Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Reading the meter

Performance management in the living room

I get very strange mail these days. I used to know where I was with what is less than affectionately known as “junk mail”. Companies wrote to you so that you could buy more of their product or service. Depending on what it was, I either did or didn’t, then I threw the thing in the bin.

These days, that’s all changed. I get mailings from my electricity company imploring me to use less electricity. They gave me a free counter to tell me how much electricity I’m burning up – the idea being that when I can see how much it costs to have the heaters on I’ll be less inclined to. It works. I’m using less electricity. They sounded less than thrilled when I phoned them with the news, which is confusing, but I think I’ve saved a few quid off the ‘leccy bill.

Of course the other thing that’s changed is that I’m not allowed to throw the junk mail in the bin. I have to recycle it. I’ve not heard the term “recyclable mail” but I’m sure it will catch on in time ….

So all of this got me thinking – put an energy counter in my living room and I start to behave differently. I look at my counter when the washing machine goes on. I have a quick peek as the iron heats up. I stare at the thing in total puzzlement when I think I have turned everything off but I’m still using enough electricity to power half of Bangalore. I’m quietly smug when it tells me that my current usage is equivalent to 31p a day, and on the war path when it tells me the next bill will be more than the mortgage. In short, I’m a changed woman.

This is a long way round of pointing out that this little device has made me both aware of the energy I’m using, and it has altered my behaviour. I’m no longer tolerant of absent-mindedness when it comes to turning out lights - sort of scary as it means I am turning into my father.

It’s an effective little device that is saving me money, and reducing the need to generate unnecessary electricity across the country. In fact, it’s a real life performance management device for the home, where performance = saving money. And a great demonstration of how simply being aware of the numbers improves performance. It works in the home, and it works in business.

It also made me wonder how much more electricity or gas we could save if we had smart meters. Meters located in the home, rather than some cold inaccessible place, that told us how much we are spending.


  1. Which energy company are you with, that gives out these things?

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