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How to track energy usage in your home

By Jeff Cocking

With more and more of our devices networked online, there are many ways that homes draw electricity that weren’t common 10 or 20 years ago. If you thought that your electricity bills were high a few years back, you’re likely seeing them continue to grow — and you might want to push back against that trend. After all, a lower bill can make room in the budget for other costs or savings; it’s a big reason why people turn to Power Wizard in the first place to help them find the best electricity plan for their needs.

One way to keep energy costs under control is tracking energy usage over time. Tracking how much electricity your home uses is easier than ever before, with easy apps and dashboards that help you understand your power consumption meter and get a better feel for what choices would raise or lower your electricity bill.

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The best ways to track energy usage

You can use various methods to track energy usage, and you can decide how much you want to invest in hardware versus understanding the general estimates for the devices in your home. In either case, paying attention to the amount of time each device is running fully versus in ‘standby’ mode — or even just plugged in while turned off — can help you get a feeling for what could really move the needle.

First, however, you need to learn how to calculate energy usage, whether you want your exact energy consumption or prefer to estimate via an energy usage calculator.

Smart home devices

There are now dedicated smart home devices that will connect to your electrical system and use real-time monitoring of when and how much electricity your devices/applicances use. They typically have some kind of hub, a collection of sensors, and a mobile phone app with a dashboard that allows you to track and record your daily, monthly, or even yearly usage. They typically break down usage by device, using programmed information in the device to identify the unique signature of a dryer, a dishwasher, or other items.

Despite being pricey, these systems can be very helpful because they come with an easy-to-use interface that allows you to instantly see when you experience a surge of usage from a device that’s functioning as an “energy hog.” It’s hard to keep wasting energy when you realize that just keeping your computer or phone charging for hours past when it is fully charged wastes energy. The device’s notifications help to cue us into better energy habits.

Utility meters

Using your own utility meter and the details in your electricity bill to track your electricity usage is a great way to pay attention to whether you might have a faulty meter or an issue with a particular appliance. You simply read the electricity meter at the beginning of the billing cycle and again at the end subtracting the first number from the second.

Taking a photo of the meter each time and recording the kWh used each month helps you keep an independent record you can use if your electricity bill shows something different. It also helps you identify if you have a record-high month and figure out what usage changes might have caused the higher number.

Smart plugs and power outlets

There are also smart home devices that track energy usage, such as a smart plug outlet device that gives a read-out of the overall use and allows you to cut off power to a plugged-in device to save electricity.

These devices allow you to truly ‘turn off’ devices that would otherwise keep drawing energy, using a timer function to save time passively and without you having to remember to do so.

Appliance energy calculators

If you prefer to estimate, using calculators like the one at Energy.gov can be very useful. Rather than calculating down to the minute how much you’re really using, these calculators help you see which devices are likely to be the “big spenders” in your home. Running these items at the same time, or running them too often, can be a source of extra expenses. At the same time, using an appliance energy calculator can also help you understand the impact of internet-connected devices that run in the background all the time.

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What is the purpose of energy usage monitoring?

So you’ve selected a method for figuring out both your monthly totals and estimates of when and how much you use each device to get a general idea of your habits. What do you want to do with this information? One way you can use this data is to talk it through with a Power Wizard representative to ensure you’re getting the best electricity plan available. But another goal is just to make your home’s usage as low as possible through a few different avenues.

To measure energy efficiency

One of the big goals is to see what kinds of devices in your house draw more electricity than you’d expect. As you shop for new appliances over time, knowing how much your current, less-efficient devices use can help you see the savings you’ll create by buying Energy Star or other high-efficiency appliances.

When you opt for higher efficiency appliances, the same usage will require less energy and thus less cost. While sometimes these devices can be marginally more expensive, they often provide a long-term gain as you use them through the life of the device. For example, LED lightbulbs burn for a long time and use a very low amount of electricity, so you may only see pennies different per month per bulb, but over time, the bulb pays for itself.

To lower energy consumption

Monitoring energy consumption is a big reason why many people end up motivated to change their habits. When you realize how much it costs to run an internet router constantly, you may consider putting it on a timed smart plug to shut it off during times when the whole family is sleeping or out of the house. Your options for small changes are front-and-center when you’re monitoring your usage.

To measure trends in consumption over time

While it doesn’t happen all the time, sometimes energy meters can be broken or misread, and some devices lose energy efficiency over time and start operating in ways that waste energy. When you track your consumption over time and see a sustained bump in your usage, you can do some sleuthing and find the culprit, whether it is just a new roommate who loves to wash clothes all the time or an issue with your furnace that, once fixed, brings the bill back down to normal.

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Start to lower your energy costs today

It’s incredible how much a little knowledge can improve your energy consumption and lower your costs. Just paying attention by using a simple monitor or an online estimate calculator can be enough to keep energy on your mind. This mental focus can help you be more careful about unplugging, turning off, and using items sparingly.

However, it’s still possible to overpay for electricity if your plan is charging more than other comparable plans. This is why Power Wizard is such a valuable addition to your life: Our technology — like the Power Wizard calculator — evaluates electricity plans and offers you the best options so you can save time while also getting the best deal possible.

Whether you opt to shop, be enrolled through Power Wizard, or want a full-service electricity plan solution, we’re here for you. What’s even better is that we can also be of service through our subscription when companies change their rates, so that you can always take advantage of new deals.

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