Energy monitoring (and control) in the palm of your hand

Summary:A while ago a friend showed me the Cent-a-Meter from Power2Save, it's a LCD that displays how much electricity your home is using in real time. Flip on the old plasma display and watch the Kw/h jump, you can even display the actual cost in dollars and cents.

A while ago a friend showed me the Cent-a-Meter from Power2Save, it's a LCD that displays how much electricity your home is using in real time. Flip on the old plasma display and watch the Kw/h jump, you can even display the actual cost in dollars and cents. It's really cool to see the impact that turning on and off various items in your home (or office) has on your energy consumption and it definitely reduces energy consumption in the process – which is the goal in the first place.

Although I really wanted to buy one I delayed my purchase because I'm waiting for the data to be decentralized and move to the cloud. While it would be great to monitor my energy usage when I'm at home, I'd also like to monitor it remotely with a Web dashboard, or (ideally) an iPhone app.

The first glimmer of hope arrived this week when the highly-anticipated Ecobee Wi-Fi thermostat ($385) began shipping. It's a sleek device that's designed to help you conserve energy, save money and reduce your environmental impact, but a lot of its functionality can be had in a generic $40 programmable thermostat from the hardware store.

So what if it's wireless and has a sexy Web interface. At the end of the day it's still a thermostat.

The part that caught my eye was the "optional energy meter integration" that's mentioned on the bottom of the Ecobee specifications page. Truthfully, I could care less about the thermostat component. I'm more interested in monitoring my energy consumption, which is what products like The Energy Detective (TED) do for around $144. The problem is that TED is closed and requires a wired connection.

Ecobee, on the other hand, is wireless and has an expansion interface to (eventually?) offer:

  • Optional energy meter integration
  • Optional web site integration with utility billing information
  • Optional radio interfaces

Ecobee hasn't provided the details on their energy meter integration, but if it provides TED-like functionality wrapped in the Ecobee interface, I'm sold interested.

The only problem is the annual $35 fee (the first year is included in the cost of the thermostat). $35 per year is kind of a slap in the face after dropping almost $400 (plus professional installation, mind you) for the thermostat. Ecobee notes that the fee is needed to offset the cost of  the web interface which communicates with a hosted web server. I'd rather pay a higher upfront cost for a thermostat with a built-in Web server, I don't want another monthly expense.

Other LCD programmable thermostats are available from: Honeywell Vision Pro IAQ and White Rodgers but Ecobee co-founder Stuart Lombard notes that "they either do not offer a web interface or the web enabled models cost approximately $1000 or more, require professional HVAC installation and have a ongoing $50/year fee."

Another commentor notes that "Prohlphix doesn't charge an annual fee and it does all this one does and more, and doesn't require a professional to install it, and will email you if temp drops to a given temp."

I think that Ecobee would be best as an iPhone app. Lombard agrees, admitting that "it is on our roadmap" although he declined to provide a time frame. I'd also like to be able to control Ecobee from my Chumby, while they're at it.

What are your thoughts on home energy monitoring and control? Isn't it only a matter of time before it ends up on the iPhone?
(Tips: Shaun Redmond, Ryan Kaplan)

Topics: Browser, iPhone, Mobility

About

Jason D. O'Grady developed an affinity for Apple computers after using the original Lisa, and this affinity turned into a bona-fide obsession when he got the original 128 KB Macintosh in 1984. He started writing one of the first Web sites about Apple (O'Grady's PowerPage) in 1995 and is considered to be one of the fathers of blogging.... Full Bio

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