Track Your Energy & Save

Intermediate

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Every appliance has a unique electrical signature when switched on or running. Disaggregation uses statistical methods to extract each appliance’s energy consumption data from the entire home’s energy signal.
Watt-meters like the P3 Kill A Watt can measure watts, volts, amps, kilowatt-hours, and frequency, and can even calculate energy costs, but they can only do it for one appliance at a time.
Modern home energy monitors, like this one from Sense, use current sensors that can easily be clamped around the main power lines, and take their voltage measurements on the breaker terminals. A transmitter routes data wirelessly to an app, which shows energy-use details from individual appliances. Some home energy-monitors can also track PV system production.
Modern home energy monitors, like this one from Sense, use current sensors that can easily be clamped around the main power lines, and take their voltage measurements on the breaker terminals. A transmitter routes data wirelessly to an app, which shows energy-use details from individual appliances. Some home energy-monitors can also track PV system production.
Bidgely’s utility-based energy monitor is gaining wide implementation and can disaggregate data from either utility smart meters or analog meters.
Developed to be implemented strictly by utilities, Powerley offers energy-management means in addition to monitoring.
Copper Labs’ device is placed within 20 feet of a smart meter, and provides real-time energy use information by reading data using radio frequencies and sending it to a smart device in a user-friendly format.
Efergy’s display shows a variety of conditions, including the amount of greenhouse gas produced per kilowatt-hour.
Mirubee is able to disaggregate the electrical information from various appliances to allow for fine-tuning of energy consumption.
IFTTT, a web service to connect compatible devices, allows users to design their own response to energy usage. An energy monitor like Smappee Pro reads energy-consumption data from smart meters. It can then send a signal to change the color of an IFTTT-compatible lamp (inset) if a setting is exceeded, or give an audible alert via your smartphone if a certain appliance is turned on.

Efficiency upgrades, such as replacing old lighting and appliances with Energy Star models, as well as upgrading HVAC equipment, can curb energy use and costs. But studies have shown that homeowners receiving regular feedback of their energy usage are more likely to make behavioral changes for even greater utility bill savings. 

Most monthly utility bills show some energy-use information and, in the best cases, may offer additional details, such as daily consumption, annual trends, and comparison with neighbors. However, having easy access to real-time usage data is far more effective in showing homeowners how their activities are affecting energy consumption.

Traditionally, submeters were used for real-time information, but their popularity is diminishing because they are expensive and difficult to install. Modern home energy-monitoring systems are comparatively inexpensive, easy to install, and can even show usage data on a smartphone. Some creative products allow users to interface with other smart devices, such as Amazon’s Alexa virtual assistant or Philips’ Hue lighting control app, making home energy monitoring an engaging experience.

Data Disaggregation

While most home energy-monitoring devices show whole-home energy usage in real time, some can show energy usage of individual appliances—called disaggregated data. George Hart, a mathematics professor at MIT, discovered that appliances have unique signatures when switched on or running. Using these signatures, he found that it was possible to extract data on the energy consumed by each appliance from the whole home’s energy signal using “machine learning”—in which a computer program uses basic assumptions to predict which appliances are in use and then adapts continually as more data becomes available.

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