Man holding smartphone to control home monitoring system.

Your Quick Guide To Home Energy-Monitoring Systems

Nov 16, 2022

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Many people are looking for a way to save money on their fuel and energy costs. A good first step in saving money on your electric bill is understanding how, what and when you use your energy. A home energy-monitoring system can help you understand when you use the most energy, where you might save money and how your energy efficiency stacks up.

Why Home Energy Monitoring Can Help Solar Homeowners

Homeowners with solar panels might especially want to know more about their home’s energy consumption. If you have a grid-tied solar installation, you may pay different amounts for energy consumption that happens at different times of day. Knowing the energy use of your home’s appliances can also help you identify ways to be more energy efficient.

An energy-monitoring system can help you monitor your home's energy consumption. Many systems will identify not only when and how much power you use, but what appliances or circuits are using the most power. Smart energy-monitoring systems can also identify opportunities to lower your energy usage that you might not be aware of.

What Is An Energy-Monitoring System?

There are a variety of different home energy monitors, and each different type of energy monitoring system works in a slightly different way. Some popular or well-known home energy monitoring brands include Sense, Efergy, Eyedro and Emporia Vue. Some energy monitoring systems monitor individual outlets while other systems can monitor the energy usage of an entire home.

Many systems offer real-time tracking and can inform you of energy usage via smartphone apps. Some monitoring systems may also help you detect “energy vampires” that quietly consume more energy than they should. Common energy vampires may include cable/satellite boxes, video game consoles, standby coffee makers or anything with a glowing light, memory or instant-on remote control.

Outlet Monitors Provide Insights For Individual Appliances

If you don't want the hassle of installing a whole-home energy monitor, you might consider a smaller outlet energy monitor. Outlet monitors can be handy, but some may not work for larger appliances that use more energy. If you have a particular appliance or outlet that you think might be using an above-average amount of electricity, an outlet monitor may be a good option.

Whole Home Monitors Show The Big Picture

If you want to get a more comprehensive view of your home's electricity usage, you'll want to consider a home monitoring system. Most whole-home monitoring systems need to connect directly to your home's main electrical panel and may need to be installed by a licensed electrician. If you have a solar panel installation, a whole-home energy monitoring system may suggest ways to make better use of your solar production.

Solar Monitors Compare Energy Production To Consumption

If you have a solar array, you can use a solar monitor to compare your generation and your total usage. This can help you better understand your electric bill and provide additional insights to help monitor your solar installation's energy use and overall performance. Many solar and other energy monitors provide a mobile app that can help you see your home's energy usage in real time.

Rocket SolarSM offers a monitoring app through partner Palmetto that can track home energy use, allowing Rocket Solar clients many of the same capabilities without having to install additional equipment. This can be a useful addition to aid in your energy management, and allows you to make your home more of a smart home.

How Home Energy Monitors Work

Home energy monitors can work in a variety of ways. Monitors that work at the individual appliance level might connect directly to an electrical outlet. This can allow you to monitor the usage of that outlet or even control whether the appliance is on or off directly from a mobile app. Many of these devices will use Wi-Fi or Bluetooth to communicate with appliances.

In contrast, whole-home monitors might plug into the main electrical panel and solar monitors might connect directly to the utility company's electrical meter. Regardless of which type of energy monitor you're using, it will likely come with a mobile app that you can use to see your energy usage in real time as well as trends over time.

Some monitors can recognize individual appliances such as TVs and refrigerators while recommending specific actions to reduce consumption. Other whole-home energy monitors monitor the electrical current across each individual circuit breaker. This means that if you have multiple lights, outlets or appliances on the same circuit breaker, you may be limited in determining what exactly is using energy.

FAQs: Electrical Energy-Monitoring Systems

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about home energy-monitoring systems:

How can I monitor my home consumption?

If you're interested in understanding your home's energy consumption, you have a variety of different ways that you can do it. A more inexpensive option like an outlet monitor can work if you are only looking to monitor the consumption of one or two appliances. If you're looking for a more holistic approach, you might want to consider a whole-home energy monitor. Whole-home energy monitoring systems usually tie directly into your electrical panel and can track and monitor your whole home's energy usage. If you have a solar array, you may also consider a solar energy monitor, which may tie directly into your utility company's electrical panel.

Do I need a home energy monitor?

Not all homeowners need an energy monitor. If your home is already equipped with Energy Star-rated appliances, updated insulation or other energy-efficient upgrades, you may not get as much of a benefit from a home energy monitor. Still, many smart home energy monitoring systems are relatively inexpensive, so you may find that the long-term savings and tips are worth the initial upfront investment.

Do home energy monitors waste energy?

Most smart home energy-monitoring systems use a very small amount of energy – typically only a few watts. So, a home energy monitor will not be a very noticeable contributor to your home's overall energy consumption. And since an energy monitor may identify ways to conserve energy, you may find it to have a net-positive impact on your home's energy use.

What else can I do to learn about my home’s energy efficiency?

Understanding how you are using energy in your home is the first step in consuming less and saving money. If you are interested in learning more about your home's energy efficiency, in addition to an energy monitor one thing you might consider is a home energy audit.

The Bottom Line: Smart Energy Monitors Can Save Money 

Many homeowners are always on the lookout for ways to lower their total energy consumption. Lowering your overall energy usage is not only good for the environment, but can also save you hundreds of dollars or more. One of the first steps in lowering your overall energy usage is understanding where you are currently using the most energy.

Smart energy monitors can help you determine the appliances that are using the most money, track trends over time and identify ways that you can lower your overall energy usage. Some energy monitors work on individual outlets, while others do a more comprehensive monitoring of the entire house. As you gather more information about your home's overall energy usage, you can make a plan to lower your energy costs and put more money back in your pocket each month.

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