About Sense Home Energy Monitor
Today, we live in a data-driven world. The more information we have, the greater power we yield. This holds true whether we’re talking about world domination, or just running your home more efficiently.
In response to this reality, a bevy of new technologies have been invented that allow us to harness data like never before. Information that—although it’s been floating around for decades—simply couldn’t be collected in any meaningful way.
Enter the Sense Home Energy Monitor. This small device quickly connects to your electric panel and learns to identify and “listen” to each and every appliance in your home—whether they’re smart or not. Then, the information it tracks is sent to your smartphone and provides:
- Helpful alerts: When a specific light is turned on, the garage door is open, early warnings when appliance needs maintenance, the wash is done, etc.
- Useful information: Your energy consumption compared to other homes, how much you’re using your air conditioner compared to this time last year, how much TV you’re watching, etc.
- Money saving tips: “Save $257 a year by switching to CFLs,” track energy usage, etc.
Or, as the company puts it, “Sense listens to every appliance to make your home more efficient, informed, and secure.”
We’ll talk about this again in a moment, but the HighYa team has reviewed several data-gathering devices like Sense Energy Monitor. Most of the time, one of the biggest stumbling blocks we encounter is that, while it’s undeniably cool to have access to all this new information, exactly how much it’ll improve your life remains a little fuzzy.
Is this the case with Sense? Is it worth placing an order? By the time you finish reading this review, you should have a solid answer in mind.
How Does the Sense Home Energy Monitor Work?
The Sense Energy Monitor is a small (5.3” x 2.6” x 1.25”) rectangular device that attaches to the service mains of most split-phase residential electric panels.
Once installed, Sense is able to “listen” for the unique electronic signatures (called “voices”) of attached devices, and record what they’re “saying” millions of times per second. Then, the Energy Monitor implements proprietary algorithms to help recognize each voice and distinguish one appliance from another.
Finally, the Sense device connected to your panel sends this data to your smartphone app.
In a nutshell, the process works over four steps:
- Install the Sense Monitor in your electric panel. Note: The company recommends hiring a licensed electrician to handle this part.
- Download the iPhone or Android (available August 2016) app. According to the company, they’re developing a web interface as well, although there’s currently no launch date.
- Connect the Monitor to your in-home Wi-Fi.
- Sense will automatically detect devices over the course of a day or two and “tell you what they are saying.”
Speaking of devices: which ones can you expect Sense to … sense?
Which Devices Will Sense Identify?
Briefly, here’s how the company puts it:
“Sense is able to identify common appliances (refrigerators, washing machines, etc.) on its own. It recognizes other devices, but may not be able to identify them — you can name these once they are detected. We're also developing a "Teach Me" feature that allows you to give an example of devices you'd like Sense to recognize.”
This is certainly helpful, but in our opinion, it’s still pretty vague and could have a pretty big impact on its overall usefulness. For example, if you’re a home automation enthusiast (likely one of Sense’s target demographics), you probably have a lot of non-traditional appliances running at all times.
If you have a decent size setup, these combined devices could consume more energy than your refrigerator and other traditional appliances. In an example like this, although extreme, it outlines that Sense might not always give you an accurate view of your energy consumption. We’ll come back around to this point in the final section.
Sense states that they’re constantly developing new algorithms to detect more devices as they get more data. The good news is that the Energy Monitor works regardless if an appliance is modern or decades old, although it can only be connected to “condos, townhouses, and single-family homes that have their own power meter. It does not yet work in apartment buildings unless the electrical panel is accessible.”
How much will you pay for all this sensing?
How Much Does the Sense Monitor Cost?
Production for the Sense Monitor is staggered. The first two runs are sold out and shipping is underway, and preorders are being taken for the third run, which is set to ship in August.
Sense’s price is $249 (which will increase to $299 after release). Shipping and handling was a flat $13 at the time of our research, regardless of address. Your order may also be subject to sales tax, depending on the state.
Pro tip: As we outlined previously, the company recommends having a licensed electrician install the Monitor, which could add $100 or more to your overall costs.
Sense Solar (it monitors solar usage) is currently available as an upgrade to existing Sense Monitors for $50. Shipping is in August for iPhone and October for Android.
The Sense Home Energy Monitor comes with a 30-day refund policy, less S&H charges, as well as a 1-year warranty against defects in materials and workmanship.
What Kinds of Reviews Has the Sense Monitor Received?
Although the Sense Home Monitor had already undergone two complete production runs, we were surprised at the overall lack of online customer feedback for the device during our research.
Most Sense reviews we found were in a single Reddit thread, although we found it very insightful, with a must-watch app demo. In fact, we learned more about Sense’s functionality in this video than we did on the manufacturer’s website.
One of the biggest questions we initially had was whether or not Sense’s app would allow you to see how much energy each device is using, versus the aggregate usage relative to other devices in your home. Otherwise, we weren’t sure exactly how useful it might be.
Based on what we learned though, this definitely isn’t the case. Within a couple taps, it appears you can see exactly how much a specific device is using (names are completely customizable), how long it’s be on, and even show it on your timeline for faster future reference.
Another tap allows you to view a real time power meter. This way, you can walk around your house turning on different appliances and immediately witnessing their impact on energy consumption.
Finally, Sense’s app allows you to identify trends by the day, week, month, and year, as well as see how much (and what percentage of) power each device is using.
On the Sense app home page, you’ll see the relative amount of energy each device is using (colored bubbles), aggregate watts, and alerts. Tapping provides access to even more data.
Much of the feedback in this thread was from beta and field testers, most of whom seemed very pleased with Sense’s performance. In fact, the words “amazing,” “super cool,” and “technological leap” were used more than once.
Common compliments referenced that the Sense Monitor provided more in-depth information than the competition, and that this information was highly accurate. However, it wasn’t perfect at recognizing devices, as one user noted:
“Things like cellphone chargers are finicky because of their very low voltage/draw, and it has trouble with things like multiple garage doors (I learned this over time) where the motors are virtually identical but operate independently. Which, of course, is pretty understandable because the electric signatures are functionally identical from a technical standpoint.”
Sense’s co-founder even chimed in to the discussion and promoted his Q&A featured on ProductHunt. If you’re interested in the Sense’s finer details, it’s definitely worth a few minutes of your time.
Who Makes the Sense Home Energy Monitor?
Sense Labs is based out of Cambridge, MA and was founded in 2013 by three individuals: CEO Mike Phillips, VP of Product Christopher Micali, and VP of Engineering Ryan Houlette.
Prior to co-founding Sense, Mike founded SpeechWorks and Vlingo, where Ryan worked as Senior Architect. Christopher focused on the design and development of Sense’s consumer-facing mobile applications.
According to their bio on the Sense website, this is the same team that “brought advanced speech recognition technology to mobile phones including voice search, voice text messaging and dictation, and voice-enabled virtual assistant technology. Our products are used globally in Samsung and other mobile phones and in Siri before its acquisition.”
To date, they count 59 products launched, 415 million users, and 33 patents issued.
Is Sense Energy Monitor a Sensible Choice?
If you search online for home energy monitors, you’ll quickly learn that you have several options, including Curb, Neurio, TED Pro, Smappee, and more. While Curb seems like Sense’s stiffest competition—and some, like Smappee, allow you to switch appliances on and off remotely, unlike Sense—many of these other options don’t offer the same level of detail and insight.
Does this mean Sense’s Monitor is your best choice? Like any other purchase, the “best” option largely depends on your needs. But if you’d like the most data for appliances in your home, along with some cool alerts and tips, most testers seemed to have been blown away by its performance.
With this in mind, let’s loop back to the question we posed at the beginning: Will the Sense Home Energy Monitor improve your life? If so, how? Let’s quickly break it down.
Sense’s main selling proposition is that it can tell you what your devices are saying, which can then help you “know where your money is going.” Once you know where your money is going though, how can you use this information to enact meaningful change?
For example, if Sense’s Monitor informs you that most of your television is watched between 6pm and 9pm (probably no surprise there), that it was turned on for a total of 20 hours this week, and that it’s the second most energy intensive appliance in your home, what can you do from there? Do you watch less TV? Do you purchase a new one that uses less energy? All of the above?
This is our biggest question about home energy monitors like Sense (and many other “lifestyle” sensors in general): Yes, their alerts and tips are super cool, and the insight they offer into previously unknown areas of life is fascinating, but what do you do with this data?
Ultimately, this is only something you can answer. But whether you’re a tech junkie that can’t get enough data or are just looking for some added notifications we’re you’re not home (and even when you are), there seems to be something for everyone to like about the Sense Energy Monitor.
Before you go, you might find this How to Choose a Home Energy Monitor guide from HowStuffWorks useful!
Related: Nest Learning Thermostat Review
Can be time consuming
I have two units and have spent HOURS trying to get them to work properly. In the end the unit worked, is pretty cool, has a lot of potential but can be a serious pain in the butt. You must first connect to the unit via Bluetooth. This is only used to send it the WiFi configuration data. That's it. If it works then you're in good shape. If not you're screwed. By the way, once you have it set to WiFi do not make any changes to the WiFi network or password. At this time I cannot get it to connect again with any change, I must always go back to the original network and password. Will see what they come up with. There is almost no diagnostics or user inputs. When it figures out it has a device it allows you to give it a name and that's it. No teach/ learn mode. You cannot delete a device once it finds it. This means you can't move it to another panel without a factory reset command from the cloud/ tech support. I'm an early adapter but way too many hours (20+) with near zero support - long delay emails.
Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend
4 out 4 people found this review helpful
Quickly Identified $72/mo Power Hog
I installed Sense on 11/16/2016. I was shocked (haha) at the amount of continuous electricity use and frequent spikes in use. Within a couple of days, it identified an "unknown heating device", which turned out to be a small electric water heater that we installed when the home was built, supplemental to our natural gas tankless water heater, to circulate hot water to a distant bathroom.
Watching a few more days revealed a consistent 20+ KWH/day of electricity use by this one item. That equates to about $72/mo for this thing to run, or 1/3 of our winter electricity bill. And I can only assume much higher use in the summer, as the plumbing runs right alongside the A/C supply ductwork, enclosed in the finished basement ceiling.
I will be switching to an alternative method of circulating the hot water (on demand call for hot water with Z-Wave occupancy sensor and a recirculating pump, appx $500 investment). This is similar to the original investment, but without the ongoing operating cost (I believe this will drop the energy need by 95%, plus the gas heat costs significantly less than electric).
The monitor has also identified our microwave oven, sewer grinder pump and our downstairs fridge. It also identified an unknown device which has turned out to be one of the HVAC fans.
I'm anxiously awaiting for it to discover/discern other devices. I'm surprised it has not yet identified our electric dryer, washing machine, curling irons, garage door openers, the 2nd fridge and freezer, and any lights as of yet. I'd like to see this discovery occur more quickly.
A 2nd big surprise is to see just how little most of the high wattage devices consume over time. I'll know more as others are discovered and tracked separately over a longer period of time. But the microwave and grinder pump, while requiring larger circuits to run, are only on for relatively short periods of time and therefore don't accumulate as much usage as smaller items that run for longer durations. (Makes total sense but the display from the Sense Monitor makes this very clear).
A 3rd big surprise is the amount of "always on" usage. This is currently 1,099w. Computers (several), routers/switches, chargers, radon exhaust fan...seems high so I hope to identify a simple change to reduce that as well.
So in summary, this thing has already revealed enough electricity usage that I can eliminate that It will have paid for itself. Maybe our situation is an exception. It's slow to identify new devices (would have rated 5 stars if it had identified significantly more devices to date) but it has given me a much deeper awareness of the sources of my energy use. And that's what I was looking for.
Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this to a friend
9 out 11 people found this review helpful
Sense Energy Monitor, 2 weeks post install
I installed the sense energy monitor in late September. I can see overall energy use, on a moment by moment line chart, comparison since installed and a few 'bubbles'.
I had expected that the device would start recognizing my devices or isolating them so I could identify but that has not happened yet. On the line chart it is clear to me (since I caused the energy use) when the garage door operates, my coffee grinder turns on, an up-tick when the washer is in use.
I can also see some middle of the night use that I would love to understand!
The bubbles are a disappointment, the device has yet to identify what is running. There is a bubble for always on - a bubble for unknown and finally a bubble for my microwave - but that's it. The device has yet to identify any other device.
Perhaps I am impatient? Anxious to see what another two weeks bring!
Would I recommend? The jury is out. The optimism about the device is sliding.
Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend