Whole-House Electricity Monitor Thoughts

IMG_0520.JPGAs a followup to my previous post, I’ve been testing two whole-house electricity monitors for close to the last month. As I mentioned previously, I ordered a TED1001 Energy Detective Monitor, and planned to just install/use that. After my previous post, David Olsen at Black & Decker contacted me, and offered to ship me a Black & Decker EM100B Power Monitor. Actually, he shipped me two of the devices, and I gave the second one to my parents, who are trying to figure out why their electricity bills are higher than their neighbors. Big thanks to David and Black & Decker.
So, I have both monitors installed now. I was able to install the Black & Decker monitor myself, but needed help from a friend to install the TED1001. See my previous post for the differences in how the monitors are installed. The TED samples usage once a second. The B&D appears to sample every 30 seconds or so. The TED connects to your Windows PC and lets you graph energy usage through a Flash-based desktop app. The app does work under Parallels on a Mac (which is what I used). I emailed the manufacturer asking about a native Mac version, but never heard back.
The B&D talks to the sensor wirelessly. The TED uses the house circuitry to communicate with the sensor. This is one area I had a problem with the TED unit. It’s only able to work when plugged into some of my power outlets. Unfortunately, none of the outlets near my computer worked, so when I wanted to use the app, I needed to run an extension cord from another part of the house to my Mac. But most of the time, I don’t bother with the app and just watch the electricity usage in real-time.
IMG_0516.JPGOf course the big question is, are these devices going to lead to a lower electricity bill for me? I think I can answer that in two ways. First, did I discover anything in particular that was taking too much electricity? To that I’d say a qualified no. The qualification involves my refrigerator. It runs not quite, but almost, all the time. In talking with an appliance repair person, this suggests that I need to clean the condenser coils, which I haven’t had the chance (or, umm, desire) to do yet. Everything else appears to use an expected amount of electricity, I think, although I’m not sure, and perhaps that’s a second qualification. For example, I have no real idea how much electricity my pool pump should be using, other than, I assume, “a lot”. If there’s a page on the ‘net listing the amount of electricity various devices/appliances can be expected to use, I’m not aware of it, and that’d be a very helpful resource.
But this leads to the second way I can answer the original question of whether these monitors will lead to a lower electricity bill. By having one of these devices, I’ve become hyper-aware of the electricity usage in my life. I know that with the house quiescent, and only clocks/timers/DVRs/hardwired appliances running, I use about 500 watts (aka my minimum electricity usage). I know that running the pool pump uses a lot of electricity. I know that my computer and monitors use around 400 watts. I know that my TV uses something similar to that. I know that the halogen lights above my bar use a lot more electricity than some of my other lights. I have to believe that this awareness will at least indirectly lead to me using less electricity.


  1. Oh my god you need a new startup. 🙂 Put that energy to use!

  2. Ah, actual data–it’s a wonderful thing. Thanks for sharing–I’ve often wished I could instrument all the devices in my house, but it seems too annoying/expensive to be practical currently. So I’m grateful for early adopters like you that can pave the path for the rest of us! 🙂 js

  3. Mark, I found your blog through Google. I recently wrote a post about high electric rates in New York State and I thought you might be interested. I wouldn’t mind having one of those electricity monitors myself. I worked as a meter reader for an electric and gas company in New Jersey many years ago.I know some people were not happy to see me when I came around.

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