How do you find the best home energy monitor? What are the top devices available today to monitor electricity in real time? Which deliver the best value?
Although several different types of energy monitors exist, only devices based on current transformer (CT) clamps apply “universally.” Therefore, we examine such units from Curb, Sense, Smappee, Neurio, Efergy, and Eyedro. We also look at the Vue, newly available from Emporia Energy. For convenience, we offer the following comparison table. Further description for each device follows the table.
At nearly $400, the Curb system (boasting a whopping 18 CT clamps!) anchors the high price point and high complexity for these options. At the other end of the spectrum, at less than $160, Efergy and Eyedro offer value pricing with a more standard two CT-clamp system. However, Efergy only provides data at 10-second interval. For its part, Eyedro requires peripheral equipment and cannot resolve individual-circuit data. In contrast, the Vue offers continuous 1-second data and (soon!) the ability to add an expansion module. This module will enable monitoring down to the circuit or even appliance level. All for less than $150.
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Legacy Devices — A Review
Prior to creating its own platform (and determining to develop its own hardware), we at Emporia naturally surveyed the market. As a result, we have an unique view with respect to smart home energy solutions and the best devices to monitor real-time energy. The results of our research with respect to six “legacy” CT-based solutions appears below. We then follow with presentation of our own NEW offering!
The Curb Energy Monitor approaches monitoring from a highly “comprehensive” perspective. In other words, they seek to capture data directly both from the home’s main supply as well as all circuits within the home. Thus, they provide 18 CT clamps for the job. In addition to these clamps, the Curb requires a large hub and transmitter located in the panel and a further Ethernet-connected wall adapter located in the home.
The comprehensive nature of Curb comes at a cost. Both with respect to the high price point as well as a lengthy and difficult installation process. Any buyer of this system should also be aware of potential space limitations within their panel. Without surprise, many panels struggle to accommodate the addition of so many CT clamps as well as a relatively large hub.
The Sense Energy Monitor takes a different approach. They don’t rely on comprehensive measurement of every available circuit in the home. Rather, Sense seeks only to measure current from the mains. Consequently, Sense comes with mere two CT clamps. Further, they utilize home Wi-Fi and therefore do not require an Ethernet connection to a home’s router. Relying upon data only from two CT clamps, Sense has developed artificial intelligence (AI) to “disaggregate” individual devices used in the home. These individual devices produce “signatures” based upon their electrical patterns. However, customer reviews show that AI device recognition still remain somewhat elusive. And many users report significant noise in identifying appliances.
Sense generally offers an elegant solution and a strong app experience as well. However, the price point is also relatively high and one should be aware of ongoing difficulties in identifying devices. The problem is that similar devices produce highly similar signals — and the noise of overall energy use in a home can lead to AI confusion. For example, even after six months of continuous use, we still received confusing alerts for finding “New Motor 4.” Still, we (and many others) admire the work by Sense.
The Neurio Energy Monitor has adopted a strategy very similar to that of Sense. But they have done so at a slightly lower price point. In other words, they use two CT clamps and software to disaggregate individual devices. As a possible advantage over Sense, Neurio’s transmitter is slightly smaller and therefore can fit into tighter panels. However, Neurio can only resolve devices using greater than 400 watts of power. In contrast, Sense has the ability to resolve loads as small as five watts (though one should be aware of the experience issues noted above).
The Smappee Energy Monitor has developed an interesting approach that falls somewhere between those of Curb, Sense, and Neurio. Specifically, Smappee provides a modular system. This system allows users to select the best number of CTs used for their home energy monitor. They further offer CTs of different sizes between 50A and 1000A. The base module contains ports for four CT clamps, which can be daisy-chained to other identical modules and inputs for an external power box and gateway. These peripherals must live outside the panel for power from a wall outlet and data through Ethernet. Therefore, installation may prove difficult and implementation less aesthetic. That said, the Smappee does offer users the ability to “train” the system to recognize particular devices.
Efergy provides a value-oriented solution. With many consumers seeking best payback from their investment in home energy monitors, this low price can make a difference. With this in mind, Efergy uses a 900-MHz signal to send data from two CT clamps. Both the radio transmitter and the receiving display unit (or optional Ethernet hub) must reside outside of the electrical panel. Further, AA batteries power the transmitter, which only transmits data once every 10 seconds. (Note: 15- or 20-second delivery options are available to conserve battery life.)
In line with Efergy’s offering, Eyedro also provides a low-cost solution. In contrast to Efergy, Eyedro powers its device directly from a wall outlet and offers data at 1-second density delivered over Wi-Fi. Therefore, Eyedro boasts continuous data and no need to replace batteries. However, it should be noted that the Eyedro system still requires a nearby electrical outlet. And homeowners must live with equipment external to the panel and the inability to resolve data for individual circuits or appliances.
Emporia Vue: the Newest and (By Design and Value!) Best Home Energy Monitor
Recently, a new entrant has emerged: Emporia Energy with its Vue platform. As stated earlier, Emporia benefited greatly from its comprehensive survey of multiple available systems. Consequently, the Vue combines the best of features available from home energy monitor devices. And it does so at the most affordable price.
Specifically, the Vue offers:
- Real-time streaming of continuous, 1-second data onto a mobile app
- Wi-Fi connectivity
- Clean installation of all components and power within the panel
- Monitoring of single circuits with a soon-available 8-CT expansion module
- Future integration with wireless AMI data from certain utilities
This last feature has not been addressed in this post, but relates to select markets where it is not possible to install CT clamps on utility mains. In the interest of consumer choice, Emporia has developed two hardware devices for generating electricity data in real time. These devices meet the needs for two different markets (discussed later).
Emporia’s platform offers key advantages over other incumbent offerings.
The Vue delivers 1-second, continuous data on a powerful, easy-to-use app. Data connects from the CT-clamp system through Wi-Fi to Emporia’s cloud. Therefore, once installed, the homeowner will see no visible wires or extra hardware. Further, homeowners need not rely upon a hard-to-find electrical outlet, Ethernet connection, or replace batteries. And finally, the Vue will soon expand to monitor individual circuits — and even important individual appliances for enhanced protection.
No other device delivers this suite of features and performance for such a low price. This pricing and a pledge to enhance features is anchored by Emporia’s commitment to deliver the greatest value to consumers possible.
As indicated above, the CT-based Vue is installed behind a home’s main electrical panel. This installation can be achieved either by a homeowner or by a qualified electrician. For added convenience to those choosing to install without an electrician, Emporia offers the choice to power Vue hardware using a nearby outlet rather than “hardwiring” inside the panel. (Please contact us if you wish to purchase this option.)
Access to Real-time Data — Real Fast
Emporia has worked hard to develop an app that provides both convenience and detail. The CT-based Vue shows data for every second of home electricity use, generally updated in two-second intervals on the app. Users can then pan out to examine data at increments of one minute, quarter hour, hour, day, month, and year. All the while, choosing whether to view data in terms of watts, dollars, gallons of gasoline, car miles driven, carbon used, or trees required for offset.
Innovative Co-branding Opportunity
If you are a provider of home services, Emporia offers a powerful tool to help grow your business. Specifically, Emporia partners can develop stronger connections using the same IoT strategy of large technology companies.
Convenient Carbon Offsetting
With real-time data and notifications, the Vue system empowers users to save money and energy. However, at some point we still must use power. And we therefore contribute to carbon pollution. Emporia makes it easy and convenient to offset this impact.
Emporia’s Vue: More Than Just the Best Home Energy Monitor
So, for its price the Emporia Vue packs a lot of punch! The Vue system offers unparalleled value and performance. However, beyond these attributes, the Vue delivers opportunities both to home service providers and consumers concerned about their impact on the planet.
Looking to the Future
The Vue also promises over time to deliver both demand- and supply-side data. This means that recommendations for energy savings will consider more than mere conservation. Rather, they will also give insight into real-time costs and fuel used for energy. No other system considers both sides of the energy equation – all in the interest of saving consumers money and reducing carbon.
More Flexibility — To Meet ALL Markets
Please recall an earlier mention in this post to a second device developed by Emporia. We now address that device as promised!
Through its research, Emporia discovered that certain markets (particularly some in southern California) utilized main electrical panels incompatible with CT clamps. However, these markets typically have AMI “smart” meters equipped with ZigBee wireless transmitters. Therefore, Emporia has designed a hardware option to bridge the wireless signal to Wi-Fi. Once data hits the app, the user experience mirrors that for CT-based systems. In this manner, Emporia seeks to address a gap in its ability to deliver a “universal” solution. Look for this option as soon as the fall of 2019!
To turn a phrase, you can’t manage what you don’t measure. Emporia believes it has designed and built the best home energy monitor — ultimately to meet ALL markets. So forge into the energy transition with Emporia by purchasing your Vue now. We look forward to the journey together!