What is the difference between direct vs indirect energy meters?

What is the difference between direct vs indirect energy meters?
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Digital energy (kWh) meters come in two varieties: direct meters and indirect meters. Both ways of measuring energy consumption are great ways to keep an eye on your kWh use, however there are some important differences between the two types. Let's have a quick look at the differences. We'll use our EMU meters as our examples.

Direct energy meters

In domestic situations, you're most likely to encounter direct energy meters. These common meters come with lots of advantages for smaller applications. In big industrial situations, they might not be the best choice.

Advantages of a direct kWh meter

  • Convenient all-in-one solution.
  • Often cheaper than an indirect meter.
  • Often more accurate than an indirect meter (use of shunt-based current sensors).

Disadvantages of a direct kWh meter

  • To connect your direct energy meter you'll have to cut the powerline you want to monitor and pass it through the meter. This means that any machines connected to this powerline will temporarily have to be paused.
  • Direct energy meters can often measure up to lower amounts of current/amperage. Take the EMU meter for example that has a limit of 100A.

The image below shows an example of a direct energy meter's wiring scheme (source EMU).

direct energy meter wiring scheme for EMU kWh counter
direct energy meter vs indirect energy meter or kWh counter

Indirect energy meters

To monitor large industrial installations it's most common to use an indirect energy meter with current transducers (CTs). These CTs clamp onto an existing wire without damaging or cutting it. Indirect meters are easier to install post machine installation and to replace if they were to break.

Advantages of an indirect kWh meter

  • To connect your indirect energy meter, you won't have to cut any active powerlines. This means that machines connected to the monitored powerline can stay operational.
  • Indirect energy meters can often measure higher amounts of current/amperage. The EMU meter for example can measure up to 4000A using 4000/1A CTs or up to 20000A using 20000/5A CTs.

Disadvantages of an indirect kWh meter

  • Often less accurate than a direct meter (use of current transducers).
  • Often more expensive than a direct meter.
  • More complicated installation process using the current transducers as well as branching off the powerline you want to measure.

The image below shows an example of an indirect energy meter's wiring scheme (source EMU).

indirect energy meter wiring scheme using CTs for EMU kWh counter
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