It’s not necessary to wait until you receive the electric bill to figure out how much energy you use. Your bill only shows your total energy usage for the period and your annual total, not how and where you can reduce it.
Energy monitors provide real-time information that provides more precise data and usage trends that can help you use less energy. An energy monitor can detect inefficiencies, integrate with smart-home tools, and even estimate solar output.
Stop wondering why your electricity bill is so high, and use the best energy usage monitor to understand where the electricity is spent.
Before You Buy a Home Energy Monitor
It is important to determine the type of home energy monitor that best meets the needs of the user before purchasing it. Energy-efficient homeowners may only need information about one or two appliances, while energy-conscious homeowners may want a more comprehensive option.
A smart plug outlet is the easiest way to measure the energy use of an individual outlet. They are best suited to track a few “energy hog” appliances rather than all the appliances in your home. When connected to the home’s Wi-Fi, the smart plug shows how much energy the device consumes. The plug plug plugs into a wall socket, and the appliance plugs into the smart outlet.
Smart plug monitors, however, have limitations. They are not compatible with large appliances, such as laundry machines; rather, they are compatible with smaller appliances, such as blenders and hair straighteners.
Whole-House Power Monitors
An energy monitor that connects to the electrical panel or meter of your home provides a detailed account of your home’s energy usage. Based on the connection to an individual circuit of each appliance, the energy monitor tracks its performance and power consumption.
When connected to Wi-Fi, home energy monitors provide real-time details on energy use and cost directly to a phone or computer dashboard.
What to Consider When Choosing the best energy usage monitor
Each household’s best energy usage monitor provides information that is most useful to them. A monitor might include energy details on a home’s solar system or appliance-specific information, enable voice commands, provide easy installation, or have an easy-to-use app. Here are some important factors to consider when choosing the right home energy monitor.
Using a solar inverter, energy from the sun can be transformed into alternating current (AC) electricity to lower a household’s electric bill. These devices track both usage and generation and can identify peak solar times.
Energy monitors connect to a home’s utility meter to track energy inputs and outputs. Some devices show side-by-side comparisons of energy inputs and outputs and notify homeowners when energy consumption or production changes.
Energy monitoring systems for the entire house plug into individual circuits on the electrical panel. Some of these systems provide circuit-specific information, but smarter ones learn the electrical signature of each appliance and track them individually. With appliance recognition, you’ll be able to pinpoint how much energy your appliances use, and some can even send alerts if the refrigerator door is open.
Energy monitors can make specific recommendations to reduce energy usage by recognizing appliances. Notifications can be sent to unplug a blow dryer, adjust a programmable thermostat, or advise which appliances need to be upgraded. It is possible to reduce energy consumption by tracking the energy consumption of each appliance rather than all the appliances connected to a circuit.
Real-Time Cost Tracking
The electricity bill is a record of how much energy a home uses weeks after the usage occurs. Tracking how energy is used in real time allows the home’s occupants to take action in the moment to minimize energy waste. Using an energy monitor, families can see how much energy they use and what it costs them in terms of kilowatt-hours and dollars.
It is possible to uncover behavior and patterns that contribute to energy overuse through tracking in real time and receiving in-the-moment notifications. This information can help identify and correct the sources of wasted electricity. Real-time cost tracking makes it possible to identify “vampire” appliances, which draw electricity while on standby, and energy-consuming appliances, so they can be unplugged, replaced, or repurposed.
There are smart-home energy monitors that fit into the electrical panel and communicate wirelessly with other smart-home devices. These monitors are equipped with WiFi and Bluetooth capabilities, so they can communicate and interact with other smart-home appliances.
In addition to providing a detailed description of data, an energy monitor can also be linked to a smart thermostat or plug-in to enable users to operate appliances remotely. Using these models, you can monitor your home’s energy use up to the minute, identify patterns, calculate operating costs, and more.
Mobile Apps and Notifications
In most cases, home energy monitors connect home energy information to a smartphone to provide instant updates about energy usage. Once installed, they eliminate the need for reading meters and visiting the electrical panel. With these apps, you can easily understand a home’s energy usage and identify areas that need improvement, since they are visual and user-friendly.
There are many home energy monitors that come with an app that you can download with a dashboard to track usage, trends, and more. In some cases, the app can review and initiate action items from remote locations. With the app, you can set up notifications to learn about critical use events, peak usage times, energy waste, and other analytics.
Alexa and Google Assistant can be used with some whole-home and smart-plug energy tracking outlets. Hands-free capabilities are a major benefit for the elderly, those with mobility issues, or those in places where outlets are difficult to reach when syncable to these digital assistants.
Smart systems enable use of voice commands to activate energy-saving tasks, such as turning off appliances with a verbal command instead of logging into an app dashboard.
Programs and Timers
Personalized programs can save energy in the home. Each home energy monitor has a program that manages technology and energy. Some examples include:
- A smart system can be programmed so that when an alarm sounds, the house heats up, the lights come on, and the coffee maker starts automatically.
- A user can program an appliance to turn off or go into energy-saving mode when they leave the house.
- If goal setting is important, the user can find a home energy monitor to stay on track to reach those energy-saving goals. In addition, the user can set alerts to remind them to turn off specific devices.
It is possible to program timers so outlets will turn off after a certain period of time, preventing vampire appliances from drawing electricity.
Monitors that measure energy consumption from individual appliances are usually plug-in monitors that are plugged into a wall socket.
In order to install a whole-home energy monitor inside an electrical panel or on a wall, it is more complicated. In most cases, a home energy monitor includes sensors that clip on individual circuits and a small unit that analyzes the data. The number of circuits to be monitored can influence the choice of a home energy monitor.
If you’re unsure about installation, find a professional to handle it. After the hardware is installed, connect the device to Wi-Fi, and it should be up and running in just a few minutes.
Our Top Picks
The best energy usage monitor is based on an individual’s needs and preferences. These top picks address various circumstances and requirements.
1. Sense Energy Monitor
For regular, smart, or solar-powered homes, Sense offers whole-house energy monitoring. Using machine learning, this monitor can identify individual devices over time and inform users which devices are running so they can use it more efficiently and effectively. Identify patterns, set goals to reduce energy use, identify waste, and monitor what’s happening even while away on vacation.
Link this monitor to a smart assistant for hands-free energy updates and adjustments using voice commands. You can view the dashboard via an app and set up customized notifications when you enter peak consumption zones, see how long a device has been running, verify whether an appliance has been turned off, and more.
Alexa, Google Assistant, and other technology can be integrated into the monitor. An electrician should install this energy monitor inside an electrical panel.
- Whole-house energy tracker
- Customized notifications for critical-use problems
- Tracks when lights are left on or dryer turns off
- Slow to detect devices in the first month
2. TOPGREENER Smart Outlet with Energy Monitoring
Rather than invest in and install a whole-home system, installing this TOPGREENER Wi-Fi outlet can help monitor energy of individual outlets at a relatively low price. This outlet handles heavy-duty energy loads, so it’s compatible with multiple appliances. Through the phone app, users can remotely turn appliances on or off, set up timers or schedules, monitor energy use, and more.
Integrate the smart plug with virtual assistants like Alexa for voice control, and complete actionable steps by asking the assistant to make adjustments. Installation is as simple as plugging the smart outlet into the wall and plugging the appliance into the smart outlet.
- Single outlet Wi-Fi monitor
- Use app to control the monitor
- Compatible with Alexa and Google Assistant
- Handles up to 1,800 watts and 15 amps
- Collects and stores a lot of personal information
- Needs manual reset if power is disrupted
3. BN-LINK WiFi Heavy Duty Smart Plug Outlet
The Wi-Fi smart outlets from BN-LINK save space and don’t block the outlet, so two smart outlets can be stacked without any problem. Using the Smart Life app, you can monitor the outlet’s power usage, set up automatic timers, or schedule appliances, such as the coffeemaker. You can manually control the outlet with the on-off power button or use the Smart Life app to monitor the outlet’s power use.
For hands-free operation, name each smart outlet based on the appliances it connects to and use voice commands with Alexa or Google Assistant. The smart outlets are easily installed; simply plug them into the wall, connect them to appliances, and connect with a secure Wi-Fi network.
- Four-pack of individual outlet monitors
- Voice activation and app control available
- Customizable timer function
- Must be reset if Wi-Fi or power is interrupted
- Collects and stores a lot of personal information
4. EMPORIA ENERGY Gen 2 Vue Smart Home Energy Monitor
EMPORIA ENERGY’s Gen 2 monitor provides you with real-time information about energy costs and usage. In addition to 16 sensors, the monitor comes with DIY instructions, but it is best to have a professional install them on the main and individual circuits in your breaker box.
In addition to monitoring larger appliances connected to individual circuits, the device integrates with smart plugs (not included) to monitor smaller appliances, schedule timers, and increase control with EMPORIA ENERGY.
A solar home can use this monitor to see how much energy is consumed and how much energy is returned to the grid. By using the app, users know what steps to take to conserve energy and control costs based on the data it collects.
- Eight sensors included, but eight more can be purchased
- Solar generation net metering capabilities
- Customizable push notifications
- Data collected and stored on cloud, not your own device
- Difficult to retrieve extra data if desired
5. Sense Energy Monitor with Solar
With its integrated cost calculations, the Sense Energy Monitor with Solar’s dashboard lets you compare energy produced and energy consumed side-by-side, which can help you save money on power. When this monitor is plugged in for a long time, it learns more, which allows it to determine patterns in energy use and find ways to improve it.
The Sense monitor identifies individual appliances and offers information about specific devices: their status, their efficiency, vampire tendencies, and more. Energy monitors send notifications about potential issues, including solar system alerts. Installing Sense is best left to an electrician. Wi-Fi is then used to connect the home to a smartphone.
- Whole-house energy monitoring system
- Tracks solar generation and output
- Customizable notifications
- No ethernet port option
- Slow to identify devices
6. Eyedro Home Energy Monitor
The Eyedro home energy monitor provides you with real-time information about your energy use. Using the Ethernet cable provided, the sensors connect to an electrical panel to send information to an online dashboard, but it can also be connected to a Wi-Fi network. When you are away from home, you can log in to Eyedro’s website to see energy usage anytime.
It displays the change in energy consumption on the computer or phone screen as appliances are turned on or off. You can access monitoring reports and bill estimates through the dashboard, as well as receive alerts if the power goes out at home and the system cannot communicate. Install this energy monitoring system in just 15 minutes with the included instructions.
- Ethernet connection option for reliable internet
- Plenty of data options to review
- No subscription fees
- Only two monitoring clips
- Poor installation can cause inaccurate readings
How We Chose the Best Energy Usage Monitors
These recommendations for best energy usage monitors span a variety of models that can monitor an entire house, specific circuits, or a single outlet. In addition to offering products with a variety of price points to fit most budgets, we have included products with a variety of price points for homeowners who need total monitoring or who already have an energy-efficient home and only wish to monitor a few devices. Home energy monitors should be easy to use and accurate, so we’ve included options with convenient apps and voice-activated controls.
A few units can monitor solar generation and output, which is also helpful for some homeowners. Our research included mostly Wi-Fi options, although an Ethernet connection is also available.
Here are some common questions and answers about home energy monitors to assist you in selecting the best one.
Q. How do energy monitors work?
Sensors clip to individual circuits in the electrical panel, measuring the amount of energy used by that particular circuit, which can be transmitted to a smartphone or computer.
Q. How accurate are energy monitors?
The accuracy of home energy monitors is relatively high. A quality energy monitor can estimate energy usage within one percent of actual usage.
Q. Do smart plugs waste electricity?
As a standby device, smart plugs consume about 1 watt, but the energy they save from limiting power to plugged-in devices makes up for that.
The Sense Energy Monitor is our top pick for obtaining reliable information about an entire home’s energy consumption. The BN-LINK Smart Plug is our top pick for tracking appliances and outlets.