Adding a real time energy monitoring system to your home could save you as much as 20% on your hydro bill.
There’s an incongruity in today’s modern household. On the one hand it’s chock-full of high tech devices aimed at making our lives easier and more efficient, but on the other hand those same devices can cause us to be less efficient with our energy usage. After tremendous energy conservation successes in the UK, Europe and Australia, efergy, a UK based company, is empowering Canadians to save energy through real time monitoring. Whatever flavour energy may come in, whether it’s nuclear, solar, wind, tidal or something hitherto unknown, using it efficiently is the responsible thing to do — and it saves money.
“Homes equipped with real time energy monitors typically use up to 20% less energy than homes without the monitors.” -Lyn Chapman, Managing Director, efergy Canada
efergy’s products help their customers conserve energy by providing them with real time monitoring, the most effective tool for reducing energy consumption, as well as recording usage data for later examination and comparison. efergy’s current line of electricity monitors includes their e2 classic 2.0 ($126.95) and the elite classic 3.0 ($119.95). Much like a thermostat does for temperature, these monitors display real-time electricity consumption in kilowatt hours (Kw/h), the standard unit which the electricity company uses to charge customers. The displays also offer readouts of estimated carbon offsets, averages, current temperature, humidity, date, time, a variety of historical usage statistics and, once programmed with local regulations, the current tariff rate based on time-of-use billing.
Installing one of efergy’s monitoring devices is a simple affair; sensors are clamped around cables in your breaker panel and connected to a transmitter which wirelessly sends real time consumption levels to the display unit. That being said, if you’re not comfortable opening your electrical panel, enlist the help of someone who is, or a professional electrician — don’t exceed your experience. If you do decide to install the sensors yourself, wear rubber-soled shoes and have someone with you in case of emergency (also to show off your DIY prowess). The display unit itself can be mounted, or remain portable, this allows the user the option of bringing it along when they turn something on or off in order to see the immediate impact on their electricity usage.
I had the elite classic 3.0 up and running in about 15 minutes and have been monitoring my usage levels for about two weeks now. It took no time at all to see the relatively astounding energy costs of obvious devices like my electric clothes dryer or my air conditioning unit, but also some perhaps not-so-obvious energy hogs including my partner’s electric hair dryer, my soldering iron and even my coffee maker. The information I have gathered and continue to, helps me make informed decisions as to which devices have high energy costs, how those costs relate to other devices, whether or not I should continue to use those devices, and, if so, when to use them in order to incur the lowest tariff. I have thus taken the first, and most beneficial step, in energy conservation.
“It is real time energy consumption information displayed on a dedicated, readily available screen that yields the highest conservation outcomes.” -Lyn Chapman, Managing Director, efergy Canada
The data train doesn’t stop at efergy’s displays either, the e2 classic 2.0 can be connected to a PC or Mac via USB in order to examine the recorded usage data with efergy’s elink software and in true internet age form, the company’s latest innovation, Engage, allows users to monitor their usage online and connect with a community to share energy-saving tips. The Engage Platform requires efergy’s Home Hub package (available imminently) which connects to the same sensors as the elite classic 3.0 and the e2 classic 2.0 as well as your home network in order to upload sensor data to the Engage Platform.
Since I had already installed the elite classic 3.0, installing the Home Hub was a breeze; I simply plugged in its power cable and connected it to my internet router. A few minutes later I had registered it on the Engage Platform and was able to see my real time and historical usage data from any web enabled device, including tablets and smartphones. A daily chart illustrates usage patterns that can help with energy consumption detective work. Among other things, I’ve deduced that the steady pattern across my daily usage chart is my refrigerator compressor. Though the Engage Platform is still under construction with many features still to be added, I’ve found using it a pleasant experience. efergy hopes that the Emerge Platform will be the next generation in energy monitoring: a free, online, community-based solution for monitoring, reducing and saving.
While efergy’s focus on ease-of-use, return on investment and innovation make them a compelling choice for bringing your household to the next level of efficiency, other options exist.
Canadian-based Blue Line Innovations offers a similar product in their PowerCost Monitor. Much like the efergy elite classic, the PowerCost Monitor is made up of two elements: A sensor unit which includes a wireless transmitter, attaches to your existing electricity meter by way of strap and clamp, and the wireless receiver panel which displays the real time information.
Blue Line also offers a way to connect the PowerCost Monitor to WiFi via their WiFi Bridge accessory, however the company has chosen to align themselves with third-party online monitoring sites such as myEragy, PlottWatt or PeoplePower instead of developing their own solution.
The basic PowerCost monitor will run you about $109 or less depending on the retailer, but before buying make sure you check with your local electric utility. In Ontario, for instance, Toronto Hydro is offering their customers a free Blue Line PowerCost Monitor if they sign up for TH’s PeakSaver PLUS program – which gives the utility the ability to regulate your home central air conditioner during times where peak energy demand is especially high.
If a whole-home monitoring solution seems like overkill, or if you live in a condo or other residence where accessing the power meter or panel is not practical, you can choose an energy monitor that works off an individual outlet, like Belkin’s Conserve Insight. The premise behind the Conserve Insight is the same as the efergy and BLI products in that it offers you real time information regarding your energy use, but unlike those whole-home models, the Conserve Insight is designed for temporary monitoring of a single appliance (or set of appliances) attached to one electrical outlet.
You might even opt to combine the Conserve Insight with a whole-home solution. At $29, the Conserve Insight won’t break the bank, plus it can do something that the whole-home systems can’t: It will give you accurate data on the energy demands of a single appliance, no matter how big or small. Wondering just how much it costs to keep your cellphone charger plugged in when you’re not actually charging your device? The Conserve Insight was made to answer that question. To get a similar reading from efergy or Blue Line products, you would have to turn off every single other electrical device in your home, in order to be sure what the display was showing you was accurate - particularly on low-wattage items like alarm clocks or chargers.
Regardless of the solution, a modestly priced energy monitoring system will pay for itself easily within a year and when you factor in the benefits to the environment that energy conservation brings, I’d say it’s a no-brainer.