Whole-House Electricity Monitors

Over the past year or two, my electric bill has ranged between $300 and $600, which seems, umm, high to me. I want to know what’s using all that electricity. Maybe I have a refrigerator that’s running all the time, using too much electricity. Maybe some of my numerous toys are acting as energy vampires, and simply unplugging them will significantly cut my electric bill. But right now, I have no idea.
So, this afternoon I researched and purchased a whole-house electricity monitor. These devices function as your electric meter does, tracking how much electricity you use on a real-time basis. The difference is that you get the data inside your house on a handy digital readout, and in some cases, on your computer, making it much easier to figure out what devices are hogging electricity.
It appears that there are two main whole-house monitors, the Energy Detective Monitor (aka TED1001) and the Black & Decker EM100B Power Monitor (which appears to be a rebrand of a device called the Power Cost Monitor). Both devices track your whole-house energy usage, but they do so differently.
The Black & Decker has what appears to be an optical sensor that you simply attach to your electric meter. The sensor box includes a battery powered wireless transmitter, which relays the data to a hand held unit (also battery powered) that you can place anywhere in your house. Installation of the sensor box looks easy and can be done by the homeowner. The TED measures electricity consumption by attaching a sensor to your electric mains. The sensor transmits data to the indoor unit through the electrical lines in your house. Installation looks more complicated and they recommend having an electrician do it for you.
Both units appear to measure the same things. The advantage of the TED unit is that it connects through a USB port to a Windows PC. Using the included software, you are able to track energy usage over time, potentially making it easier to figure out which devices are hogging electricity.
I ordered the TED unit, even though it’s more difficult to install, because of the ability to track data on my PC. I’ll post again when I get things set up.

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Comments

  1. My own electricity bill is similarly ridiculous. I bought a Kill-o-Watt and investigated the obvious potential offenders, then built a spread sheet room by room of all the devices and what they draw and what percentage of the day they were drawing, and it wasn’t too far off.
    I debated starting a community website where people could measure various devices, and also put in the “rated” power usage of devices, and then you could search the available devices and build up a profile, and get hints on what you could replace various items with for better efficiency.
    Then, I had a kid instead.

  2. Very interesting post, Mark. I came here via your FooCampers message.
    I too suffer from a pretty high electricity bill, but it’s by far not as bad as yours. As a telecommuter I expect to pay a bit more given all the equipment at my house and the 24/7 occupation of the home. Just a few weeks ago I was wondering about the exact same thing that you wondered: how do I find out which ones are the bad guys? If I had to create something to measure energy consumption of devices, how would I go about it? Without an electrical engineering background it’s hard for me to come up with a plausible idea, but I was hoping that some clip-on sensor (with a magnet inside rotating while current runs through the cable?) would wrap itself around a power cable and would emit consumption data. That would allow you to test 90% of the power consuming units in your home (only leaving out permanently installed light fixtures, etc.).
    I sure look forward to read about your experience with the unit above.
    Good luck and thanks for thinking the way you think.
    Cheers – Tobias

  3. Jeremy Dunck says:
  4. Jeremy Dunck says:

    Clamp-on current meters exist. $125 on Amazon. I’m sure you could make a basic one much more cheaply, but calibration would be the tough part.