Electricity is expensive, and reducing your usage can save you significant money over time! One way homeowners are taking their energy management into their own hands is through home energy monitors, devices that provide insight into how much energy you're using, when you're using it, and the best ways to adjust your usage to reap financial benefits.
With this information, you can change your behavior and ultimately cut your electricity costs while helping the environment. We'll explain some important things to consider when evaluating energy monitors.
Key takeaways about home energy monitors
Home energy monitors provide actionable insights into your energy consumption.
The level of monitoring will vary by product but may occur at the entire home, circuit breaker, or appliance level.
Some energy monitor companies estimate they could save you about 9% on your annual electricity bill.
Energy monitors are particularly useful if you're going solar – to start your solar journey today, visit the EnergySage Marketplace.
If you've ever looked closely at your electricity bill, you know it's pretty light on information. Your bill will tell you how much electricity you've used and how much it costs. Unfortunately, that's about it.
Let's say you want to cut your energy use to save money or reduce your carbon footprint. You'll either have to cut down on your electricity consumption overall–by having a home energy audit, for instance–or try to guess which devices are the heaviest users and when they cost the most money to run, which is easier said than done. Energy monitors help by eliminating this guessing game.
Energy monitors are a gateway to the inner energy workings of your home. They connect to your electricity meter to show how much energy your home uses and provide information about how you can make your home more energy efficient. Energy monitors come with various features, from recognizing the energy usage of individual appliances to generating personalized recommendations for energy efficiency.
Depending on the monitor, you may track your consumption at the appliance, circuit, or whole home level – all remotely from your mobile device! Your monitoring app will often provide you with additional insights, from how to increase your energy efficiency to when to use the most electricity to maximize your savings based on the cost of electricity at different times of the day.
Typically, energy monitors sit next to your electrical panel (aka breaker box). If you have a smart panel, like Span, it will have built-in monitoring capability, delivering energy monitoring and insights at the circuit level. However, if you have an add-on energy monitor, it probably comes with sensors. These sensors may clamp onto your service mains – the wires between your electric meter and your electrical panel – and "read" your home's electrical current. They can then provide an overview of how much electricity your home uses. More advanced systems may use machine learning to recognize the "electricity signatures" associated with your home's appliances to provide device-level monitoring.
Instead of connecting to service mains, some sensors connect directly to individual circuits, providing circuit-level monitoring. Either way, your energy monitor will deliver its findings to your smartphone or computer as actionable insights.
Why would you want a home energy monitor?
At the highest level, you'll be able to understand how much electricity your home consumes, but many monitors will provide you with even more detailed information, whether at the device or circuit level. Want to see if any phantom loads are consuming electricity, even when powered off? Your monitor could give you this insight to ensure all these devices are unplugged. Unsure if you closed the garage door? Your energy monitoring app could show you when you last operated it.
Overall, the goal of purchasing an energy monitor is typically to cut your electricity usage and, as a result, to save you money. For example, one home energy monitor company, Sense, estimates that their average user saves about 9% on electric bills.
Should you get an energy monitor?
Energy monitors are great devices for understanding your electricity usage – but they're most valuable when you take action based on the information they provide! If you think you won't use their insight to alter your behavior, an energy monitor might not be the right choice.
Energy monitors can be particularly attractive if you live in an area with time-of-use (TOU) rates, meaning you pay more for electricity at certain times of the day when demand is higher. Some monitoring apps will even allow you to enter the TOU rates in your area, so they can suggest when to cut down your energy consumption accordingly! For example, it may cost less for you to do laundry or run your dishwasher during the day than at night: Your energy monitor can help you determine the best time (or times) to run different appliances to streamline your energy consumption and maximize your savings.
You may also consider purchasing an energy monitor if you have a solar or solar-plus-storage system. Some energy monitors will come with additional current sensors that clamp onto your solar wires, allowing you to track how much energy your solar panels generate and how much electricity you consume. With this information, you can increase your electricity usage during the day to pull less power from the grid – or your storage system – at night.
For most homeowners, purchasing an energy monitor is a great decision – but your upfront costs and long-term savings will largely depend on your chosen product! Not all energy monitors are created equal. We'll explain a few factors you'll want to consider when comparing your options to help you determine the best fit for your needs.
Some energy monitors use built-in artificial intelligence to learn specific device signatures of your appliances. Each appliance has a unique way of using electricity. Over time, these energy monitors will determine which appliances are running based on how they use your electricity. This "machine learning" period can take weeks to months, which can be frustrating if you want to start monitoring at the appliance level immediately. Ultimately, an energy monitor equipped with appliance recognition will make quick judgments on the detected appliances and, via your monitoring app, report on specific information and actions you can take on those appliances.
It's important to remember that only some monitors have this feature, and the technology doesn't always work perfectly for those that do. It's usually easy for the monitor to detect differences between a TV and a refrigerator, but devices that use electricity similarly (think heating devices, like a toaster and a curling iron) may be more challenging.
Real-time cost tracking
Some, but not all, home energy monitors allow you to track the cost of your energy consumption in real time. Real-time cost tracking will let you watch as your electricity consumption and costs increase or decrease. You'll also be able to see and understand the effects of turning devices on and off – such as keeping your TV on in the background. This feature can be essential for maximizing cost savings.
Mobile apps and notifications
Make sure that any energy monitor you choose has a mobile app component. This app should send you notifications about things such as which appliances are running, tips for further savings, and warnings on abnormal appliance behavior, which could help you proactively replace a malfunctioning appliance. If you want to receive notifications about a specific issue with your electricity use, confirm that your chosen product has that functionality.
Solar-ready monitor options
As we've explained, one of the best times to purchase an energy monitor is if you have already or are planning to install solar. If you fall into one of these categories, you'll want to ensure that the monitor you choose is solar-ready, meaning it can monitor your solar electricity production. Energy monitors with this option allow you to see how much energy your solar panels generate, when they generate it, and how you use it.
Unless you're familiar with your electrical panel, we recommend consulting an electrician for your energy monitor installation. Many home energy monitors market themselves as do-it-yourself, but any project attaching a device to your electrical panel will have shock hazards. Bringing an electrician to your house for the installation will increase the total cost of the equipment, but once installed, the devices allow for significant savings. Hiring a certified electrician for installation can provide confidence in your system.
Many companies now offer energy monitors. Here are a few major energy monitors to compare so you can find the best one for your home:
Home Energy by Sense
Sense Home Energy will automatically identify devices in your home over time and let you name them. Using the mobile app, you can get immediate notifications and updates on every appliance in your home, see what devices might have been left on or running, and track your month-over-month energy statistics.
Buying options: Amazon
Smappee by Smappee
Smappee provides an energy monitor that will identify the unique electric signal of your appliances and allow you to name them for future monitoring. With real-time data, appliance recognition, and mobile app integration, Smappee's system makes understanding your home energy consumption and savings straightforward and can save you money on your electric bill.
Buying options: Amazon
Home Energy Monitoring System by CURB
For a suite of tools to monitor and control your energy use in real-time, the CURB Home Energy Monitoring System is a great option. Weekly email reports display changes in consumption and make personalized suggestions to reduce energy costs. In addition, the system is compatible with other smart home devices and is solar-ready if you want to monitor your home solar system.
Buying options: Amazon
Engage by Efergy
The Engage platform comes solar-ready and provides real-time energy monitoring on an app and a desktop. The app includes a budget feature to set targets and track your use following those targets. Daily, weekly, or monthly reports are available.
Buying options: Amazon
Wiser Energy by Schneider Electric
The Wiser Energy system installs in your home's electrical panel. It provides real-time energy usage, notifications when devices turn on or off, and can help you avoid disaster. The app will allow you to track energy savings, set energy goals and give recommended actions to reduce waste and save money. Learn how the Wiser Energy monitor integrates with Schneider's Square D Energy Center, a home energy management system.
If you want to reduce your energy usage to lower your carbon footprint, save money, or both, install a solar-plus-storage system! You can significantly reduce the electricity you're pulling from the grid, especially if an energy monitor shows you how much energy you generate and consume. On the EnergySage Marketplace, you'll receive custom quotes from vetted solar installers, allowing you to compare your options and find a system that best fits your needs.