Home energy management is all about tracking how much electricity your house or apartment uses, then finding ways to save. Monitoring your home energy consumption, however, isn’t always easy. How are you supposed to measure the electricity any of your appliances use, let alone your whole home? Fortunately, a rising number of green and eco-friendly solutions have appeared on the market for those who want to save both energy and money. Here’s a look at some of the most reliable options, what they’re best suited for, and where you can find them.
Smart meters are highly adept energy trackers but are also outside of your control. These are digital utility meters that are installed by power companies, house by house. They send wireless signals (or sometimes power line signals) to show how much electricity the house is using as a whole. This makes it really easy for power companies to check your energy usage from a distance and often gives you access to regular reports on how much energy your home is using.
As part of upgrades to smarter grids, power companies around North America have switched to these smart meters. It’s taken some longer than others, some companies still balk at the change, and homeowners can refuse the new installation if they want. (There are a lot of very odd conspiracy theories out there about smart meters spying on people or poisoning homeowners.) In other words, there’s no guarantee that you have or can have a smart meter. The best way to find out is to either look on your power company’s website or call up your power company and talk about it.
If you have a new-looking electricity meter with a digital readout, you probably have a smart meter. Some of them even handily say “smart meter” somewhere on the box. If that’s the case, head to your power company websites, log in, and see how you can use that particular monitoring option to watch your total energy usage, typically from day to day. Many companies also provide guides on how to lower these numbers.
If you don’t have a smart meter or want a more customized look at your energy consumption around the home, you need a home monitoring system. These systems require a significant amount of setup, using a series of components that you install in your breaker box or around your house. A little bit of wiring experience is very useful here, but these are designed to be DIY projects for all types of homeowners, as long as you are careful. You’ll likely have to pay more for this solution than other options — prices are typically well above $100. Here are a few options:
These are single-appliance energy monitoring and control devices. It’s important to note that not all smart plugs offer energy tracking — their focus is more on device control and setting schedules. However, many also monitor electricity. The advantage is that you can just plug them into a normal outlet, plug in your appliance, and see how much energy it uses without any extra work. You also have the option to turn the appliance on and off based on a schedule designed to save energy. However, this solution works best if you have only a few energy-hungry appliances you want to track, instead of whole house monitoring. It’s ideal for people who rent and can’t exactly rewire their breaker boxes for a full system. However, smart plugs aren’t much good outside of normal NA-style outlets, so your washing machine, oven, and other big appliances probably won’t be compatible.
Smarts apps attempt to measure home energy usage without all the separate components that home monitoring systems require. Some require you to measure and record individual appliances, some try to tap into local smart meter readings, and some estimate home energy use based on available local data.
While these apps may be cost effective compared to home monitoring systems, they otherwise struggle. Their data is rarely as accurate as other options, and many require intense efforts to record electricity minutiae around your entire house before they can even start working. That being said, here are a few smart apps to check out if you prefer going this route in energy measurement: