How to Choose a Home Energy Monitor

Tim Robberts/Getty Images
Tim Robberts/Getty Images
DCL

As we head into winter, most people have their eye on how to monitor and maintain an energy efficient home. A home energy audit may reveal a whole lot of places electricity can be conserved, but how can you track improvements? One of the easiest ways to do this is with a home energy monitor. But with the wide selection out there, it can be touch figuring out which option is right for you. We're here to help you understand what kind of monitoring you'd like to do, and what gear is available to you to get the savings you want to achieve.

Basic: Outlet Monitoring

The easiest way to measure how much energy your home is using is to monitor how much individual outlets are using and unplug the energy suckers. These tools are called Smart Plugs or Smart Power Strips. You can plug one into an outlet, and then plug your device or appliance into it. It will monitor the amount of energy that item is using and you can shut off power supply when you don't need it. Options include the Kill-A-Watt, GreenSwitch, and, a bit more advanced, the Wattson.

Effective But Not Over-the-Top: Whole-House Power Monitors

This approach takes a wider look at your home's energy use.

Devices that monitor whole home energy use are called power monitors. You can enter information about the devices you want to monitor as well as information about your energy bills, and the monitor will let you know how much electricity your home is using and what that is costing you. The Home Joule plugs into an outlet and combines your home energy consumption rate with info about your local utility costs, time of day, and weather to tell you if you're using too much energy. There is also the Power2Save, which hooks up to the electrical panel of your home and displays how much your current electricity use is costing. Switch off a light, see the cost go down. And a newer device on the market is the Black & Decker Power Monitor, which uses a wireless sensor next to the meter to feed information to a portable monitor inside your home. You can use it to find out the best times to switch devices, appliances, and lights off for the most savings.

Advanced: Smart Homes

This is the big-picture approach to home energy monitoring. It can get pricey, but can also save the most energy. Systems like Agilewaves and smart home appliances work in conjunction to give you a thorough and interactive look at your home's energy use. Smaller-scale (and less expensive) versions include Smartlinc or HomeManageables, which allow you to automate your home's devices so you can monitor and control energy use remotely. However, going whole hog with smart home appliances, metering and software is something to consider for some serious energy efficiency. Eventually, we'll all be connected to a smart grid that does this for us, but we're still a few years off. So for now, it's up to you if you want to smarten up your home.

The Final Decision

The best way to narrow down your options is to decide what level of monitoring you want to accomplish, how much you want to spend, and how much you want to save. Most likely, you'll fall into the affordable yet effective middle category of power monitors that hook up to your meter and let you know what you're spending.

Check out more information about power monitors and electricity savings with our Go Green Guide: Electricity.