Stocking Savings: Some holiday gift ideas will shed light on your home’s energy use

This holiday season, you’ll probably see lots of advertising for “smart” home accessories. Fortunately, you can spend money on some gifts that can lead to long-term savings.

Commercials this time of year highlight all sorts of gadgets. Often, many of these devices are about convenience, such as remotely turning lights and appliances on and off. Fortunately, some devices such as energy monitors and even Wi-Fi outlets and power strips can help you learn about your home’s energy use – and, hopefully, lead to better choices that lower your energy use, and with it, lower long-term energy costs.

Home Energy Monitors

These devices come in two different types. Both types of home energy monitors provide you with helpful information about how your home is using electricity, though there are unique advantages and challenges to each. One kind monitors each circuit of your home’s circuit breaker box to tell you how much electricity is used at each circuit. Emporia Vue is an example of that type of monitor. Circuit level devices are often more challenging to install, but if your circuit breaker box is well-labeled, you can quickly see how much even the tricky appliances are using. The downside is that if there are several small appliances plugged into the same circuit. Those circuit level monitors are not able to separate those smaller loads.

The other type uses electric harmonics and machine learning to detect appliance patterns to “learn” what devices are using electricity in your home. The Sense home energy monitor is an example of that type. The devices utilizing machine learning are usually easier to install, and they have been on the market long enough that they can identify many common appliances fairly quickly. Monitors using electric harmonics can struggle with some appliances, making it a challenge for the monitor to ever “see” those appliances.

Wi-Fi Outlets and Power Strips

Wi-Fi outlets and power strips are a way to help you “see” loads the whole home monitors are not able to “see” because of machine learning limitations, or multiple appliances installed on the same circuit. Each home energy monitor has Wi-Fi outlets that are compatible and can shed more light on individual plug use.

These devices will be helpful in making you smarter about your home — because you should be the smart one, not the gadgets plugged into your home. For more energy-saving tips and advice, contact your local electric co-op’s energy advisor or peruse our site.