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Get Smart about Smart Grid Technology

(And Save On Energy Without Spending a Fortune)

By Guest Blogger Jay Harris

It’s a whole new world out there in terms of household appliances. Whereas our grandmothers might have been lucky to have an electric washing machine, we now have the option to purchase washers that steam clean, analyze loads for optimal cleaning and link with our smartphones so we can monitor and adjust them remotely. They can even connect to a grid system that wirelessly monitors their energy output along with all the other appliances in the house; a system which owners can also manage from their phones.

Although many of us hope to integrate these new smart machines into our homes one day, it might not be feasible to purchase all new home appliances immediately. However, we may not have to, especially if our main goal is to utilize the smart grid system to save on energy.

What is a Smart Grid?

The term “smart grid” can refer to any system that monitors devices linked together through an electric grid, analyzes their data outputs and potentially communicates with them. According to the United States Department of Energy, “A key feature of the smart grid is automation technology that lets the utility adjust and control each individual device or millions of devices from a central location.”
Essentially, then, smart grid appliances are ones that can hook up to the same monitoring system so you can check on their energy efficiency and even control them remotely. The results are lower carbon emissions, improved energy efficiency and overall energy savings for the owner.

Going Wireless with Your Appliances

If you’re looking to save on your household energy expenditures without jumping into purchasing all new appliances, consider installing an energy monitoring system in your home. Grid setup is typically as easy as plugging in your appliance and logging in to your remote monitoring site or phone app. Following are a few types of energy monitors, from a simple desktop device that monitors overall energy expenditures to a monitor that can tell you exactly what device is hogging all that energy:

The Energy Detective: Otherwise known as TED, The Energy Detective is an energy monitoring system that works simply by plugging an MTU, or Measuring Transmitting Unit, into your home’s breaker box. Two clamps attached to the box’s incoming power conductors monitor the amount of energy being used in real time, allowing the user to view the exact cost of running different appliances. Users can view their present energy expenditures and history, as well as how much they can save with small adjustments on the TED Footprints Software, and view energy reports via a third party smartphone app. Additionally, the program comes with a text/email alert that lets you know when you’re about to go over your energy bill budget for the month. Total price for the monitor, wireless monitor and Footprints Software starts around $240.

EcoDog: EcoDog’s Energy Watchdog includes many of the same features as TED, as well as the ability to monitor the cost of charging an electric vehicle, plus In-Home Net Metering which allows homeowners with a solar or wind generator to see how much they’re saving both net and hourly. EcoDog also offers a parental control that shows parents how much energy their kids are expending. Real time monitoring, a software interface, email and text message alerts on energy expenditures and the ability to adjust the energy rates to your local rates are all included. In terms of installation, the EcoDog monitor, called FIDO, is installed by clamping sensors on each circuit in your breaker box as opposed to just the incoming power conductors, which allows the homeowner to more accurately monitor where energy drains are originating. The complete home system starts around $1,000.

The Wattson: If you’re simply looking for a way to cut down on overall household energy expenditures without the hassle of installing a breaker box monitor, energy monitors such as The Wattson allow you to see how much total energy you’re expending in your home at any given time. The arched, art deco-inspired monitor is about the size of an average paperback book and glows different colors as energy expenditures increase or decrease in your home. A retro LED-font display across the top of the device shows exactly how many watts are being expended per hour via the use of external sensors. It’s an ambient way of quickly seeing how much or how little energy you’re using throughout the day. Wattson energy meters start around $220.

Whether you’re looking to pinpoint the energy vampires in your home or just want to watch your overall energy expenditures, energy monitors are a great and affordable alternative to purchasing brand new appliances.
What are some other energy monitors that you’ve found to be useful? What appliances have you found to be the biggest energy drains in your house?
About the Author

Jay Harris is a Home Depot “on the floor” sales associate and a regular contributor to Home Depot’s blog. His interests include home automation and home security systems.


About Kevin

Kevin is both an environmentalist and a tech guy and has been writing, editing and publishing this blog since 2007. He answers questions related to how you can use tech to go greener.

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