Smart Energy Monitor v.s. Smart Meter: What are the Differences

Apr 7, 2023 | Applications

1. Introduction

As the cost of energy continues to rise, many homeowners and business owners are looking for ways to manage their energy usage and become more energy-efficient to save money. You may well have noticed that one option that has gained popularity in recent years is installing a smart energy monitor. At the same time, have you often received emails from your energy retailer, offering to upgrade your meter to a smart one for free, promising it will help you save on your energy bill? You might be wondering if there’s such a thing as a free lunch, especially when it comes to energy management (The answer is No! Read on to find out why.).

Both smart energy monitor and smart electricity meter can provide valuable information on how much energy is used, but they are NOT the same thing. It’s important to understand the differences between them, so you can make an informed decision about which one is best suited for your needs. So, what exactly are smart energy monitors and smart meters, and how can you decide which one is right for you?


2. Smart Energy Monitor

A smart energy monitor is a device that offers homeowners and business owners an easy way to monitor and manage their electricity usage data, including electricity consumption, current, voltage, power, and more, often through an app or website dashboard. Such energy monitors come in various types, including energy monitors with external current sensors, smart energy sensors, smart plugs, etc.

Smart energy monitor – properly deployed in the in-door distribution board (consumer unit) and sockets – provide detailed data, including household or overall usage, as well as usage by branches or individual appliances. This data makes it possible to identify which appliances are using the most energy and adjust their usage accordingly. With traceable historical data, people can analyze and adjust their energy-using habits and make more informed decisions about when and how to use energy, ultimately reducing their energy bills.  

Smart Plug

Smart Plug   

  Smart Energy Sensor

Smart Energy Sensor


3. Smart Meter

A smart meter is a modern replacement for traditional gas and electricity meters. It measures energy use in real-time and automatically sends this information to the energy supplier, eliminating the need for manual meter readings and enabling smart pay. Some smart meters also have the capability to provide real-time data on how much energy is used and monitor electricity costs through an In-Home Display (IHD).

One feature of smart meters is that they have access to pricing data, which means people can save money by taking advantage of cheaper rates. This is usually during off-peak times or when there is an excess of cheaper, clean energy available. By using this pricing data, people can adjust their energy usage habits and optimize their consumption to save energy and bills.

Smart Electricity Meter

Smart Meter

In-Home Display

In-Home Display


4. Key differences between smart energy monitor and smart meter

While both smart energy monitors and smart meters offer benefits in optimizing electricity consumption, they differ in many aspects like purpose, capabilities, IoT features, etc. Understanding the differences between the two is important when deciding which option is right for your specific needs. In this section, we will explore the key differences between energy monitors and smart meters.

1) Purpose:

Smart energy monitors are primarily designed for energy management and are applied widely in residential, commercial, industrial scenes, and more. They provide real-time information on electrical data like kilowatt hour (kWh) consumption, which facilitates consumption optimization, and also voltage, power, etc., which provide insights for maintaining electrical safety such as over-current or over-voltage current alarming.

Electrical Data Overview by an Energy Monitor

Electrical Data Overview by an Energy Monitor

On the other hand, smart meters are mainly designed for billing purposes. They allow energy suppliers to remotely read the meter and bill customers accordingly. A smart meter installed also provides energy data for government and energy regulators to underpin the transition to a greener energy system. Some countries like the UK and Australia have set target dates to universally install smart meters.

2) Installation:

To install a smart energy monitor, property owners or professional electricians can perform the job, depending on the type of monitor. Their installation locations can be flexible. Some models like Bituo Technik’s smart energy sensor SPM01/02 can be installed on the upper or bottom side of a miniature circuit breaker (MCB), requiring minimal space at Din-rail. Smart plugs are installed directly onto the socket of the device you would like to monitor.

SPM 01 and 02 Installation

SPM 01 and 02 Installation

Smart meters, however, are installed in the same location as traditional electricity and gas meters, typically under stairs or in cupboards, or on the exterior wall of the property, as they tend to be larger in size than energy monitors. To install a smart meter, energy suppliers usually appoint a specially trained technician based on your appointment time.

Smart Meter Installation

Smart Meter Installation

3) Energy consumption data granularity:

Smart meters provide only household or overall property usage data, which is the level at which energy retailers collect bills.

On the other hand, a smart energy monitor provides more granular insights into the energy consumption of individual circuits (different appliances), branch circuits, and the main circuit. For example, if a homeowner notices that their refrigerator is using an excessive amount of energy, they can try adjusting the temperature settings or considering a more energy-efficient model. This allows for a much clearer picture of energy-using patterns and identifies specific areas where energy consumption can be optimized.

4) Energy usage data updates:

Smart energy monitor provides real-time data, which is essential for energy management with valuable insights. Besides, in situations where excess power is being consumed, real-time monitoring is critical to identifying and resolving the issue promptly.

In contrast, smart meters are designed to update less frequently and primarily for billing purposes. For example, the SMETS-2 smart meters rolled out in the UK can only record half-hourly price and consumption data. Another example is that many smart meters deployed by SGCC (State Grid Corporation of China) upload electrical data every 15 minutes. Other older smart meters may take up to 24 hours to update.

5) IoT features and OTA upgrades:

In addition to providing detailed energy consumption information, smart energy monitor often comes with advanced IoT features and the ability for over-the-air (OTA) upgrades.

With built-in Wi-Fi, ZigBee, or other connectivity options, they can be remotely accessed and controlled through smart phone apps or web portals and also be integrated with other smart home devices like smart thermostats, smart lighting, and smart appliances. This allows for the creation of integrated smart home scenes, where multiple devices work together to optimize energy use across the entire property.

Integrated Smart Home

Integrated Smart Home

Suppose a house has solar panels installed to generate electricity. The energy monitor can provide real-time data on electricity use and power generation by solar panels. When the energy generation exceeds energy usage during certain times of the day and the feed-in tariff looks low, big loads or some energy hungry appliances like a smart water heater can be switched on automatically to consume the excess energy. This helps to avoid situations where the water heater consumes energy transmitted from the grid during peak energy use times, which is also when the tariff soars up, ultimately helping save energy spending. 

Furthermore, with OTA upgrades, smart energy monitor can receive software updates and improvements without physical access, ensuring that they remain up-to-date and continue to function optimally.

These features above are not typically found in smart electricity and gas meter, which are primarily designed for billing purposes and do not offer the same level of flexibility or advanced capabilities as smart energy monitor.

6) Costs:

Smart energy monitor comes in various types, such as smart energy sensors, energy monitors with external current sensors, and smart plugs, which vary in price. Despite the initial investment, these devices are relatively affordable, and the money spent on them can be recouped through energy savings after a certain period of time.

In contrast, smart meters are typically provided by the energy supplier free of charge to homeowners, and the installation is usually covered as well, but the cost is eventually passed on to consumers through their electric and gas bills.


5. Which One is Right for You?

Overall, both smart energy monitor and smart meter play essential roles, but they are suitable for different purposes. Although they may have several overlapping functions, each has unique features that make them suitable for specific use cases.

Smart meters are primarily used by energy suppliers for billing and government management purposes. Users can track how much energy is used in their local currencies in a digital way with smart meters installed.

Smart energy monitor is designed to meet energy management needs. With a higher level of data granularity, more powerful IoT features, and integration possibilities, energy monitors can facilitate comprehensive energy management solutions, and benefit a wide range of settings, including residential, commercial, industrial properties, small businesses, and infrastructures.

Ultimately, the decision of whether to choose a smart energy monitor or a smart meter depends on your specific energy management needs and goals. We hope this article has provided you with valuable insights.


Related Products

SPM01 (1P+N, 63A)

SPM02 (3P+N, 63A)


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