Sense Home Energy Monitor Review: Real-Time Energy
Sense produces smart home energy monitors that allow users to track, in real-time, their energy usage throughout the home and even through specific appliances. The Sense home energy monitors are some of the most popular on the market today. Learn why in our review below.
Sense stepped into the home energy monitor industry just a few years ago. The Boston-area company began using machine learning in order to provide real-time looks at electrical usage. This also came in the wake of a discovery that always-on devices accounted for nearly 23% of all home electricity usage.
Sense developed its tech with a team from some of the biggest names in voice recognition. The team consisted of engineers from Amazon, Vlingo, Phillips, SpeechWorks, ScanSoft, and Nuance.
What came of that was the Sense home energy monitor. This Wi-Fi-enabled sensor has the capability of displaying real-time energy use data right to users' smart phones thanks to a small box that attached to the home's electrical box.
Sense offers sophisticated energy monitoring
Compared to others in the industry, Sense is top of the line. Its diverse range of features, easy-to-use smart phone application, and even a solar energy option for improved savings, is the reason for the higher price tag.
Despite the relatively high price, consumers have rated it quite well. Utility companies have verified that it is 99.5% accurate and it can even track usage of individual appliances for improved accuracy and tracking.
It has shown that it records 1 million data points per second, which is a rate that is not only larger but faster than most other competitors. Combined with other energy-efficient products like smart thermostats and smart lights, the Sense energy monitor could help you reduce your energy consumption considerably. For those looking to get a better sense about their power usage, Sense may just be the best the market has to offer.
Types of Sense home energy monitors
Sense works by connecting a monitor to your home's breaker panel. It then takes the voltage and current measurements of your electricity consumption. It does this over 1 million times every second to produce high-resolution data. The monitor then transmits the data through a Wi-Fi antenna to your app or desktop.
Furthermore, Sense is capable of individual device detection. This allows you to get a sense of how much energy your home uses, and which appliances and electrical devices use the most energy when running.
There are two Sense home energy monitors: the standard Sense unit and the Sense Solar. The latter is meant to provide the services to those who run off of solar power, providing greater clarification and understanding of solar energy usage.
The Sense energy monitor provides real-time, 24/7 data that is accessible through iOS, Android, and desktop apps. That means being able to check energy usage patterns whenever it suits you. Even better, schedules and alerts can be set at the user's discretion to create a truly customize data system.
Why buy: The Sense home energy monitor allows for optimal energy tracking convenience. Users can get live updates on their power consumption from their smart phone whenever and wherever they like.
How it works
The Sense home energy monitor works simply enough. It attaches to your home's circuit breaker, measuring energy usage right down to individual appliances and devices for a better understanding of where your home's electrical usage is. Sense recommends that you have a licensed electrician do the installation.
There are also customer safety monitors that can be set with audible notifications. Keep track of critical devices like well pumps, sump pumps, HVAC systems, water heaters, or flat irons without having to constantly monitor them yourself. Most importantly, the components have been ETL/Intertek certified. That certification ensures that it is safe for operation within an electrical panel.
The Sense features compatibility with many smart home devices. Pairing up the Sense with Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, Phillips Hue, IFTTT, smart thermostats, and smart plugs can help you optimize your home's energy efficiency.
Like the Sense, the Sense Solar can track usage data in real-time. It can also track your appliances and devices on an individual basis to give you a more comprehensive window into your home's energy consumption.
Why buy: The Sense Solar can detect the exact amount of energy that the solar panels on your home are generating 24/7. This feature quickly gives you a better idea of which appliances are drawing power (and how much) at any given time as well as the effectiveness of your solar panels.
How it works
The Sense Solar home energy monitor is much the same as the original version, though this one tracks solar energy usage. It connects to your home's breaker panel like the Sense, just with an additional wire to connect to the solar inverter in your home's main electrical box.
The Sense Solar uses the same simple interface for its smart phone function that the regular Sense does. Users can chart energy usage over time, even creating profiles of monthly, weekly, or daily usage, whatever works best for the user.
It is recommended that only electricians handle the installation process.
The Sense app
Perhaps the biggest selling point for both Sense and Sense Solar is the mobile app. The Sense app is used to connect to their smart home energy monitors and provides the ability to monitor volts and current one million times per second.
The real-time, 24/7 data is available in a number of interfaces that allows for customized profiles. Users can set monitoring reports that display overall usage as well as individualized device performance.
With a large, easy to identify interface, users are able to generate reports that fit their usage needs. Moreover, they can see real-time data to monitor devices as they run.
If that weren't enough, users can also set goals, view trends, and even set audible alerts whenever energy levels are too high. The Sense app lets you take control of your home's energy usage and electricity bill.
Sense pros and cons
Both the Sense and Sense Solar have their own distinct advantages and disadvantages. Here is a breakdown for both versions.
For starters, the Sense app is super user-friendly. Even the most technologically-challenged can pick up the app and navigate its interface with little to no trouble.
Moreover, the app shows a ton of historical data. If you want to look at specific trends going back to installation date, you can call those up easily. Daily, weekly, and monthly reports are available to provide a better understanding of data usage over time so you can identify patterns and problem spots.
Finally, it provides individual device tracking. If you want to get truly granular and see which devices take the most energy to run, that is easily available through the app.
At $299.99, the cost isn't cheap. Furthermore, professional installation is highly recommended. That is an additional cost on top of the already steep price for the unit itself. Those installation fees take an already costly unit up a notch.
There is also the issue that it does not have cost calculations. While it can track energy usage in real-time, it doesn't tell you what that translates to in terms of actual money. Knowing what your energy is costing you will take a little extra sleuthing.
Sense Solar pros
The Sense Solar energy monitor is one of the best at tracking solar production in real-time. Some similar solar devices only offer updates in 15 minute increments whereas the Sense Solar can track up to the second.
Moreover, it tracks electrical production and consumption as well, so you know if your appliances are drawing more energy than the solar panels are putting out. Not to mention the user-friendly app that makes it possible to create various profiles for tracking and consuming data.
Sense Solar cons
Even more expensive than the standard Sense at $349.99, the Sense Solar monitor is definitely an investment. This particular home energy monitor is designed to help homeowners get the most out of their own solar panels. If you just want to identify ways to reduce energy usage, there are definitely cheaper options.
The other negative is that it has trouble finding always-on appliances. That's not to say it can't find them, it just takes some time and patience. It also may detect the same device multiple times, creating confusion.
Both the Sense and Sense Solar energy monitors deliver real-time data on electrical consumption that can be customized however the user wants. Aside from needing a professional installation, users can access and customize data easily through the app, creating profiles displaying information that can help you save money on your electric bill.
Though it is one of the most expensive options on the market, there are few that can deliver real-time data customization and app convenience the way the Sense does. With a 99.5% accuracy in readings, it is hard to top the convenience and accuracy that Sense provides.
Ryan Womeldorf is a freelance writer who covers technology and consumer goods, including smart home tech. He is a husband and father of two (five if you count his pups).