How To Measure Your Power Consumption

Businesses lose money every day to energy vampires. Half your electricity bill may go toward the cost of powering your workplace outside of normal business hours with nobody there. Forty-two percent of energy powering office equipment and information technology is wasted.

All around your workplace, any machine plugged into an outlet — on, off, and on standby alike — is a potential vampire, invisibly sucking energy with very visible cost consequences.

You find trails to weak spots in your business, such as poor employee performance or inefficient work flows, by reviewing your books. However, identifying the weakest links impacting your energy costs is more difficult.

First you have to measure your power consumption to get baseline readings to know where, when, and how to deal with the leakages. Access to information about power consumption through energy monitoring can result in cutting energy bills by up to 15%.

Monitor your energy using a smart meter. Smart meters clip onto or wrap around the power cable running into your conventional meter. They display real-time digital readings of measurements such as kilowatts (kW) and kilowatts per hour (kWh) of electricity and the correlating monetary cost depending on the tariff rates that you input (you can find these rates on your bill or through your provider).

Some smart meters can connect to your computer or the web, where you can store and view data. Some also measure your carbon footprint.

Smart meters are often portable and light, designed for the home and small offices. Monitors like AlertMe, OWL Intuition, and Current Cost products offer smartphone apps which allow mobile readings and remote control of appliances. Smart meters can be basic, or very data-rich, like the Efergy, or the Current Cost EnviR, which can forecast consumption and costs while storing data up to eight years.

The Wattson is probably the most stylish, colorful energy meter for the décor-minded. Check out this useful comparison chart and FrequencyCast for some helpful information and reviews of smart meters on the market.

Businesses in larger offices may have to ask their energy supplier about energy monitoring or turn to meters that plug into power sockets, measuring individual devices. Plug-in monitors, also known as socket monitors, measure the energy consumption of a single appliance, typically showing measurements such as voltage (V), amps (A), watts (W), volt-amps (VA), hertz (Hz), and power factor (PF).

The Department of Energy & Climate Change and Farm Energy Centre provide handy glossaries to electrical and energy terms. Two popular plug-in models are the Belkin Conserve Insight and Energenie Plug-in Power Meter.

It’s fun to watch real-time readings of power consumption, experiencing the invisible made visible. What differences do water boiling in the kettle, putting your laptop on standby, or keeping your printer unplugged make? Just keep in mind that baseline measurements take some time to account for all the variations and patterns of power consumption to work themselves out.

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Matthew Stibbe is writer-in-chief at Articulate Marketing. He is also an avid blogger, closet geek and HP fanatic.