reg?) that the energy consumption savings achieved todate through the smart meter rollout amount to 2%.

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Benefits?

Mainly to the suppliers, to be able to load shed more precisely.

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I had a power display from a clip on sensor to my incoming mains cable which British Gas sent me. It was interesting for a while to see what the difference was if I switched this off or that off but that novelty soon wore off. It could even tell me the cost of the electricity we'd used which again was nice for a while but the novelty didn't last. There's very little in the house that uses serious amounts of power that isn't contained in the kitchen/utility area and so easy to spot. I guess there's the hair drier but I think it's unlikely to leave that on as it's too noisy (no immersion heater as no water tank). We're on Economy 7 and do use the washing machine overnight so no savings there. I also don't have a problem with phoning in/sending in meter readings once a quarter (four times a year - is that really such a struggle for people?) and don't get estimated bills as a result.

If I did succumb to the dark side and get one of these meters I can't really see any benefit and only the downside of having one.

They're not Compulsory and for anyone who wants to double check that they're not see the following:

http://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/advice/do-i-have-to-accept-a-smart-meter

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201011/cmhansrd/cm111129/text/111129w0004.htm

Now personally I won't be taking one or two as (I mentioned above) I prefer giving my meter readings over the phone/web but the SmartEnergyGB website (https://www.smartenergygb.org/en/faqs) FAQ page has some wonderful insights/answers. For example

......What is a smart meter?

......Smart meters are the new generation of gas and electricity meters. They are being installed in homes across Great Britain at no extra cost, to replace the traditional meters, including prepay key meters, most of us currently have ticking away under the stairs, or outside our homes.

Now call me cynical if you like but won't the cost of the meter and installation just get added to the bill they send me? It might not be that obvious they probably won't add a Smart Meter charge to my bill. It will probably just be that all the tariffs come with slightly higher prices. I just can't see the energy firms just stumping up for this roll out out of their own pockets. Smart Meters cost £340-£400 each I believe.

So security:

.......How secure are smart meters?

.......The smart meter security system is very secure. Security has been at the heart of the whole smart meter rollout programme from its very inception and right through the design process. Smart meters have their own closed, dedicated communications system that employs technology widely used by, for example, the banking industry. Smart meters have been designed with top cyber security experts, including the government and GCHQ, to ensure that security best practice has been incorporated at every stage.

Well Thank goodness for GCHQ then because according to an article on the inquirer.net (I couldn't find it on El Reg) the original plans for the meters had one single decryption key for all the meters.

Now I may not be a top security boffin or even boffing a top security boffin but I do know that's not a really good idea. Apparently neither do GCHQ think it's big or clever as it was them who thankfully had things changed.

http://www.theinquirer.net/inquirer/news/2451793/gchq-intervenes-to-prevent-catastrophically-insecure-uk-smart-meter-plan

......What are the technical standards that smart meters have to meet?

......Smart meters are covered by strict UK and EU product safety laws. These ensure that smart meters all have the same high quality and safety standards, regardless of your energy supplier.

So everyone is clear now on the technical standards after reading that? So we move on to:

......What health and safety tests have been carried out on smart meters?

......The smart meters used in Britain have undergone one of the most rigorous safety testing regimes in the world and exceed every UK and EU safety standard. Public Health England, the government's agency on public health, has said that exposure to radio waves from smart meters is well within guideline levels, and is many times lower than the exposure from wifi and mobile phones.

So everyone is clear now on the exact health and safety tests after reading that? So we move on to:

......Does a smart meter mean my energy can be cut off more easily?

......No. You’re protected by strict regulations against your energy supplier switching off or disconnecting your gas or electricity supply. This protection remains as strong with smart meters as it is with traditional meters.

So from that can I deduce that there won't be a provision in the meter to cut off the supply remotely? Well no I can't because it doesn't mention anything (technical or otherwise) about the ability of the people I pay for my energy (or some nefarious player) to remotely disconnect my supply.

This has cock up written all over it and I won't be having it in my house thank you.

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Engineers say no

Reading the comments, which being from a sample of Reg readers, will be by and large of an engineering bent & discipline, they are almost universally negative. Being 'little people' govt won't listen to us unless we became a big, organised angry but articulate mob, which won't happen. So we rely on engineers who have a track record of being listened to by govt to articulate our negative views. What? You mean to say there aren't any? The only ones who get listened to have been captured by the system? Quelle surprise!

I guess the classic example is David Nutt - tell us what we want to hear or you're toast. So unfortunately all the venting here & elsewhere will have precisely no effect. All we can do is to insulate ourselves personally from this madness & hope we can avoid the worst effects. I've had a diesel gen set for a *long* time. It was bought during an era of flaky countryside 11kV distribution but I've kept it for future flakiness further up the chain:(

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Downvoted

Probably the same numpty who downvoted a post from yesterday that suggested the PV arrays should be made compulsory for all new build houses.

I'd really like to know their reasons why this is a bad idea. With new builds, the exta cost would be less than 2% on the sale price. Possibly even less. Over the lifetime of a mortgage it is pennies a month.

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Re: Downvoted

Of course it is a bad idea to make it compulsory. Location plays a big factor in whether solar is feasible/useful for any particular house, as well as the design and orientation of the roof. Personally I think it is likely to be of marginal benefit in most UK locations (especially taking into account ongoing costs such as maintenance, cleaning, etc).

If you had said "make it compulsory to do an assessment for PV", that would be fine. It wouldn't be sensible to make it compulsory to actually install even if we were living in California!

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Re: Downvoted pv panels

Yes, you can get them cheap, but the feed in tariff doesn't seem economic any more.

http://info.cat.org.uk/solarcalculator/

The couple of times I've put info in here I get a payback time of longer than the expected lifespan of the array. What a waste of money

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it's the 3KW immersion heater, as the switch is in a cupboard. Kids turn it on for a bath, then forget.

So fit a 30-minute push button timer. Cheaper than a smart meter and much more effective since it saves you the trouble of even having to look at it and react.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Downvoted pv panels

Yes, a waste of money in your case, you are unfortunate and frankly, too late.

Assuming you have fair to good location, the gravy train pulled out at the beginning of the year. Its only southern UK south facing unshaded locations have any likelihood of generating a fair return now.

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Re: Downvoted pv panels

> the gravy train pulled out at the beginning of the year

it was at least two years ago when the FIT dropped from lucrative to marginal

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Failing to? There's nothing that I can realistically do that will reduce my bill by any non-trivial amount...

c) the main users of it in my house is the heating and hot water, which is driven by a heatpump and is already rather efficient and timed...

I think this shows a lack of imagination and of familiarity than anything else. When I first moved in with my now wife in a tower block we cut our leccy bills by 20% doing nothing more than changing the heating to run 5:30-6:00 instead of 6:00-6:30 every morning. That was nothing more than old fashioned Economy 7. When widely roles out and differential pricing is widely adopted the possibilities escalate. So you don't want your washing machine running in the middle of the night? What about at lunchtime when you are not at home and electricity is dirt cheap thanks to low demand and high production thanks to all those solar panels?

The opportunities are there when the entire system - meters, network, tariffs and appliances - is in place to support it. Focussing simply on the meter by itself is missing the point.

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Anonymous Coward

Are your WiFi devices built using old valve tech? (if they are, send me the circuit diagram, KTHX!)

Holy crap! Your WiFi uses 1 - 2 kW of electricity in 1 night?

That's..... let me get this right unless I've lost the plot.

Your WiFi devices use between 1000 (ONE THOUSAND) to 2000 (TWO THOUSAND) WATTS of electricity in 1 (ONE) night??

Even a 100W incandescent light bulb would only just chew through 1kW if you left it running on all night!

(Hours of use may vary, but average hours of darkness at this time of year is between 8PM and 6AM)

Shurely Shome Mishtake?

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Re: Downvoted pv panels

"(especially taking into account ongoing costs such as maintenance, cleaning, etc)."

They don't need regular maintenance or cleaning or "etc", whatever that might be. I've had solar PV for 5 years now with no cleaning or maintenance whatsoever, no noticeable drop-off in performance, and my non ideally-situated 2.75kWp installation has generated more than 12MWh. From what I read, the capacitors in the inverter might die eventually, but so far so good.

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Re: Are your WiFi devices built using old valve tech?

Shurely the worse mistake is not to know the difference between power (kW) and energy (kWh).

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Pointless

A truly 'smart' meter, acting in the consumer's interest, would be one that monitors all their changing tariffs and automatically switches supplier to the best deal every few minutes.

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Devil

The benefit:

Is to be able to be remotely switched off. When the electricity company feels like it. Ostensibly so that they can make their renewable plans work without needing to buy any expensive (and inefficient) energy storage devices like Electric Mountain, or (heaven forbid) actual baseload generation capacity (ie their job). Also it comes in very handy when you haven't paid your bill on time.

When the majority of people have "smart" meters then they can implement this plan, and give cheaper tariffs (read: a massive price hike for nearly everybody) to people who don't mind being switched off every now and then (i.e. in the middle of EastEnders, or when the sun goes behind a cloud). If you moan about being switched off then well you should have paid extra, and you shouldn't be watching that drivel anyway, or you should be streaming it on your ipad on 3G.

So in summary, WHAT exactly are YOU doing that needs such a reliable and therefore WASTEFUL energy supply? Washing your clothes you say? Only rich people wash their clothes - you can afford to pay the premium. Perhaps you'd like to buy an energy efficient kettle?

It really is a sorry state of affairs, privatised electricity generation in the UK. We should've stuck with the Ministry of Power, and invested in research into newer, cleaner, cheaper nuclear power, rather than cancelling all the programmes and building privately run coal and gas plants.

Meanwhile we have regulated the pants off of nuclear, making it ridiculously expensive and making everyone scared of it (meanwhile more radioactivity is pumped out by coal plants than nuclear, never mind all the rest of the shite that fossil fuels dump into the air, and vastly more people are killed by wind farms, despite the tiny fraction of energy generation that they currently provide!)

The only people who benefit (aside from the energy companies as above) are the likes of Siemens who make the infernal things, and charge a fortune and make a fortune, knowing that they are subsidised by both the bill-payer and the tax-payer, i.e. you and me and me and you!

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Re: Are your WiFi devices built using old valve tech? (if they are, send he circuit diagram, KTHX!)

Just not bothered to try and accurately add it up. 2 wifi ap's, 1 femto cell, 2 dependent switches, 3 dect phones, 1 nas. All on low numbers of watts over the night, so I just rolled that up and rounded gratuitously and probably didn't state units well. Even if I used 1kWh in the entire night for all that, that's 15p

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Re: I want one, but only because our meters are in an awkward spot

I used to be able to read the meter under the stairs by opening the door, bending slightly, and peering in. Now I have to get down on my knees, shuffle up to the meter and press a button 4 times.

Aparently this is progress.

Installing meters under the stairs, in the centre of properties in marginal mobile reception areas is to coin a phrase, an omnishambles.

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If the meters were really smart, they would provide all the real time info without requiring the backhaul connection.

I therefore conclude that the meters are simply dumb units capable of remote interrogation (backhaul connection permitting), with all the smartness residing in a data centre somewhere.

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"I'm maybe saving a few quid a week doing that as normally it's the 3KW immersion heater, as the switch is in a cupboard. Kids turn it on for a bath, then forget."

You'd save a shitload more by dumping it and installing an on-demand heater.

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Re: Downvoted

> I'd really like to know their reasons why this is a bad idea.

Because when you take away the subsidies (which are paid by other consumers), they don't generate enough in their lifespan to pay for their purchase and installation cost.

And when they're ubiquitous, those subsidies WILL get taken away.

> With new builds, the exta cost would be less than 2% on the sale price.

So you're saying I should pay extra money (which will never be earned back in the lifetime of the installation) because you think it's a good idea, rather than looking at the actual economics?

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Re: I want one, but only because our meters are in an awkward spot

"Installing meters under the stairs, in the centre of properties in marginal mobile reception areas is to coin a phrase, an omnishambles."

Installing a remote display, outside, where the meter reader doesn't even need to knock, is more sensible.

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Boffin

I have a look what's been left on and turn it off. I'm maybe saving a few quid a week doing that as normally it's the 3KW immersion heater, as the switch is in a cupboard

  • You have gas heating. Use it, it's cheaper, and probably quicker at heating the water too
  • Immersions have thermostats. Make sure yours is set correctly and when the cylinder is up to temperature it will turn itself off, just coming on now and then to make up for losses. If your immersion doesn't have its own 'stat, one can probably be added, or a new immersion with a thermostat is hardly expensive
  • Make sure the cylinder is lagged properly to reduce the standing losses
  • Fit a boost switch instead of a simple switch. If you need to use the immersion, this will turn it off automatically after a set time

I'd pretty much guarantee that the above will save more money more easily than the offchance that you spot the thing is on when it shouldn't be from a little display on the mantlepiece

M.

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Boffin

a) all my lighting is LED, and I still switch it off when I leave the room (hopefully not contributing to deterioration of lifetime of the LEDs)

It's not the LEDs you have to worry about - it's the power supplies crammed into tiny spaces. We have hundreds of the things at work and it's almost guaranteed that the PSU will give out way before the LED itself, and it's pot luck whether any particular lamp lasts longer left on, or turned off when not needed.

I don't think I'd use more than 1-2 kW in the whole night on [WiFi]

Assuming an access point rated at 25W, if you switch it off between (say) midnight and 8am you will save 8*25W = 200Wh (0.2kWh) of electricity, i.e. two tenths of a "unit". If you pay 15p per unit, that's a total saving of 3p per night. In reality 25W is likely to be a maximum; in-use average will be lower, and overnight when it's quiet average consumption may be a half that. YMMV of course.

M.

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Re: The benefit:

Is to be able to be remotely switched off.

"Switched off" being a euphemism for executed I presume. The Git recalls The Big Freeze of 1962-3 and pensioners and the poor dying from the cold because they couldn't afford fuel to stay warm.

Fuel poverty campaigners reckon the number of excess winter deaths surged last winter to 49,260, of which around 14,780 were due to people living in cold homes.

Story Here

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Re: Downvoted pv panels

They don't need regular maintenance or cleaning or "etc", whatever that might be.

Not much in the way of bird life where you live then? Or are they just scared shitless? From the Australian Business Council for Sustainable Energy maintenance manual:

The most common maintenance task for solar modules is the cleaning of the glass area of the module

to remove excessive dirt.

....

when working on roofs there is always the risk of falling. NEVER climb onto a roof to perform any service on the solar modules (eg. clean them) unless there is a barrier (eg. scaffolding) to prevent you from falling

I can understand you not wanting to climb on the roof, or spend on renting scaff, but not needing to I find a little difficult to believe.

Apropos the inverter, it should be good for 15 years, about 10 years less than the panels, but if one of your panels fails, don't think you can mix and match panels. A replacement panel in 10 years' time will likely need its own inverter.

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Re: Downvoted pv panels

it was at least two years ago when the FIT dropped from lucrative to marginal

And there's further to go yet. Spain Approves 'Sun Tax,' Discriminates Against Solar PV

President Obama has frequently told us that Spain should be a model for America in green technology and presumably the ROTW.

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@chris 125

We have gas for heating because it's vastly cheaper than using electric.

If your kids are turning on the immersion then just use your boiler programmer to ensure the tank is hot before they need it and take the fuse out of the immersion heater so it can't be used. Maybe just have your HW on constant throughout the day? The boiler will heat the tank faster than the immersion and be vastly cheaper.

It looks like your failing to utilise the correct water heating technology to minimise your bills, smart meter or not. If you believe your boiler uses more fuel to heat your water than your immersion then there is something seriously wrong with your setup that you need to get checked out.

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Interestingly, for telling how much energy it takes to cook an egg or whatever, I gained a lot of experience in that skill at university simply using a prepayment meter. It was 3p for an egg btw. Low energy lightbulbs were my best investment ever.

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Low energy lightbulbs were my best investment ever.

They have been my worst. CFLs have cost me an order of magnitude more. Haven't had one last longer than about 9 months. LED replacements for my QH downlights over my kitchen workbench were nowhere near bright enough and one of them died after less than a month. My last ordinary incandescent is now at least 13 years old. It lights up the entry to the house automatically when SWMBO arrives home from work in the winter months.

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WTF?

" the main users of it in my house is the heating and hot water,"

Indeed.

As "Alternative energy without the hot air" pointed out solar water heating is one of the few things that always help in the UK, because it takes a lot of energy to heat water and solar water heating panels usually trap enough sunlight (and are insulated enough) to give some benefit.

BTW wasn't this an EU thing?

Brexit --> No mandatory smart meter installation ?

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Low energy lightbulbs were my best investment ever.

They have been my worst. CFLs have cost me an order of magnitude more. Haven't had one last longer than about 9 months

I have had a few fail early, but the majority of CFLs I've had have lasted at least as long as the incandescents they replaced. I know this because I write on the lamp the date of installation. One lamp used in the hall (so was on quite a lot) survived three house moves and about 15 years of use, if I remember correctly.

Let's not get into the argument about illunimation "quality" or speed of startup.

CFLs are quite cheap now, even the "good" brands. Don't buy Asda or B&Q own-brand (B&Q don't sell anything except own-brand these days) - pop over to TLC or even Screwfix and buy a Sylvania or Philips or Osram.

LEDs I'm a bit more ambivalent about. They are maturing at an incredible pace, but they still have a little way to go. For example, I recently needed to replace an R63 lamp (reflector) at my mum's - the original was 60W and there's a 45W Halogen available that is acceptable (it's a similar brightness and colour) but has a lifespan of under 2,000 hours (by experience). The LED equivalents I found were all about 5W and noticeably dimmer than the lamp to be replaced. Experience at work is also that they don't last as long as it says on the packet, but mainly due to their power supplies failing rather than the LEDs themselves burning out. Oh, and LEDs also reduce in brightness over their lifespan.

To get the most out of low-energy lighting, you really need to start from scratch and design the lighting installation with the foibles of the new technologies in mind. Unfortunately this isn't always practical, as in the case of mum's R63.

That said, I have an old DIY book from the 1920s (IIRC) and in the part where it is discussing the installation of electric lighting it states that a 25W standard or table lamp would be perfectly adequate as a reading lamp. By modern standards, and considering that incandescents were even less efficient back then than they are now, that's a pretty dim reading lamp!

M.

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Some important fire safety advice

I wouldn't normally take the role of fire warden, but... never leave your washing machine or tumble dryer running unattended or running overnight. They are one of the leading causes of domestic fires.

I fear that any potential savings from smart meters could be easily offset by a significant increase in fires caused by people setting appliances to run when they are not in the house - or worse - when they are asleep.

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Always buy quality LEDs, not the junk you get from supermarkets or DIY stores (including the pretty 'orrible Phillips devices). Buying the junk and getting a bad experience is what puts most people off LEDs as they believe that they are (relatively) expensive but very dim whereas the reality of decent LEDs is that they are still relatively expensive, but can be far brighter than the "equivalent" incandescent (mainly halogen these days) or CFL units. The halogens tend to blow within a short period of time and the CFLs cannot be dimmed (good LEDs can, but need good dimmers and careful planning) and the CFLs tend to be slow to start and pretty random colours.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: The benefit:

I'm with you apart from wind farms killing a lot of people (relatively to fossil fuels?). What have I missed?

Thanks in advance.

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