Finding a Whole-House Energy Monitor That Works: Four Reviews
Once upon a time, home energy usage was a lot less precise. You were basically expected to take power companies and energy conservation experts at their word. That's no longer the case! Technology has been fine-tuned to the point that a good wireless electricity usage monitor can tell you everything you want to know about your home's energy consumption.
Power companies have begun the process of installing smart meters in many areas of the world, and those give far more accurate digital readouts. Beyond that, you now have the ability to install a system of your own directly to your power box, and it'll give you a ton of insight into where your power (and money) is going—and why.
Which Monitors Are the Best?
In order to simplify things for you, I've assembled four reviews of (in my opinion) the best wireless home energy monitoring systems available today. I'll go over each system with a fine-toothed comb and let you know not only the features I like, but also any installation concerns you should be aware of. These are my four top picks, in no particular order:
- Efergy Elite Classic
- Owl Micro
- Current Cost EnviR
- TED Pro Home
After the reviews, I'll briefly touch on why an in-home energy use monitor is such a boon. If I lose you anywhere along the way, please feel free to comment, and I'll try to clarify whatever you need me to.
Efergy Elite Classic
Quick Take: One of the best whole-house energy monitors.
I like to recommend the Efergy Elite Classic as one of my top choices because it's a very feature-rich wireless energy monitor, but it's also very accessible in terms of the price tag.
Unfortunately, the Classic model has become hard to find in Canada and the U.S., though it's still available in Europe. There is an upgraded version to consider as well (see "Upgrades" below).
This powerful little wireless home energy monitoring system is fairly easy to install. It's suitable for 120/240-volt single phase electrical panels, as you'll find in many homes around the world. It installs by simply clipping directly onto your supply cables. As with any home energy monitoring system, I would recommend getting an electrician to put it in for you, but there's no cutting or splicing involved.
The Efergy monitor is small and has an easy-to-read LCD display with a lot of data. It's wireless, so you can put it anywhere in the home. It's portable, but you can wall-mount it for convenience.
The data on the screen will update every 10 to 20 seconds, so you can actually see real-time power usage throughout your house. It also gives you the ability to see your current cost and your current carbon footprint (depending on how you set up the energy tariffs in the system).
Efergy has a handy datasheet available here. It has a lot of information on it that I haven't covered.
Ways to Use It
You can set energy targets so that you and your family are a bit more electricity-conscious. An alert will sound when you've exceeded your targets for the day. It's a great way to keep electrical use in mind as you go about your day-to-day activities.
At the end of the month, feel free to go back through the data and see how you did compared to the previous month. Rather than just shrugging and paying the bill, you now have an in-depth understanding of how your energy bill works and why.
A newer model is available called the Efergy Elite-Max. It has a larger color display and some other upgraded features, like a USB port. This model is readily available in Canada and the U.S., unlike the Classic. You can also purchase the display independently from the rest of the kit and use it to upgrade an existing Efergy system.
Quick Take: A powerful whole-house energy monitor.
Owl is a big-name player in the industry, and they have some of the best wireless electricity monitors around. I particularly like the Owl Micro because it's so small. It still gives you the vital information you'll need to monitor energy use, but it's portable and simple to use and understand. It's also one of the cheapest wireless home energy monitors around, and that's a big bonus.
Unfortunately, this unit has also become more difficult to find in Canada and the U.S., though it's still available in Europe.
The Owl Micro plugs into the electrical supply at the source in order to give you an accurate readout of the amount of juice your home is drawing in real time. Again, I want to encourage you to get an electrician to install this monitor for you. It's not terribly difficult or involved to clip it into place, but when you're dealing with electricity, it's always smart to err on the side of caution.
The monitor will display energy use in real time, in either direct cost (as calculated by your tariff rates) or by kilowatt interval. The unit will also track use throughout the day to give you an accurate estimate of energy use each day.
Because the readout updates itself every 5 to 60 seconds (depending on your settings), you can easily figure out how much juice an appliance or light is drawing by turning it on and noting the difference in power draw.
Ways to Use It
It's small and wireless, so you're free to range around the house with it. Most households noted a decrease in energy bill costs after installing one of these, simply because it makes your whole household more power-conscious.
Owl also offers the Intuition range of smart energy monitors, which are more advanced than the Micro in several ways. Most notably, you don't need to rely on the device's display to check your usage; the product uses a web-based dashboard that you can access via your computer, tablet or smartphone. Like the Micro, the Intuition system is available in Europe but harder to find in Canada and the U.S.
Current Cost EnviR
Quick Take: One of the best wireless energy monitors around.
The EnviR by Current Cost is a feature-rich electricity monitor for home use that covers a lot of different bases with a single product. It's a bit higher in price, but that's offset by the functionality.
The EnviR is easier to find in Europe than it is in Canada or the U.S. Current Cost does maintain an eBay storefront for international purchases, but it may not have supply in stock.
Like the others featured here, the EnviR is a whole-house energy monitor that plugs into your power grid with the use of two CT clamps, allowing you to connect and figure out your exact energy draw and cost.
This monitor updates in real time every six seconds. I really like the large display, and it makes the data very easy to absorb and digest. There are nice features like the ability to compare energy costs day to day and month over month.
Another excellent feature of this wireless energy monitor system is the ability to connect to the internet. You can either connect it to your computer using the included USB cable, or you can use the extra web bridge, which syncs with the Current Cost website. This free service lets you monitor your home electrical use remotely, so you can see how things are shaping up even from work.
It has a 7-year battery life span and enough memory to record up to 7 years' worth of daily energy use, so you can go back in time and see how your usage patterns have changed.
Ways to Use It
The display can be left in its holding dock, wall-mounted or carried around, depending on your choice. It's wireless, which lets you roam about the house with it, but it also looks right at home next to your thermostat.
Once you start using the EnviR in your home, it's so easy to track how much juice your appliances and lights are drawing, and you'll probably see some real energy savings right away.
None—the EnviR is the most advanced monitor that the Current Cost brand produces.
TED Pro Home
Quick Take: A user-friendly home energy use monitor.
TED (The Energy Detective) Pro Home is a powerful yet intuitive whole-house energy usage monitoring system that works in sync with your mobile device. It has a ton of fancy features that will give you a complete understanding of the energy draw in your home, as well as ways to curb your carbon footprint.
It's more expensive than the other monitors I've reviewed, but this is a good wireless electricity monitor with delicate sensors, so it's well worth the price.
Please note that this model is now unavailable because it's being replaced by the TED Pro Home 2.0 (see "Upgrades" below), which will be very similar but offer more advanced features.
The TED Pro safely clamps onto your supply lines and uses sensors to detect the amount of power passing through, so you don't have to cut any wires. If you're nervous around the mains, get your electrician to set it up.
The TED Pro has one of the quickest response times of any of the home electricity monitors I've reviewed so far. You have the option to view your usage by the second, minute or hour, as well as by day, month and year. Interactive software lets you view this data using charts and graphs for easy visual reference. You can view the data using kW/hr information so you'll know exactly how much your electricity is costing you each day.
Ways to Use It
With tons of data to collect, an easy installation process and a wireless monitoring system that utilizes your smartphone (or an optional display), this is a great way to get the family to start saving energy and reducing that electricity bill.
TED announced that the TED Pro Home 2.0 was in development, which is why the TED Pro Home is no longer available. Per the TED website, the improved features in 2.0 include easier installation, simpler setup, compatibility with iOS and Android devices and Wi-Fi connectivity.
Why Would You Need a Wireless Electricity Monitor System?
It can seem like quite a bother to set something like this up, especially with many power companies offering smart meters. But you're reading this for a reason. There are a lot of advantages, and I'll list just a few here.
- It helps you keep power companies honest: Sometimes, the bills and the usage don't add up. By installing your own home energy use monitoring system, you can cross-compare the two reports. I wouldn't worry about minor discrepancies, but huge differences should be investigated.
- It lets you find out where your electricity is going: We all have a lot of appliances and powered items running at once, and it can be difficult to track down which area of the home is at fault for an increased bill. The best wireless home electricity monitors let you plug in and figure out which appliance or section of the home is drawing the most juice and at what time(s) of day.
- If offers historical analysis of your usage: You can track back and see which months and days were the most expensive. It gives you a lot of data and ways to save money. The instant readout of power use is handy, too!
How Can I Test How Much Power a Single Appliance Draws?
It's actually pretty easy to use these systems to accurately monitor the amount of power an appliance or electrical device will draw. Most appliances come with energy draw estimates, but if you have a whole-home electrical monitoring system set up, you can easily use it to get an exact number.
- First, check the real-time energy usage before the appliance in question is turned on. Write it down.
- Then, turn the appliance on and wait for the usage indicator to update. Write down that total, too.
- Next, subtract the first number from the second, and you'll know how much electricity the appliance is using up.
Use this technique all over the house. It can even be turned into a game for your kids, with prizes for helping the family cut down on their power use!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.