About Sense Home Energy Monitor

By HighYa Staff

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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Read 25 Sense Home Energy Monitor Customer Reviews and Complaints

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Average Consumer Rating: 2.9
Rating Snapshot:
5 star: 8 4 star: 2 3 star: 3 2 star: 3 1 star:  9
Bottom Line: 44% would recommend it to a friend
Showing 1-11 of 25
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  • 3 out 5 people found this review helpful

    Can be time consuming

    • OH,
    • Jan 1, 2017
    • Verified Reviewer

    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

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  • 12 out 16 people found this review helpful

    Horrendous support

    • Jacksonville, FL,
    • Jan 19, 2017
    • Verified Reviewer

    I bought the Sense Home Energy Monitor and waited anxiously for its arrival (took about two months).

    I received it at the beginning of December and arranged to have my electrician come out and install it a week or so later. We quickly discovered a problem. The clamps that come with the unit to encircle the power lines that feed to the breaker box were not large enough to go around the TWO lines that I have at each location (I guess I have a "parallel" service, so I have two lines at each of the two locations).

    The electrician had a hand-held monitor that was large enough to circle both wires (along with each individually), and we confirmed that only doing one would not suffice, along with using a clamp that does not completely encircle the wires.

    I looked for a phone number so we could talk to Sense Home Energy Monitor's support while the electrician was there. I could not find a number anywhere. So I tried the next best thing and sent an email to the support, which said there would be a response in "one business day." Two business days later, still no response. So I sent an RMA request and bingo! Now I heard back.

    I then proceeded to have a series of emails back and forth with absolutely no technical help. Finally, I gave up and sent another RMA request and returned the device.

    I think the idea is outstanding. However, technical support is just awful. There is no ability to call while your electrician is there, which would be helpful because many will charge a service call if they have to return. I had to pay $115 for him to basically do nothing, since we couldn't install the unit. The promised one-day turnaround time on email support was not met, and I only got a response when threatening a return.

    Avoid, unless you want to be frustrated.

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

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  • 11 out 34 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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  • 4 out 10 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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  • 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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  • 2 out 7 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 5 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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  • 1 out 2 people found this review helpful

    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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    Comments (2)
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    • Aug 23, 2018

      Steve W.

      Maybe your missing item like ceiling fans and pool pump are just labeled incorrectly. Your ceiling fans may be showing up as refrigerator motors or another device. I think you can change the name of each item. It just might take a little tracking, isolating, and renaming.

    • Aug 25, 2018

      Jack F.

      I do not have six (now) refrigerators, seven heat devices, and four AC compressors, etc. I have diligently tried to run down these random events, and ceiling fans are constants, not two or three-minute "motor" events. My pool pump is likely the biggest electrical "hog" in the house but never ID'd. At this point, I have generally given up this device as "hogwash."

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  • Not worth the money or time

    • Virginia,
    • Mar 29, 2019
    • Verified Reviewer

    I have had two Sense Home Energy Monitors for well over a year now. I have been totally frustrated that the monitors will not detect things that we use frequently in my home and you cannot simply tell Sense what is on during a low electrical usage period. My worst frustration is that Sense cannot tell the difference between my microwave and my wife's hairdryer.

    The Sense support team is not very helpful with this issue, and they have been working on it quite a while. Don't expect to actually talk to someone from the company. They basically force you to send them an email. They respond, but their response has not let led to a solution for my microwave and hairdryer. There are numerous other things the devices have not detected over the years. Reporting stinks too. Exporting data to a spreadsheet would seem to be an easy thing to do, but not with Sense.

    Bottom line, very poor product and certainly not worth $300 with its current functionality.

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

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  • 15 out 17 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

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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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