Monday, 23 April 2012

The Owl Has Landed


Not content with being the sort of Scottish Dad who says “put a jumper on” when Wife-features reaches for the thermostat and who mutters “it’s like Blackpool illuminations in here” when an empty room or hall is discovered bathed in light, I have installed an Owl.

It’s a simple gizmo that shows how much power your house is consuming. You attach a logger to the electricity meter (almost certainly in a place where you’re never likely to see the numbers going round) and can view the results on a device like a digital clock you can sit somewhere prominent like the mantelpiece or next to the telly. I hinted at one for Christmas and the missus duly delivered. I’ve only just got round to installing it and already I’m slightly obsessed.

To begin with I ran round the house turning things on and then off to see what difference they made to the Owl monitor’s readings. You can have it display whatever format you prefer so I’ve punched in our main tariff so it shows how many pence per hour we’re guzzling. Or not guzzling as it turns out.

The other morning I ended up stripping the Owl down, piecing it back together and scratching my head. Zero? Really? We can’t be consuming nothing I thought. But then it dawned on me – and it was dawn so my brain was a bit fuzzy – it was accurate. The radio in the kitchen uses batteries. Breakfast was cereal and orange juice so no toaster and kettle required.

Of course all that changed sharply when Wife-features jumped in the shower and I made a pot of coffee. (In the kitchen, not the shower. I'm not that water efficient.) Just boiling the kettle wheechs the monitor up to 61p per hour compared to about 1p for a lightbulb and 4p for the computer. It’s fascinating to see how the power varies during the washing machine cycle. That final spin it does really sucks the juice.

We recently got a new router (seems to be called a hub these days) for our broadband after a series of problems. It turns out I’m a doofus for not leaving our internet connection constantly switched on. I insisted that I’d rather not do this as it would consume unnecessary power. But the BT boffin assured me it would consume next to nothing. And indeed the Owl confirms that.

Without a doubt the big cost in our house is gas rather than electricity, especially over the winter. (And for the record, Daily Mail-reading Panorama-watching NIMBY climate denier nitwits, the rising cost of gas is due to the, er, rising cost of gas and nothing to do with incentives for renewables.) I wonder if you can get an Owl for the boiler?

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