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Rants, Raves & Tips

Sense Energy Monitor - Saved Us Money!

Date: 11/15/2021 5:32:40 PM

Yes, It's Worth It! (and then some)

Click here to buy the Sense Energy Monitor now!


In August 2021, we sold our house and got ourselves into a new one.  When we got our first electric bill, I just about fell out of my chair.  It was close to $500 for the month!  Granted, we probably consume more energy that your average US household - computers, servers, gizmos, etc --- but $500?!


One of my clients operates in the electric and gas utility space, and spans many different markets in the US.  While I'm no electrician, I have done substantial residential wiring, worked in the circuit breaker panel, lighting, and if you read my blog you know I just love knowing how things work.  Suffice to say, I have a decent handle on electronics, the electric utilities, wiring, etc.  When we moved into the house, I noticed a few things with the electrical that I wasn't thrilled with.  The main circuit breaker panel is full, many of the breakers are double tapped, and nothing is labeled correctly.  There's also a borderline ridiculous number of light switches in the house (including at least one 4-way switch that doesn't even work properly).  I found the fireplace blower had burnt out because it was being controlled by a dimmer switch instead of a rheostat.


Small tangent -- I replaced the fireplace blower via Fireplace Blowers Online, and this family-owned business in Wisconsin is nothing short of awesome.  Great prices, fast shipping, OUTSTANDING support and customer service.  Highly recommend.  Incidentially, after I replaced the blower in the fireplace and the dimmer with an actual rheostat, I took the original blower's motor apart to see what the deal was with it.  Turns out the janky dimmer switch caused the thin copper wire in the motor's coil to burn off the power cord.  A little careful disassembly, soldier and dorking around, I got the original to run again without issue.  Why the tangent?  Again, just wanted to point out that I know my electronics.


So, back to the ridiculous high, $500 power bill.  I had seen the Sense Energy Monitor when it first came out, and thought it was a really novel idea.  It's one thing to go around your house, plugging a single Kill-a-watt between a device and the wall and watch to figure out how much power the device is using -- but that is tedious, and where do you even start?  And the hours you'd waste doing that.  Once again, I looked at the Sense, pulled the installation manual for it, watched a few YouTube videos of people installing it, and read an hour worth of reviews.  So, I purchased the Sense Energy Monitor on Amazon, and it was literally at my front door later that afternoon.


Installation was a breeze, BUT if you're not 100% comfortable and knowledgable with working inside your electric panel, WORK WITH A PROFESSIONAL -- even with the panel turned off, the mains are still live and can kill you.  Don't be stupid.  The install amounts to removing the circuit breaking panel cover, placing the Sense inside the panel, attaching its power leads to a breaker, clipping the sensors around the mains, and popping out a breakout cover to screw the Sense's Wi-Fi antenna on, and replacing the cover.  You then download and fire up the app on your Android or iPhone, it pairs with the Sense, connects to your Wi-Fi, gives a satisfying little BEEEEP, and you're done.


From there it's fun to explore the screens in the app, but at this point you can only really see your total power usage -- which is grouped into a single "Other" category.  This is because the Sense hasn't yet had a chance to start figuring out which devices' electrical signals are what.  Before you put the app away, there's a checklist screen that you can provide a pile of hints as to what devices you have in your house (stove w/ gas vs electric, type of furnace and A/C, number of TVs, coffee maker, microwave, etc, etc).  The list is pretty exhaustive and I was even able to find some more obscure things that I didn't think the app would consider.  Sense clearly has done their homework.


Next, it's a matter of being patient.  After a couple of days, the app started giving me notifications that it was recognizing devices, and it would tell me what it thought they were.  First a microwave, then the stove, then a toaster, a garage door opener, A/C, washer, drier, dishwasher, kitchen fridge, basement fridge, etc.  Each time, a device is recognized, it gives you the ability to verify the device (you can go turn it off and on and watch it appear and turn off on the app).  You can then name it, specify make/model, and even take notes about it.  Of all the devices the Sense has recognized for us, it only made one or two mistakes that I had to correct, and one of those was initially thinking that the basement fridge was the kitchen fridge.


Once the devices started being recognized, the "light bulb" started going off in my head!  With the app in hand, I can start going around the house and figuring out what is drawing so much power -- plus be able to look at each device's usage history!


Sense sets up an "Always On" (general) device category, and I had a prime suspects list for what this was (pool pump, computer gear).  With this in hand, I was able to walk the house, turned things off and watch the Always On category drop and then come back up when I turned the device on.  Yep, as suspected, the pool pump and computer gear was certainly using a large portion of the power.  But more importantly, it was analyzing what the identified devices were drawing.


First up was the kitchen fridge.  It's quiet, so we don't really notice it running, but the Sense showed that it's almost constantly running its compressor and dramatically adding to our electric bill.


Next, was the clothes drier.  I had no idea (because I didn't bother looking) that this inherited appliance was electric and not gas.  The drier is also an older model that's using more electricity than it should -- definitely on the Christmas List for a gas, high-efficiency replacement.


And then came big momma kWh!  We had the family over for Sunday dinner.  The wife and I were in the kitchen cooking and entertaining.  My phone buzzed at me, and I saw on my watch it was some strange looking alert from the Sense.  I opened the notification and it said something like "you hit an all-time high electric usage amount".  I opened it, and it showed we were currently burning over 13,000 watts. I was floored!  What was going on??


I opened the details and saw that our stove and oven were the bulk of this giant usage.  I showed my wife, and we were both like, "OH! DUH!"


Long story, short(er).  It took less than a month, and the Sense had paid for itself.  After seeing the vampire-draw devices, the inefficient / defective appliances, and all of the other little things (this 'device' is still on alerts), we cut our power bill in HALF -- Boom - $250/m SAVINGS.  


It's been months now, and the Sense Energy Monitor is still finding new devices, providing important alerts, and I'm sure will continue to help save money.  Plus, it's extremely cool to open the app and see what's currently going on.  I haven't dove into the home automation options and other device integrations that it offers, but it looks extensive and exciting.


In summary, if you're power bill is high (and who's isn't), I highly recommend getting a Sense Energy Monitor.  They even have optional solar monitoring and an ever expanding array of app features, devices, integrations and abilities.  If you're interested, please use my Amazon Affliate link at the top of the article.  


Thanks for coming to my "Ted Talk"