Page last updated at 13:34 GMT, Monday, 11 May 2009 14:34 UK

Putting smart meters to the test

Smart meter
The smart meter should mean the end for the estimated bill

The UK government wants to see electricity and gas "smart meters" installed in every home in the country by the end of 2020.

The meters allow householders to see exactly how much power they are using in their properties.

They also enable energy companies to remotely record usage, which should mean an end to estimated bills and people visiting to read the meter.

In February 2008, Alyth, in Perthshire, became the first town in Scotland to see the meters installed in homes.

'Like a toy'

Kenneth Moyes and his family were the first to try out the devices.

He said: "We were already quite good, we had changed all our light bulbs and we didn't leave anything on standby but it does make you sit down and look at the way you live your life and things like not filling your kettle too full.

"We actually stopped using our electric kettle and started using stove top kettles, so we'd keep it warm on our wood-burn stove and bring it up to the boil on the cooker when we needed to."

The Moyes also no longer use a tumble drier. Instead they installed a pulley system to dry their clothes.

Mr Moyes admits he became carried away with monitoring the device at first.

"It did cause a bit of friction between me and my wife to start with," he said.

"I would constantly go around turning things off that she had just turned on, but that was just an initial thing and we gradually got used to using it."

At the start we did start watching it to see if there was something that we could save on but then we forgot all about it
Evelyn Milne
Smart meter user

The meters were installed in Alyth as part of a project to cut energy use in the town by 10% over two years.

Finella Smith, 70, has had her meter for under a year and has seen benefits.

She said: "Especially to start with, you switched something on or off and then you went and had a look and you thought, 'Oh for goodness sake, look at the amount of electricity that uses'.

"It's like a toy to start with but then it made you conscious of going in and out of rooms leaving lights on, leaving the radio on when you weren't actually listening to it, that kind of thing.

"Central heating as well, I think I probably keep it down a bit lower than I would've done normally.

"At night it's become a habit that when you need to go to bed you press a button and it tells you how much electricity you've used that day compared with how much you used yesterday."

However, Evelyn Milne, 62, was not too impressed with her meter. She had a problem with receiving bills and believes it was connected to the installation of the device.

Mrs Milne felt the novelty soon wore off for her and her neighbours.

"At the start we did start watching it to see if there was something that we could save on but then we forgot all about it," she said.

"Some people I've spoken to said after a while that it's standing in the kitchen and it didn't look very nice, so they said it's in the cupboard now."

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