Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Tracking Home Energy Use

I'm testing a Wattvision whole house energy monitor on my house. It's made by a company in Princeton, and is straightforward to install by wrapping the sensor around the electric meter outside the house. No need for an electrician. The sensor in the photo can tell when the spinning disk in the meter has made one full rotation. The faster the spin, the more energy being consumed. It then transmits real time energy consumption info to my computer, via the router. This is like a speedometer on your car's dashboard.

Some people who have these meters post their home energy use on the Wattvision website, which allows us all to take a peek at how much energy people use in their homes.

If you go to http://www.wattvision.com/rankings, you can see there's quite a range of consumption. (It helps to know beforehand that a kilowatt hour is equal to using 1000 watts of electricity for one hour, e.g. leaving a 100 watt light bulb on for ten hours.)

Use per occupant on the list varies from 1 kilowatt hour per person per day all the way up to 90. That's a huge range in consumption habits. Then there's someone called "Electron miser in NJ" who's blowing us all away, consuming only half a kilowatt per person each day. My family uses about 2 kilowatt hours per person each day, so we're doing pretty well. Since we live comfortably, the range of consumption suggests there's a huge amount of energy that could be saved if people make an effort.

For those who like more technical discussions and a look at some of the data the meter generates, the company blog is worth checking out at http://blog.wattvision.com/.


  1. I have a few of these power socket timers which help: http://www.amazon.com/Belkin-Conserve-Socket-F7C009q-Energy-Saving/dp/B003P2UMS0

  2. Ars Technica today published an interesting article on the Gamification of Energy Savings that is relevant: http://arst.ch/snu

  3. Thanks. Interesting article about gamification (motivating people to make energy saving into a game). One thing I'd like to see happen is to have all towns automatically receive their energy use on a frequent basis from the utility, and then have competitions between towns.

  4. where can i get this sensor to mount on my meter >

  5. Wattvision.com is a Princeton-based company you should be able to purchase from directly. Black and Decker also makes a whole house energy meter that mounts on your electric meter outside. I purchased one, but wasn't able to get it to work properly. Our electric utility meter outside the house has a disk that rotates. The disk has a little black dot line on the side of this thin metal disk. The sensor for the whole house energy meter tracks each rotation of the disk by how often the black line comes around. Since we only use about 8 kilowatt hours of electricity each day, that disk is rotating very slowly, and the sensors can lose track for lack of frequent enough input. Years back, I bought a TED meter that needs to be installed in your service box in the basement. That's a trickier installation, but for measuring low amounts of energy use, it has proven more consistent. Definitely look for product reviews/comments posted at the online retail sites. I just noticed that the WattVision monitor is available on Amazon, or directly from their website.

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