Home energy monitors can unearth interesting discoveries


LaGrange County REMC Energy Advisor Jake Taylor helped a co-op member scour his house to find the culprit causing the member’s high energy bills. 

Taylor started in the homeowner’s basement, at the circuit breaker box. He didn’t have to travel any further.

Taylor connected a Sense, which is a home energy monitor that tracks electricity use in real time, to the LaGrange County REMC member’s circuit breaker box. The Sense is able to show the home’s electricity use in real-time as appliances in the home turn on and off. Over time, the home energy monitor also learns the energy use of individual appliances, systems and other devices, and tracks that use. Taylor and the LaGrange County REMC member learned that there were several issues with appliances that were contributing to the high energy bills.

“Sense takes high level information about real-time electricity consumption and translates it into something that’s easy for homeowners to understand,” Taylor said. “You can look at your house’s energy use and see what it costs you. They’re amazing.”

Sense Home Energy
Sense Home Energy Monitor

Home energy monitors such as Sense parse out each device using electricity in a home. In many cases, the Sense can name the type of appliance such as a refrigerator or television (and may even know the brand of the device). It may take a few days – or even a few weeks – for the Sense to detect all of the devices, systems and appliances that cycle on and off in a home. That can be useful for homeowners to track and determine their home’s energy use.

Home energy monitors can even indicate abnormal energy use that can be a sign of an issue. Laura Matney, who is marketing manager at Wabash Valley Power Alliance, had an electrician install a Sense at her home (electricians are recommended to install the device). The Sense showed that her basement’s lift pump, which moves water in pipes from the basement to ground level, was unexpectedly turning on several times an hour. She explored the issue and discovered that a leak was causing the pump to work more than normal.

“I don’t know that I was expecting it to find particular problems,” Matney said. “I got the Sense so I could get a better idea of what appliances are using energy and when.”

She hopes that as she learns more about her family’s electricity use, the household can take steps to conserve energy. While she started discovering new details shortly after it was plugged in, she noticed it takes the Sense several weeks to discover the majority of devices and appliances that use power in the home.

“I think it’s a good tool, but it’s not a device that is just a one-time setup and you’re done,” Matney said of Sense. “You learn along with it, and it’s an ongoing effort but the knowledge and savings can be worth it.”