As I discussed in monitoring intro, knowing how you are using your power is one of the most important steps to take for your energy conservation efforts. While we wait for the smart grid to arrive, we have a few options on the monitoring front.
While actively reviewing your account history with your power company each month is a start, it really doesn't tell you that much. It tells you how much you used in a month, but not HOW you used it. You can run outside and check your meter every few minutes, but that is a little hard to do while you are sleeping or at work (or sleeping at work).
Home power monitoring made easy
Another option that I have found is called The Energy Detective. I purchased this device (about $145) last Fall and was very impressed. This handy device hooks over your incoming power lines (turn OFF your breaker, take off panel board, and install) and was very easy to get up and running. The company is based in South Carolina. Their customer support is top notch and believe it or not, they actually had excellent directions.
Once you hook in the main unit, it sends a signal over your existing home wiring to a display unit that you can plug in anywhere in your house. Since I work a fair amount from home, I placed my display unit in my home office. This was also beneficial because I purchased their software (about $45), TED Footprints. The display unit is an instantaneous view of how much power you are using at any given instant. If you want to be able to record history so you can see how much power you use over time and how you use it, you need to purchase the software and hook the display unit (USB) into your computer.
It was very rewarding to be able to sit at my computer, see how much my house consumes when only my laptop is being used (200 watts - all usage aside from the laptop are vampire loads), and tell when my fridge kicked on because I noticed a change in the display unit. This way, I could tell when my wife left the downstairs lights on when she went to work!
The only downside of the current TED model is that there is no internal memory! This means that when you want to record your usage history, you have to keep your computer on the whole time, which obviously defeats the whole "conservation" goal. When I called tech support to complain about this, they informed me they were coming out with a new model that had 5 days worth of internal memory called the TED 5000. They allowed me to return my unit (they have a 30 day window) and reimbursed me.
I am waiting for the TED 5000 release (they expect it to be out by May) which I am going to purchase right away. I highly recommend this device and the company for anyone interested in power conservation!
***Update: Our review of the TED 5000 is up !