Welcome to Cranky Puppy Farm!

This blog belongs to two Gen X-er's smackdab in downtown Kansas City where we've been renovating and decorating two old Victorians built in the 1890's. Our life is filled with 3 demanding Pomeranians (1 of them cranky, of course), honking cars, noisy neighbors and the hustle and bustle of city life but we dream of the day when we can move to our 40-acre farm and hear nothing but the wind and the cows next door. Until then, we're chronicling our triumphs and mishaps here as we try to garden and preserve on 2 city lots, raise chickens, and learn all those things we should have learned from our grandparents. Welcome to our world - we hope you'll stay awhile!

Bringing Out the Big Guns: Efergy Energy Monitor

Saturday, February 15, 2014

(This is the fourth post in our DIY solar project.  Click here to start the beginning.)
I am in full-on battle mode to find out what the heck is using so much energy in our house and have been spending a ton of time with my new friend, the Kill-A-Watt.  This fight is about to get real, though.  I can practically hear the freezers and dishwasher quaking in fear.  That's right...I've got a new toy ally called an Efergy Elite Wireless Energy Monitor. 
The Kill-A-Watt process is slow, because you have to leave the appliance plugged in for at least 24 hours to capture a true picture of how much power a device is using - that's especially true for things like freezers that cycle on and off.  So you can only do one device a day.  The Efergy monitor looks at the bigger picture by reading the actual current flowing through the wiring from your meter to the your breaker panel and then calculates the power consumed. 
I picked this up from Amazon with a gift card for just $84 and it arrived yesterday - just in time for me to hook it up this weekend.  Here's what I found when I opened the box:

Components of the Efergy Elite Wireless Electricity Monitor

It's a pretty simple design, actually.  The box in the upper right hand corner is the receiver that displays the data. The oval thingy in the middle of the picture above is the transmitter.  The two smaller boxes with the cables coming out of them are the clamps that go on the wiring.  There's no need to cut wires, as these "clamps" open up so that you can place them around the wire and then snap them shut. 
J. was out helping his mom with a project today, so I put on my big girl panties, swallowed the lump in my throat (I'm a little scared of electricity), and down the basement stairs to the main breaker panel I went. 

Breaker panel before and after the Efergy installation

It took longer for me to remove the front panel than it did to install those clamps. They fit loosely on the wiring and went on easily.  Once they're on, put the AA batteries (included) in the transmitter and then plug the leads from the clamps into the bottom.  Then pop the other 3 AA batteries into the receiver and press a button and voila!  You've got energy usage data! 

Yikes...we were at 1.307 until the furnace kicked on!

The display shows the amount of energy currently in use as well as the cost per day (if that level is maintained).  There are 4 buttons on the top that allow you to configure different settings and view additional screens.  One of them provides the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions related to your energy usage.  It also displays the temperature and humidity for the room the receiver is in, which is kind of a cool feature.  And you can set it to sound an audible alert if usage goes over  an amount that you specify.
The receiver is wireless so you can take it from room to room with you and even up to 3 stories from the transmitter.  The data that is displayed is real-time and it updates every 6 seconds, so you can almost instantly see how turning something off or on impacts your whole house energy usage.  Since installing it almost 4 hours ago, I have been wandering around with my notebook flipping lights on and off and writing down the results. 
While the receiver will keep track of historical averages for the day, week and month, I'd have to buy the separate Efergy hub to track specific data throughout the day. The hub is another $60+ so I opted to wait and see how effective the Efergy monitor was before spending too much on it.  The hub tracks all the energy usage information throughout the day and sends it to Efergy's servers where you can monitor it on your Apple or Android devices or on your PC.  If you're a geek like me, you'll like the idea of being able to download all that data and build spreadsheets and charts out of it.
I have to confess that I'm hooked already.  It is so much fun to see that immediate impact of unplugging or powering off!  This is going to be much faster than going around with the Kill-A-Watt and it should allow us to also figure out energy usage for those big appliances that we can't monitor with the Kill-A-Watt.  I'm off to go do some more testing and, shortly, I should be able to share some results.

Click here to go to the next post in the solar series where we'll talk about how to size a solar panel system.  (If you're interested in more on our solar project, please check the "Solar Project" section on the bar to the right.)


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