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:

  1. Install the Sense Monitor in your electric panel. Note: The company recommends hiring a licensed electrician to handle this part.
  2. 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.
  3. Connect the Monitor to your in-home Wi-Fi.
  4. 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.

Reddit Reviews

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.

Sense app home pageOn 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

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15 Consumer Reviews for Sense Home Energy Monitor

Average Consumer Rating: 1.7
Rating Snapshot:
5 star: 0 4 star: 1 3 star: 2 2 star: 3 1 star:  9
Bottom Line: 13% would recommend it to a friend
Showing 1-11 of 15
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  • Complete scam!

    • Granada Hille, CA,
    • Jul 20, 2018
    • Verified Reviewer

    This might just be the biggest waste of milk money you could ever spend. The product is buggy and half the time it doesn't work at all. When it does work the "learning" aspect is a complete failure. I get to see what is always on and everything else. Ooh I could tell you that without this product. I can see my usage and product on my electric bill. So what does Sense do? Bust up your electrical panel after installers force it in there. Waste your time contacting them trying to get it to work. Suck up a little extra electricity so it can "work." Such a great deal!

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend

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  • Makes no sense

    • North Charleston, SC,
    • Jul 5, 2018
    • Verified Reviewer

    I eagerly ordered this item about two years ago. It has had to be totally been reset two or three times, which means all previous data is trashed. You start over from the beginning.

    Pool pump - never found, ceiling fans - never found, lights - never found, toaster - never found, range - never found, but I somehow have six refrigerators in my house along with five heat pumps and about seven heat devices (which cannot be duplicated). 3000 watts of "phantom" aggregate devices constantly plague me and challenge me as to what they are.

    This device is NOT ready for prime time. If I could go through the house and turn each device on, I could name it and be done. They are trying to use ME for researching the devices ability to find things, and it never finds things. Wait about 20 years before this thing is actually ready, but by then something else will come along. Do not waste your money.

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend

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  • 2 out 3 people found this review helpful

    Waste of money

    I installed it myself and it was very easy. The app was nice. I had no luck for a week, and their tech support said one clamp needed adjusting, so I did, and they said it was then fine. The first item it found was the motor, and I figured out it was my sump pump. I sent the alarms to notify me if it was not activated for 30 or if it remained on for more than 5 minutes.

    It was ok until I started using the stove and the app then began telling me my sump was stuck on. I checked it, and it was fine. Turning the stove off, I started to get alarms that my pump was not running, but again, it was fine. It kept detecting that my gas garage heater has a heating element, not a motor. Their CEO says one of the first things it should detect it a refrigerator since it cycles on and off. It never detected it, or the freezer, or my furnace, which has been running almost constant due to this cold winter so far.

    I have returned it before I am stuck with a $300.00 brick.

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend

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  • 2 out 6 people found this review helpful

    Garbage product

    • Salt Lake City, UT,
    • Sep 7, 2017
    • Verified Reviewer

    I've had the system installed for nearly three months. It has found useless items like the fridge light. 65% of power was not detected. It hasn't even grouped my AC, which uses about 40% of my total power. I sent multiple emails and am always told: "we are working on a big fix". Clearly, this thing is not close to being ready for release. We should be paid for being Guinea Pigs. Useless product.

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend

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  • 3 out 7 people found this review helpful

    Sense - makes no sense

    I purchased my Sense in early January 2017 with high hopes. It's an easy install for anyone with a little experience behind their circuit breaker door.

    It is a nice looking iPhone app. I hooked it up and waited to see what was using what. It's almost the end of August, and I'm still waiting.

    Yes, I've been through the mill with what passes for their tech support, which is basically re-initiating the database on their side to accommodate their "new" code. It can easily find a garage door opener, a microwave, and even your fridge, but that's about where it stops. It finds many "components" of larger or more complex units (like a heat pump), but it's essentially useless information that is not summarized or presented in any way you can make "sense" of. You can track the impact of devices turning on or off, but you can't assign that "signature" to a device name. If you could, it might be possible to create useful information.

    Right now I'm stuck with essentially a $300 app on my phone that I can get a few minor bits of info from, but it's impossible to use it or analyze it to save money by tracking down energy hogs.

    Unfortunately, Sense makes no sense to buy. Great idea, great marketing, but no execution. If you want to spend $300 to know when your fridge light comes on, by all means, go for it.

    I'm fed up with it and their excuses.

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend

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  • 3 out 4 people found this review helpful

    Trivial to install, seems very accurate, but so far underwhelmed.

    • Massachusetts,
    • Aug 31, 2017
    • Verified Reviewer

    I had zero problems setting the thing up after work yesterday. Cut house power, opened up the panel, popped in new 220 breakers, and followed the instructions. I opted for the solar module too. Took just a few minutes and it's dead easy (no sense paying an electrician to stick in a breaker for heaven's sakes). Turned power back on, then downloaded the app and connected the device via wifi no problem.

    The only disappointment was that it hasn't yet detected any devices. But it was somewhat informative to go around the house and try turning different things on and off. It responds immediately when the A/C fires up or the sump pump runs for a second you know instantly!

    As far as solar, the Sense system was in agreement with my inverter readout to within one or two Watts! That's pretty amazing. I guess we'll see what it can detect. It says to wait a week or two and I will. A little underwhelmed so far.

    I'd have trouble recommending a $350 device to anyone else though, unless it gets a whole lot smarter over time. I guess we'll find out.

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend

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  • 3 out 8 people found this review helpful

    A total disaster: don't waste your money

    I bought the Sense Home Energy Monitor, and after a month I still can't get it to work.

    First, the initial monitor Sense failed and had to be replaced. That was two visits by my electrician, first to install the original, then to replace the failed original.

    Second, when I try to set up the solar feature (I have solar), it fails every time. A third visit by my electrician established that all of the solar connections were fine, so it seems that Sense is the problem.

    I've spent about $500 for three visits by my electrician. Sense help is no help at all. Everything they recommend doesn't work.

    I've concluded that this system is a piece of junk. My advice is not to waste your money.

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend

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  • 9 out 10 people found this review helpful

    Beautiful but useless

    Sense is based on a very clever idea. The packaging and product design are great, installation was smooth, and the iPhone app looks and feels good visually.

    Unfortunately, at least in my home, it doesn't provide any meaningful information. Like many large homes, there are dozens of electrical devices in the house, some rather complex (like a furnace), and others dead-simple (like an oven). After more than four months of continuous operation, Sense has identified only a few, with nearly everything else falling into an "always on" bucket, "other," or various unnamed devices, motors, and heaters, not to mention five refrigerators. Sadly, I am no closer to knowing details of my home's energy usage (except the total) than I was before installing Sense.

    The execution of the idea is good; I think the idea itself falls short of being practical. I think what's needed is an electrical panel that has individual metering for each circuit, so you can directly gather data on the most power-hungry consumers of electricity.

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend

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    • Jun 30, 2017

      Jim

      "The execution of the idea is good; I think the idea itself falls short of being practical. I think what's needed is an electrical panel that has individual metering for each circuit,"

      I think you meant the opposite. The idea itself is great, it's the execution and the implementation of the device identification that is not quite there.

      Furthermore, having a monitor per circuit doesn't provide enough granularity if you have more than one device on the circuit consuming power. The best thing is to have a monitor per device. Short of that, the Sense Power monitor is an awesome idea, only if they can get it to work with a higher level of device identification.

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  • 10 out 33 people found this review helpful

    Do not buy

    • Massachusetts,
    • Feb 4, 2017
    • Verified Reviewer

    As a licensed master electrician, ImI would advise homeowners not to buy this device. I bought it, and I'm on week 12, but I've had to do some extensive investigating to find the devices in my home, which I don't advise non-licensed people to do. Basically, it is a waste of money.

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend

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  • 13 out 15 people found this review helpful

    The jury is out

    • Wisconsin,
    • Jan 30, 2017
    • Verified Reviewer

    I purchased Sense Home Energy Monitor in December of 2016. It arrived within a week or two of ordering. Installation was simple if you're comfortable working with electrical wiring. I'm handy and don't feel an electrician was needed for the installation as long as you follow the directions (in order).

    After the install, the configuration with the app was a snap, and Sense was connected to my WiFi. Immediately I could see the total electrical usage in my house. Individual devices did not immediately show up, and I knew they would not based on the reviews I had read and from the info on Sense's website.

    The device has been installed for just under a month now, and I have 11 devices detected. Dryer, interior fridge light, furnace blower, furnace fan, garage opener, microwave, an exterior motion detection light, washer, well pump, water heater, and an unknown heat source.

    With a 30-day return policy, I'm a little concerned that this is all I can see at around 20 days. I've written support, but I'm expecting explanations similar to those on their blog.

    I'm still hopeful, and I understand that it takes a lot of data to analyze what's happening in my home, I just wish they had a longer return window as it would make me much more comfortable with a new product that so far is living short of its expectations.

    At this point, the jury's still out on if the Sense Home Energy Monitor will live up to its promises, but I think I'll stick with it and find out.

    Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this to a friend

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  • 10 out 11 people found this review helpful

    Not what I had hoped for

    • Illinois,
    • Jan 20, 2017
    • Verified Reviewer

    I installed the Sense Home Energy Monitor in October. Since then it has detected (and I named) the dryer, dehumidifier, and a food dehydrator. In addition, it has detected three microwaves (I only have one), one light, five unnamed devices, six unnamed motors, and ten unnamed heats. It says it has detected the furnace, but the furnace is running right now, and Sense says it is not. It also says the AC was running last night and has an average run time of two minutes and 11 seconds.

    After three months, what is running right now is "Always On" for 305 watts, "Unnamed device 4" for 44 watts, and "Unknown" for 905 watts. I expected more.

    In addition, I got a call from Comcast (security assurance department or something) who tells me that the Sense Monitor is responsible for thousands of DNS queries, amounting to a DoS attack, coming from my router. I can't verify that as being accurate, but I didn't appreciate the phone call regardless. I contacted Sense and am awaiting a response.

    Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend

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