Now that you know what Energy Monitoring Systems are the best options, let's talk about how we came to these conclusions. We'll take a look at a few key buying considerations that should make finding the right system for your needs a little bit easier.
Ease of Installation
Many energy monitoring systems advertise that they can be installed with relative ease. The packaging suggests that the do it yourself approach is an appropriate option. Such is often not the case.
More often than not, you will be better of enlisting the services of a certified electrician. This is especially true in the case of multi-family rental units in which you are trying to sync up with a variety of different circuits.
The sophistication of an energy monitoring system often directly correlates with how complicated it is to install. It’s a bit of a catch-22. High-quality systems perform better, but they cost more and feature an additional up-front installation fee.
It ends up being worth it. With professional help, you can be sure that the energy monitoring system will be up and running quicker, and without the risk of potential problems down the line.
Ability to Recognize Appliances
Every appliance releases a unique electric frequency when it is in use. Higher end monitoring systems are able to pick up on that frequency and then identify the appliance that is being used.
It’s not a perfect science. Even state of the art monitoring systems are liable to frequently end up confused—especially when dealing with multiple appliances that operate on similar frequencies. For instance, your hair dryer and curling iron may very well be indistinguishable to the monitor.
Most systems are also limited in that they cannot pick up on appliances that are under 30 watts. This means that most major items will be accounted for, but smaller mainstays, like your phone charger will not be.
Ultimately though, it’s a feature that is useful more often than not. Small errors aside, appliance recognition does take data analytics to a whole new level.
HVAC is As Important as it Gets
Sometimes, systems can be a little bit more complicated than you want them to be. If you only have the bandwidth to consider a certain amount of data, make sure that the system you get is at least able to provide good analytics on the goings on of your HVAC system.
Why? It’s pretty simple. Of everything that happens in a building, HVAC is the most substantial source of controllable power. In fact, heating and cooling account for roughly 40% of a homes annual energy usage.
If the goal is to monitor and reduce energy cost then there is no better way of doing so than to adjust your approach to the HVAC system.
You can then scaffold downwards as you focus on other major sources of energy output: lighting, heavy duty equipment, etc. It’s great to have plenty of data, but it also makes sense to pay the closest attention to the biggest sources of outgoing energy.
Not to Be Confused With a Single Appliance Monitor
Energy monitor systems take data on an entire household or building. These are not to be confused with systems that plug directly into an individual appliance to take data on it.
These devices are optimal for giving you information on the patterns of a single device. The energy monitoring system, on the other hand, gives a more generalized profile on everything that is happening in a specified area.
Real-Time Cost Recognition
Electric rates fluctuate throughout the day. For instance, if you run your dishwasher in the morning it might cost more than if you decide to run it during the night time. It’s called “peak time” usage. Over time, the cost of running major appliances during peak time hours can really add up.
Some energy monitoring systems are able to keep a running count of the peak time hours, giving you real-time information about when to run your appliances.
The information can then help you make more informed decisions about when you want to perform certain activities. For example, you may decide that the evening is a better time to run the washing machine as that is when the rates are lowest.
The goal of an energy monitoring system is to eventually save you money. The question should not be if it will do this, but rather when. If you can find a system that will have given you a return of investment within a year of purchase, you will be in good shape.
Remember that this has to balance out not just against the upfront cost of the system, but also the price of installation, as well as any monthly fees that the manufacturer might demand.
Fortunately, this is an objective that is not terribly difficult to achieve. A high-quality, moderately priced system will be able to save you money at a rate of 15% a month, helping you reach your ROI in six months.
Multi or Single Family Household?
Naturally, this article focuses a little bit more on devices that can be used on multi-tenant homes. However, you do have options. In fact, many systems can work with either. Some options are made to work in single family homes as the default but can be modified for a larger application.
In these instances, the wattage will be of the most importance. You will need to find a system that is compatible with the specific breaker wattage on your building. Alternatively, you may be able to purchase adapters from the company that expands its usefulness. In any case, it is always important to consider your intentions before making your purchase.
Most mainstream monitoring systems are now run remotely via phone applications. The Bluetooth compatibility usually makes for a nice, clean user interface that even those with very little experience will be able to navigate.
Because energy monitoring systems are effectively a means of analyzing data, the interface is of particular importance. The easier time you have viewing the monitor's data, the better it will be able to serve you.
However, it is also worth keeping in mind that every system will be a little bit different in how they allow you to store and access your data. For instance, some devices will allow you to store one year’s worth of information. Others may give you an archive of three or more years.
Data accessibility is a small but critical way that products are able to distinguish themselves.
If you’re using solar panels in your home, you may find it worthwhile to consider a system that is capable of incorporating that data into its analytic reports. A solar compatibility feature will allow you to access how effective your panels are.
For example, the system may be able to determine how much your panels are bringing in, how they use the energy, and even how much it’s saving you.
Most energy monitoring systems will take data based strictly on kilowatt usage. That’s fine if you are an electrician, but the average layperson may not know exactly what to make out of this kind of data.
You can also find energy monitoring systems that take a much more direct dollars and cents approach, telling you the cost of your energy use. For most people, this may be a little bit more enlightening.
It’s kind of ironic that you need to worry about the power source of your energy monitoring system, but alas, you do. Some plug right into your power supply, while others are battery monitored. Battery monitored units are often cheaper and easier to install, but they also require more general upkeep.
It ultimately depends on what your needs are. For a personal home unit, a battery may be fine. However, if you are not onsite often, it may be better to have a direct power line.
Is Data Safe?
That’s a good question. It will depend mostly on the way in which your system operates. For example, cloud-based systems have more vulnerabilities than other monitoring options.
There are many problems with cloud-based data protection in general, but for most people, the risk will be minimal. Additionally, most systems allow you to monitor the information that is being uploaded so that you know what data is in circulation.
It’s not a perfect system but it does give you lots of convenience with minimal risks.
Chances are pretty good that most popular energy monitoring systems are going to be compatible with the voltage of your home. However, each unit will have its limitations. Before you finalize a purchase, it’s a good idea to make sure that the energy monitoring system will be able to support the specifications of your building.
Some energy monitoring systems come with a cost that exceeds what you pay for the hardware and installation. For instance, some will require that you pay extra for their software. Others will demand a monthly archival fee. The extent of these additional costs will vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, but often enough they sharply undermind the purpose of an energy monitoring system.
Generally, monthly fees are counterintuitive to the goal of saving money on your monthly bills. Makes sense, right? Occasionally, subscription-based services will be worthwhile, but keep in mind that they will cut into your ROI.
As with anything, the better the warranty, the better the user experience. Naturally, this is a consideration that will be very relative to each individual manufacturer. Some companies will offer a six-month warranty, while others can extend for years.
Not only do warranties support you in the event of an untimely system failure, but they also give you a hint about how confident the manufacturer feels in the product that they have put out. Generally, the better the product, the bigger the warranty that it comes with.
Why is that? It’s pretty simple. You usually don’t offer to make free repairs on something for several years if you think the product that you put out is likely to need them.
To track large amounts of data in a sizable space, The Energy Detective Pro 800 will do well to suit your needs. Thanks to the flexibility of the system it can be adjusted to meet the needs of any type of user. This includes people trying to integrate solar into their energy use habits, or just anyone who sees the benefit of a customizable interface.
As you continue your hunt for the perfect energy monitoring system consider your upfront budget, as well as the eventual savings outcome that you hope to achieve. The right system for you will be able to satisfy both needs.
Feel free to consult this guide frequently as you mull the decision over.