Track Your Electricity Usage With An OWL

We’ve just taken an unexpected delivery of an OWL Wireless Energy Monitor, provided for free courtesy of those fine (but possibly over-charging) folks at British Gas.

This little tool might just be what I’ve been looking for to provide the instant feedback on power use throughout the home.

As I’ve mentioned in the past, one of the problems with getting people to try and save money on their gas and electricity is the lack of instant feedback on the amount of money to be saved by doing the little things, like switching your TV off standby or only boiling as much water as you need in the kettle. By the time you’ve waited a couple of months until the bill drops through your door you’ve lost the link between your actions and the cost.

But the OWL energy monitor tells you straight away how much your electricity is costing you, as well as the amount of energy you’re actually using, and for those looking to live more “greenly” how much green house gases you’re producing.

The setup is reasonably easy – you will need access to the electricity wires coming in to your fuse box – don’t worry, you’re not going to be connecting to exposed live wires, merely clipping the monitor’s sensor over the insulated wire. The sensor then plugs into a transmitter. The receiver, which displays all of the information, can then be positioned somewhere you can keep an eye on the figures. 

To get a truely accurate idea of costs, you’ll need to enter the correct tarrifs – this can be a little tricky if you get various prices of electricity throughout the day. This is something I will have to do when I dig out our most recent gas bill, but for the moment I’m content just to see how the amount of energy varies depending on what we have switched on, and I’ll worry about getting a more accurate cost for the electricity at a later date.

I’ve only had it installed for an hour or so, so it will take a couple of days for me to get anything useful out of it, but already it’s made it easy to see the real electricity eaters within the house – our microwave sent the meter up to 4x the electricity used compared when we  had  just a few lights and the TV on. The oven was similar to the microwave, and once I’ve finished this post we’ll see how the kettle fares!

The OWL has been provided by British Gas I suspect as part of some Government scheme to get us all to cut our energy consumption, and I think in these money-conscious times I think it’s a great thing to have if you’ve got no idea what electricity costs. I also think that this sort of information will become esential for every homeowner in the future. 

The next step would be to get the information onto your PC and online to provide even greater analysis (I wonder if there’s any way of hacking the receiver and plugging it into my PC?). That will no doubt be available in future versions of the OWL, but for the moment I’m just happy that I can now prove to the missus that she needs to remember to switch the TV off standby when she leaves the house in the morning.

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One thought on “Track Your Electricity Usage With An OWL

  1. Hey, thanks for the article. I also own and OWL and I am about to start work on a computer interface for the device (I have just graduated as an electronic engineer and this will be one of my first summer projects). Not sure about feasibility yet… but I will let you know how it goes.

    Sam

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