Real-time home energy budget management as power prices surge

Feature image for Wattwatchers Blog for post on app budget feature ex Canva

Monthly or quarterly power bills from your energy utility won’t tell you what’s happening with your electricity use ‘right now’, which is when you need to know to adjust behaviours to drive savings. Cue the budgeting feature in the Wattwatchers MyEnergy app.

When the Federal Budget forecast power prices for consumers rising by an incredible 56% in the two years until the end of 2023, you could feel how people are being pushed to cost-of-living breaking point.

With two-thirds of Australia’s 10 million-plus households still completely reliant on their main grid to supply all of their electricity, a majority of households still don’t have access to the cost saving benefits of rooftop solar.

Their options for cutting power bills are limited: find a lower-cost energy retailer and switch to them; reduce actual consumption; or, if time-of-use tariffs are available and activated, prioritise using electricity at off-peak times and avoid peaks wherever possible.  

None of this is easy, however, without timely access to your energy consumption and usage information to be able to make reasonable behavioural changes to reduce your bills.

For those lucky enough to have solar, energy information is also relevant: to guide self consumption and minimise or eliminate exporting to the grid, optimising benefits from renewable electricity being generated on customers’ rooftops.

Enter Wattwatchers’ MyEnergy app, with budget setting and alerting as core features and installed with Wattwatchers state of the art IoT energy monitoring devices.

The Wattwatchers MyEnergy app’s budget-setting screen.

The app is designed to help electricity customers use less energy – to stay on top of costs by setting up a ‘budget’ for your electricity consumption (e.g. $150 a month, or $8 a day).

It’s a real-time environment, one that alerts you when you can take action (i.e. when you are using the electricity), which is how you can reduce energy cost right now.  

Wattwatchers has long believed that budget alerting and notifications on smartphones is the single best way to get ‘in control’ of household energy usage, enabling best efforts to reduce power bills, or at least hold back increases. It is absolutely possible.

The app will report energy costs based on the customer’s monitored real-time electricity usage and, optionally, can send a push notification when users approach or exceed their budget targets. Users receive a notification, such as 80% of a daily target having been consumed, providing an immediate guide to whether they are under, on track or in danger of blowing the budget.

Using the app for set-up – it helps to have the most recent power bill on hand – customers can enter their relevant tariff details and configure a daily, weekly or monthly budget goal. Ideally this will be an achievable target, but one that will push the user to pay attention to usage, and achieve actual savings by comparison with historical consumption.

Remember, if power prices are rising rapidly, as is the case now, bills might still go up even if users are successfully cutting consumption. But the bill increase will still be less than it would otherwise be, if no action were being taken.

Looking for savings, everyday

In combination with your Wattwatchers monitoring device and MyEnergy app, here are some simple tips for minimising your power bills 24/7/365.

  1. Do a stocktake of all the electrical appliances in your home, right down to lights and power points, and also note down any non-electrical energy using appliances (e.g. gas, wood-burning). This helps you to get to know all of the ‘actors’ in your home’s energy ‘theatre’.
  2. Subgroup your electrical stocktake list into always-on appliances (e.g. main fridge, broadband router); high-consumption often-on appliances (e.g. air conditioning, pool pump, electric hot water, oven, EV charging, halogen downlights, clothes dryer); high-consumption occasionally on appliances (e.g. electric kettle, sandwich press, vacuum cleaner, hair straightening tongs, clothes irons, bathroom heat lamps); and everything else.
  3. Also study your utility electricity bills, ideally for a full 12 months, to understand any seasonal patterns and relate these to your stocktake list. For example, if your power bills soar in winter, then it’s likely related to heating; and if they go up a lot in summer, then air cooling may be the main explanation. 
  4. If you have solar, then your utility bill will tell you how much you are exporting to the grid, and your Wattwatchers device and MyEnergy app will tell you how much solar electricity you are generating, how much you are self-consuming, and also any exports to the grid. Unless you are on a generous old-style gross feed-in-tariff, like 60 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh), you’ll mainly optimise your solar investment by maximising self-consumption and minimising exports to the grid (e.g. shift time-flexible loads like pool pumps, clothes washing and drying, dishwashers to run when solar is available – use your app to track your ‘solar curve’). 
  5. If you don’t have solar, your best bets for savings via smarter energy use management are to:
    • make sure you minimise your always-on appliances, which is your 24/7/365 ‘baseline’, aiming to have your house ‘at rest’ when everyone is asleep below 100 watts of consumption (your app will help); hunt down any ‘phantom loads’ (our app, for example, has helped users identify forgotten heated towel racks that have been tiled over and stayed on for years); and replace increasingly inefficient appliances, such as old fridges with new, energy-saving models. 
    • target your high-consumption often-on appliances for interventions such as limiting pool pump hours, or adjusting temperature minimums and maximums for heating and cooling, or having shorter showers); and don’t sweat it too much in regard to high-consumption occasionally-used appliances (although you can still make modest behaviour changes like not over-filling electric kettles, minimising bathroom heat lamp ‘on-time’, and turning off appliances on ‘stand-by’.
  6. Use your app’s budgeting feature to set saving targets and to get alerted when these are being breached, so you still have time to regroup with your household to get back on track before the next power bill arrives – often monthly, or even quarterly, long after the electrons are gone.

The Wattwatchers MyEnergy app’s budget alert widget.