Simple Home Energy Monitors Help Reduce Electricity Usage

A couple weeks ago I tweeted about The Energy Detective or TED that monitors whole house energy usage. This led me to do a bit more research on what else is out there that is similar to this device.  Below is what I found on a couple of inexpensive devices available to monitor energy or electrical usage at the home. All of these devices monitor the electrical usage of the entire home by connecting to the main electrical panel. They claim to save anywhere from 10% – 25% on your electric utility bill by measuring and displaying your energy usage in real time so that you can learn to manage your power usage more responsibly.

This is a great concept that I knew right away would fit perfectly with the 100K philosophy. Educate the home owner on energy usage, give them the tools to measure it and empower them to manually reduce their energy usage via low-tech methods. The alternative would be high-end “green” systems that would fully automate the home to reduce energy usage. Cool, but pricey and not fitting for our project.

Possible New Layout for the Ground Floor

TED – The Energy Detective [$145]

TED’s cleverness does not stop at it’s name, but also extends to its ease of installation and use. TED comes with two main parts. One part quickly and easily attached to the electrical panel in such a way that if you have ever changed a fuse on your panel, you would have more than enough experience to install TED (I love this name more and more as I type it).

Three bedroom Postgreen Homes plan.

The second piece is a wireless display unit that can be placed anywhere in the house. The display will show in real time what your energy consumption is in kiloWatts as well as dollars per hour. TED also has alarm settings and other tools to alert you when you are really sucking up energy  in order to help keep you on a desired monthly budget.

Lastly I found this informative YouTube Video Review on The Energy Detective. An add-on is a software package called TED Footprints for $45 that allows you to hook up your display unit to a PC to record, track and graph your energy usage in even more detail. This is lovely, but currenly does not work on Macs which make me sad inside. [Aside: Do tech companies really believe that “early adopters” are using PC’s over Macs? Product Marketers need to do more homework be smarter.]

Three bedroom Postgreen Homes plan.

The Meter Reader EM-2500 [$215]

The Meter Reader EM-2500 is very similar to TED except that it is more expensive and the display must be hard-wired to the electric service panel and can not be wirelessly placed in the home. It’s a nice product, but honestly I don’t know why you would buy it when the TED is available for less cash.

Web Energy Logger (WEL) [$375]

Another interesting option is the Web Energy Logger (WEL). This takes energy monitoring a big step further and also allows you to add temperature sensors throughout your home to monitor how effectively your HVAC and ventilation systems are working. This looks pretty cool but has a couple of drawbacks for me. One is that it would require a lot of hardwiring throughout the house for the temp sensors. Two is that is is not really a fully commercial product as it was designed by some guy that built his own energy efficient house. Many kudos to him, but I would be a bit nervous. If you are very technically inclined and have some time on your hands, I say go for it.

Final thoughts

I think it’s clear that we plan to go with the TED for our homes. It’s simple, effective, cheap and I can install myself if needed. What could be better? In the future it would be great to see a device like this that could be hooked up to a web application to monitor and maintain all of your information. This could be compared to others around the world using the same web interface. This type of info could also mix well with home automation programs out there and it would be really cool if you could also monitor the usage of other fuel types (gas, oil, pellets…) with a similar device to have the results collected and reported all in one place. I saw hints of people working on this during my search but didn’t find anything concrete. If you see something out there, throw it in the comments for all of us to benefit.