Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Where Cheap Electricity Monitors Fail

There is almost a plague of cheap electricity monitors out there on the internet these days. When we first started researching for reliable accurate electricity monitoring solutions, back in 2009 it was a completely different story.

The concept behind monitoring electricity is to create an awareness of what is going on with electricity usage and costs. Minimum requirements for successful electricity monitoring are therefore,

  • Accurate data
  • Varied methods of data output
  • Easy delivery of data to the user
  • 24/7 data updates
  • Data analysis

Additional requirements are not limited to,

  • Multiple circuits support by cable clamp or plug-in transmitters
  • Easy to see 'at a glance' a large LCD screen full of important data
  • PC, online or mobile app data analysis and power alerts
  • Reliable and robust hardware
  • Manufacturer / distributor support

Two of the biggest failures with cheap electricity monitors, are the hardware design and reliability. Add to this the flexibility of being able to support the needs of the end user. Simply put, some of the cheap electricity monitors only meet a very limited number of the user's needs.

The hardware chosen needs to be reliable, easy to install, robust, proven, well supported by documentation and supported by any customer service that gets an issue fixed fast.

So let us look at some of the reasons, why cheap electricity monitors are not worth the gamble.

This list is compiled from our research and that of our electricity monitoring clients, whom have in some cases been duped by these inferior energy monitors.

  • No mains power option for the monitor, meaning a total reliance on AA / AAA batteries
  • Battery life is very short, with no alert to any 'battery low on life' issue
  • Leaking batteries when not changed quickly, resulted in end of life, for the monitor
  • Difficult to understand documentation
  • Unreliable pairing of the transmitter to the electricity monitor
  • Range of transmission poor, due to lack of frequency strength
  • Inferior electronic components
  • Pairing and transmission of data, easily affected by electronic interference in the home
  • Portability issues due to a lack of mains power, meaning the monitor is easily mislaid or damaged in the home
  • No fixed place in the home for easy proven 'at a glance' monitoring, where everyone can see the monitoring data and act if so
  • Flimsy easy to break cable clamps, with inferior plugs and sockets
  • Cable clamps that only support a small power rating, before the range of error increases
  • Transmitter to monitor transmit frequencies to long, meaning data is inaccurate
  • Certain features not relevant for Mr. Average, such as total current
  • One appliance / circuit ONLY supported, meaning home total electricity only
  • No USB connection for PC data analysis
  • Software application of poor quality, with cable driver issues
  • No option to get the data online
  • Limited online portals, with monthly costs

What we are finding is this list of issues with cheap electricity monitors, is still increasing from our own research and that of our monitoring clients, whom were duped by these cheaper alternatives.

A lot of these issue could be simply fixed you would think by good Q & A.

Three classics failures that come to mind are,

  • Cheap Electricity Monitor #1 supported alkaline batteries or mains power via an adaptor. Problem being the electronics charged the batteries which resulted in battery leakage [on a varnished table] and the risk of fire, due to the heat of the batteries. The manufacturer was very happy indeed to hear of that failure. It seems though little was done with the design and there was a lack of product recall.
  • Cheap Electricity Monitor #2 used a flip out stand to sit on the desk for easy visuals. When connected to a PC for analysis, the monitor could not be supported by the stand due to the USB being sited at the base. Problem being bad design / position of USB port.
  • Cheap Electricity Monitor #3 could have the transmission frequency from the transmitter to the monitor set from 6 seconds to around 5 minutes! The 6 second frequency which is quite a standard these days, resulted in the transmitter's batteries failing in a month. And at 5 minutes the data at the end of the exercise would be useless.

At the end of the day, you simply get what you pay for when it comes to any successful ELECTRICITY MONITORING SOLUTION.  

This blog post brought to you by Aussie Home Energy, a major player in the HOME ELECTRICITY SAVING SERVICES industry in Australia.

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