Page last updated at 11:17 GMT, Thursday, 2 October 2008 12:17 UK

Meter 'shows cost of watching TV'

Richard Lewis, a leading researcher, with the meter
Researcher Richard Lewis with the meter it is claimed could help cut bills

Householders could soon know how much electricity they use each time they boil a kettle or watch a TV programme.

Researchers at Swansea University claim to have developed one of the world's most advanced smart electricity meters.

It goes a step further than most of its counterparts by monitoring individual circuits, including up and downstairs lighting and kitchen sockets in homes.

Researchers say with bills rising and climate change worries, it could help people cut their power consumption.

The prototype has been made by a team at the university's electronic systems design centre.

It monitors energy use, giving information not just through a traditional power reading, but in a user-friendly way by displaying animated graphics of money on a large clear screen on the meter.

The meter can monitor individual power circuits within a house but the team believes there is also the possibility to monitor individual appliances when the technology is adopted further.

Richard Lewis, a leading researcher on the team, said: "At the moment most people don't how much electricity it takes to boil water or to watch EastEnders.

"A kettle uses a lot of power but most people don't really know how much."

Richard Lewis, a leading researcher, with the meter
The metre has been calculating savings made the university's solar panels

He said if householders were aware then they might take measures to reduce their consumption.

Mr Lewis said there were gadgets on the market that monitored appliances but most only worked on one at time.

By replacing the central fuse box with a smart meter and changing the sockets in the house then data could be shown for all electrical items in real time.

The meter has communication abilities, allowing the readings to be instantly available to the supplier and consumer via web pages, wireless in-home displays, or potentially even a television channel.

"If you are in work and you've left the oven on you would be able to tell," he added.

He said interest in smart metering technologies had been sparked by television commercials highlighting the availability of smart meters to business, but the residential sector still had some way to go.

"We are currently looking to create a fully functional prototype from the current demonstration unit and plan to begin residential trials within the next 18 months."

Renewable technology

The meter is also able to monitor energy produced from local renewable sources such as solar panels and domestic wind turbines.

It has been linked to a number panels on the roof of the university's engineering building through a power converter.

This allows clear indications whether the renewable technology has been a beneficial purchase and the likely financial performance from the initial investment.

Dr Petar Igic, who is leading the energy and power electronics research, said it was one of a number of projects supported by the Welsh Assembly Government and Welsh Energy Research Centre.

"Making more efficient and more responsible use of the electric power generated is as important as finding renewable energy sources," he said.

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