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.

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.