Ways to Stretch Your Solar Panel Power Further: Energy Monitoring DevicesBy Matthew Wheeland - August 9, 2010
By saving energy inside your home, you can make sure you’re getting the most out of your solar panels (and you can even earn extra cash from your utility company, if you’re generating more electricity than you use). There are a growing number of new devices designed to help you know exactly where you’re using power, and in some cases, let you control things like air conditioning from your mobile phone or the internet. In many cases, just knowing how much energy you’re using can help you easily figure out how to save it. We’ve put together a list of the latest technology.
This device collects data about all of your home electricity use as it happens, and lets you access that info from your phone or computer, so you can figure out the easiest ways to save energy. As more and more utility companies install smart meters, it will start to cost more to use electricity at times when demand is high. The Nucleus™ will automatically adjust thermostats (or “smart” GE appliances) when the cost of power goes up, to help save money. It’s not yet on shelves, but will be available in 2011.
The Energy Detective (TED)
There are several different options in the TED line of products — the basic monitors give you info on the electricity use in your home, and the more advanced versions can also provide data on your solar panel output. They also work with Google PowerMeter, free software that lets you monitor energy usage remotely, calculate your annual energy bill, and discover ways to save power. Prices range from $120-$455.
The AmericanGrid system has a display to show you your current energy use and an internet site to monitor data. Small devices in each room can control temperature, and even let you turn off appliances through text messaging. It’s fairly expensive ($499 at Costco), and you also need to shell out an extra $179 for a year’s subscription to their data and analysis service.
The Vera Z-Wave lets you turn appliances or lights on and off remotely (it only works on compatible devices that have been hooked up to wireless sensors). You can also monitor energy use online, and the system will send you text messages when appliances haven’t been turned off. The price is about $300.
The eMonitor looks at energy use at the circuit level — as if you’d plugged each of your appliances into a special monitoring device. It calculates your carbon footprint, lets you remotely control heating and cooling, and alerts you when you’re using more energy than usual. It costs $499 for 12 circuits, plus $189 for a two-year subscription.
Current Cost makes an attachment that goes on your power meter and displays your energy use. They also offer a version that can be used with Google PowerMeter, so you can track power use over time. Basic models are $129-$169.
PowerCostMonitor is similar to Current Cost; it’s attached to your power meter to show you your power use as it’s happening. It comes with a small display that you can put in a convenient location rather than having to go outside to the meter. This device costs $99.