Saving Money, Utilities

Tracking Electricity Usage Just Got Easier

Power Cost MonitorAs home energy costs rise, so does awareness. Even those who have never before paid attention to their electrical usage are taking note as their monthly bills climb higher and higher. For those that would like to more closely monitor the power being used in their home, Blue Line Innovations of Canada offers an small device to do just that.

“As unobtrusive as a small electric clock, the PowerCost Monitorâ„¢ is a powerful real-time direct feedback display device for domestic energy consumers. It tells them at a glance, in real-time, how much electricity their home is using in dollars and cents and in kW.”

Such a display could be placed in one’s home in an easily accessible location, such as near the thermostat. Rather than regularly making the trek to your electric meter (and letting your air conditioning out in the process), the information is wirelessly transmitted to the display in your home. The device involves two separate units: a sensor unit for the meter (available for both mechanical and digital models) and a display unit for the home. The monitor is listed on the site at $149.99 and the display at $109.99, though it does not specify if the prices are in Canadian or US dollars.

It’s a pretty expensive device to install simply for the benefit of being able to see your energy use in real time, but there is more to this device that that. They claim that by being able to see your energy consumption in real time, the device can help “householders save from five to 20 percent on their monthly electricity bills” by showing the following:

  • The amount of electricity your home is using from
    moment to moment
  • The difference in electricity consumption caused by turning on and off the various electrical appliances in your home. The more electrical appliances you turn off, the lower the values displayed. The more appliances you turn on, the higher the values.
  • The total amount of money you are spending on electricity.

Depending on how much knowing how much electricity you are consuming motivates you to save energy in your house, this device could pay for itself in under a year if you are on the high end to several years if you are on the low end. This, of course, is assuming that you would use it and it wouldn’t sit there without anyone ever looking at it. For those that think you would, it may be worth investigating further.

14 thoughts on “Tracking Electricity Usage Just Got Easier

  1. I agree that it’s a hard sell since it doesn’t directly lower my utility costs; it just makes me aware of how much I’m spending.

    If the unit cost $50, then I would definitely go for it, but $200-300 is just way too much. That’s a couple months of electric use in my house!

  2. You’re right, Clever, $259.98 is a pretty hefty price tag. Personally, my electric bill averages about $100 per month so it would take me quite some time to break even on this device. But, for a multi-member household or a family trying to teach children how and way to convserve electricity, I think it would prove fairly beneficial.

    If the electric bill averages $200 per month and you reduce it by just 10%, the system pays for itself in 13 months. If usage is reduced by 20%, it’s paid for itself in under 7 months.

    And when you consider the costs of other common methods of reducing the electric bill (new doors, windows, insulation, and HVAC) and the length of time it takes to pay for themselves, suddenly $259.98 doesn’t look nearly so steep.

  3. The device does not actually have a total cost of $259.98. If you go on their website, you will see that you have the OPTION to buy an ADDITIONAL monitor for 109.99 on top of the monitoring device and display you already receive for only 149.99. (Some may consider buying an additional display depending on how big the household is, or maybe for the home & the home office.)
    So total cost for the entire system is only approx $150, plus $9 S&H. Also it is completely user friendly when installing, not requiring any help from an electrician, your utility, or your wallet.

    The Kill A Watt acts as a one time use if used for things like your old refridgerator or clothes dryer, therefore doesn’t seem to be nearly as sound of an investment as this. Kill A Watt may be good for an air conditioner when you turn it up or down, but the PowerCost MonitorTM reminds you that your air conditioner isn’t the only thing sucking the energy ie. running water, opening the fridge door, leaving the bathroom light on, or charging a device, such as your car’s battery, for more time than ever would be needed.

    Especially convenient device since it is completely portable and wireless.

  4. PowerSaver:

    When I went through the online ordering system, the Power Cost Monitor Package showed only the picture of the sensor device itself and did not specify if the in-house display came with the package or not. Since it didn’t specifically include it, I made the assumption it was excluded. With that said, the display is marked as “ADDITIONAL PCM433 DISPLAY” for $109.99, so I can see how that would imply a display is included with the original package.

    As an update, the site does now seem to specify that the price is in Canadian dollars

  5. What we really need is a good way to track water usage in apartment buildings. I cannot tell you the waste (and super high bills) when tenants leave water running, toilers running, drippy faucets, etc. Landlords rarely know until we get inflated bills and then have to track down the problem.

  6. It’s an interesting idea. I think it would be good way to teach kids about how the things they do in the house has a cost.

  7. Here is Boston, NSTAR is subsidizing the cost of the meter. So I only needed to pay $30 (including S&H). I have ordered one but I have not gotten it yet.
    By the way, I think this does not do the same thing as a Kill-a-Watt. The Kill-a-Watt allows you to track individual devices. This device allows you to monitor your whole house including things that you cannot plug into a Kill-a-Watt, e.g. the electric stove. So I think this meter compliments the Kill-a-Watt

  8. I am trying to get ideas as to how to monitor my electrical usage. I moved into a rental home last July. The house is all electric. My bills run between $480 and $800 throughout the year. Our electric provider put a new meter and we have had electricians out checking for problems. I have recently contacted the board of public utilities. They say a qualified electrician should be able to estimate what our monthly bill should be but the electrician says the equipment is very expensive. I feel there is definitely something wrong as my husband and I (yes only a total of 2 people in our household) could not possible be using 4,000 kwh per month. Any thoughts?

  9. Sharon,
    4000 KWH per month is a lot of electricity. My understanding is that electric meters can be defective, but it is very rare. I have heard of cases where the power meter was out on a pole near the house and the power lines went underground to the house, and the power lines were damaged and leaking electricity into the ground. The customer had to pay for the electricity.

    The “Power Cost Motor” is a great product. I have one in my house. This would allow you to go around the house and turn things off until you found what was using all the electricity.
    From what I understand, situations like yours are often the result of some appliance in the house using more electricity than expected. Perhaps it could be a defective refrigerator with the defrost heater stuck on all the time. Or you might have many electric heating devices (for pet snakes or something). The power cost monitor should let you figure this out. You could start turning off circuit breakers unit you found the source of the usage.
    For the USA average monthly usage is 875kHW.
    Let us know what happens. If you happen to live in Massachusetts, perhaps I can help you more directly.

    John C. Briggs

  10. Thank you so much for your quick response. Your first comment was very close to the mark. The farm we live on use to be a dairy farm. The power comes in at a pasteurizing shed (where the meter is located). Then all the lines run underground. It is a 3 phase type line. The electric panels are in the basement. Supposedly all the power is run into the house first, then to outlying barns etc. All the outlying switches are “off”. I first heard of a possible underground “leakage” by one of the JCP&L guys who came out to the house. I work for the owner of the property I rent. I got an estimate from the electrician to run an above ground single phase service direct to the house. $2,500. Not sure if the owner is gonna go for that. In the meantime, I was told to ask the electrician for an estimate of what the monthly usage should be in our home. He says we would have to pay for costly monitoring equipment for him to do that. I was under the impression that there should be electrician who can do this for a fee. My boss/owner of the property would probably pay for that to find the problem. I cannot afford these bills. I have even worked up a spreadsheet from my electric bills. Even in the spring/fall when we are not using air or heat, my bills are ridiculous. I will probably have to invest in a monitor at some point. I saw one advertised for sale in the UK that works with your computer to provide you the information from the readings. It would be helpful to have
    one pinpoint any appliance that may not be working correctly. I live in New Jersey and I am certainly responsible for the usage no matter where it is going or what the problem may be. Any additional help or direction on
    researching my problem, or ways to solve it would be fabulous! Thanks again.

    P.s. is there free software that can be downloaded for calculating appliance usage per item? I saw an energy calculator listed on a site for an electric provider out in the Midwest. Unfortunately it would not let me use it, because my zip code was not in it’s database.

  11. Sharon,
    Well good luck with your hunting. It sounds like a frustrating experience but hopefully you will be able to find and fix the problem.

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