Monitoring energy use at home

Home energy monitors are installed into your home’s breaker panel. It’s important to note you should consult with a licensed electrician before performing any work on your breaker box. Photo Credit: Sense Home Energy Monitors

As consumers, many of us try to find ways to save energy. But determining how and where energy is being used in your home can be difficult. A new generation of home energy monitors is available which promise greater insight into how we use electricity.

For several years, consumers could purchase energy monitoring devices that connected to individual appliances. These devices would show how much energy that specific appliance was using. This was a time-consuming process because each appliance had to be connected individually to the device.

New versions of energy monitoring devices follow the same concept, but instead, consumers can view energy use for the entire home. Rather than connecting individual appliances to the energy monitor, you can install a kit into your home’s breaker panel. (It’s important to note you should consult with a licensed electrician before performing any work on your home’s breaker panel.)

Another feature these new home energy monitors offer is the ability to automatically recognize appliances within the home. Consumers can log into their account, either online or via an app, to view a breakdown of each appliance. The device may prompt you to verify that the appliance found is correct, or it may prompt you to input what the appliance actually is. Over time, as the monitor is exposed to different appliances, it will become better at automatically recognizing them. Once properly configured, the monitor can provide a customized energy use report for the home.

You may be wondering if home energy monitors actually save energy. No, they do not. They simply provide information on your home’s appliances and how they use energy. You can use this information to identify energy hogs (like that spare freezer in the garage) that might need to be replaced.

Two of the most popular home energy monitoring systems on the market today are the Sense Energy Monitor and the Neurio Home Energy Monitor. Energy monitoring systems promise different levels of reporting. It’s up to the consumer to decide which system makes the most sense for their needs. A whole-home system typically costs between $150 and $400, plus installation.

If you’re looking to optimize your energy use, home energy monitors can be helpful tools. But remember, they are not a magic bullet, and you will need to act on the information provided by the system.

Brian Sloboda is a program manager specializing in energy efficiency.