Along with food and water, reliable electricity supplies are rightly considered an essential of
modern life, even with the environmental issues regarding power generation.
Mains electrical energy may well be a must-have but it’s
certainly not free. And today’s switched-on consumers often face energy "bill
shock". Electricity may be hazardous but this has always been assumed to one’s
health rather than wealth!
The complete Cent-a-meter OWL system:
wireless data unit at left, sensor almost hidden at
rear and the sometimes confusing display unit at right.
In spite of improving appliance efficiency and better-insulated
homes, soaring electricity bills often are due to ignorance about just "Watt" in
their home is using the family "Joules".
Incidentally, the Joule is the unit of energy while Watt is the
unit of power. Watts and Joules are related: Energy = Power x time, so 1 Joule =
1 Watt x 1 second. By contrast, 1-kilowatt-hour "unit" on your electricity bill
is equivalent to 1kW for 1 hour = 1000W x 3600s = 3.6 megajoules (MJ).
Consumers’ attempts to ease electricity consumption, both
sensible (energy-efficient lamps and appliances) and half-baked (wrapping in
blankets/sitting around a candle/cold showers), may be futile if the true
culprit is a power-hogging beer fridge in the garage or the pool pump being on
for unduly long times.
Short of balancing on a chair while trying to read a dusty
switchboard meter, it’s not easy to relate high power consumption (arising
perhaps from an earlier cold spell) to accounts received weeks later. Behaviour
modification usually best occurs when associated with feedback at the time – you
don’t stop a dog chasing cars by scolding it weeks later!