A smart gadget too far by Angela Caldin
The atmosphere in our house is electric. It’s full of accusations, recriminations and suspicion. And all because of the introduction into our ménage of an allegedly money saving gadget which is meant to make life run more smoothly and happily.
A cuckoo in the nest
This dangerous and sinister interloper is called a Smart Meter and it comes with a twinkling Wi-Fi sidekick called a Smart Energy Tracker. I am a thrifty person by nature, always ready to embark on an economy drive in order to save a penny or two, so when our electricity provider (we don’t have any gas here) suggested fitting a smart meter with a tracker which would show how much energy we’re using and how much money we’re spending, I was more than keen to give it a go.
The tracker enables you to set a daily target for the household electrical expenditure. So far so good. But the tracker then sets a threshold with usage lights that glow different colours to let you know if you’re under target (green), on target (amber) or over (red). It soon became clear that if you turned on one electric hotplate, the usage light would glow ominously amber and if you turned on two, it glowed a bright, angry red. What to do? I became obsessed with saving electricity: I changed all the extension leads with little red lights for ones without, only to be told by a friend that the amount of electricity the little lights use is minuscule; I reduced the time the hot water was heated and I discovered that our mother and child uplighter used about 7p an hour so I put it on Freecycle straightaway and bought two new lamps with LED bulbs.
Worst of all, I took to prowling the house to see if my long-suffering spouse had anything switched on and, if he wasn’t looking, I switched it off. I made him creep up and downstairs in the dark, risking injury in my obsessive quest for thrift. When we had a cold snap a couple of weeks ago, while others were talking of putting on their heating to spend cosy evenings in the warm, I dispensed blankets and body warmers so that we sat shivering and were forced to go to bed early. From time to time, I’d shout up to him at his desk, ‘We’re running at 6p an hour, what are you doing?’ The saintly man would reply that he was using the printer. A likely story, I would think; probably switched on a blow-fire to warm his frozen toes.
Spare me the guilt trip
I’ve given the matter a great deal of thought and my conclusion is that the Smart Meter should be renamed the Guilt Meter. I don’t want to spend my days obsessively trying not to use electricity because it is so costly. I want the electricity producers and providers to focus on why electricity is so costly and to look for technical solutions for cheaper energy. I don’t want to feel guilty every time I make a cup of tea with the smallest amount of water possible. I would actually prefer to see the £11 billion which is being spent on installing smart meters nationwide to be used for research and development aimed at fixing energy supply.