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January 2023 Energy Wise Tip: Energy Monitors

January 13, 2023

January 2023 EnergyWiseSM Tip: Energy Monitors
By: Energy Efficiency Program Manager Cory Fuehrer

Peter Drucker, known as the inventor of modern business management, is credited with saying: “If you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it.” When making the most of the energy used in your home or business, simply researching “energy efficiency improvements” often provides an approximate idea of how a project’s energy savings compare to costs for improvement.
However, when opportunities are difficult to recognize, such as unexplained energy use or calculating the amount of electricity produced by a solar panel array, an energy monitoring system is essential. In particular, those wanting to optimize their energy use need a system that specifically identifies where energy is used and how much is consumed over time, as well includes and the ability to verify energy savings.
For those unfamiliar with energy monitoring systems, most consist of hardware, software and the delivery of data to a smartphone, computer or other display device. Some systems allow additional components, such as smart plugs and thermostats, to be connected to provide automation of energy saving practices.
When choosing a system, consider the following factors
Appliance recognition – Unless monitoring is performed on individual circuit breakers serving recognizable connections, the system must provide appliance recognition. Some do this through a process of machine learning by identifying the “signature” of an individual appliance’s energy use and tracking it in real-time for further analysis.
Real-time cost tracking – Different systems will provide a variety of tracking reports ranging from daily to yearly. However, owners especially appreciate seeing the energy use impacts of your appliances and devices in “real-time” and in terms of energy costs.
Smart devices – With the increasing popularity of “smart homes,” controlling appliances and devices through smart devices is crucial. When using smart device applications, users expect to be able to monitor real-time energy usage, adjust settings, set alarms and more. Systems without apps still provide useful information to help save energy but don’t provide the level of convenience many expect.
Solar energy capable – Many people have or are considering solar energy (photovoltaic) installations for their home or business. Most often, these systems are integrated with utility connections so electricity can be used by the owner or flow back into the utility line. If the owner requires more electricity than their solar panels are generating, the extra power flows from the utility line. While most solar energy systems monitor and record how much energy they produce, utility metering usually does not separately record how much is being used at the home or business versus being put back on the line. For that reason, an energy monitoring system is vital to understand the breakdown of energy production and consumption.
Installation – Many systems are designed so Do-It-Yourselfers can complete installation. While in the interests of safety, it is always better to have a licensed electrician appropriately handle the job, doing so is an additional cost for consideration.
Cost and savings – Basic energy monitoring systems intended for use in residential or small business installations range from $70 to $450. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, the average owner identifies 10% energy savings after implementing new energy-saving projects. Some assertively pursuing efficiency optimization report savings as high as 20%.
Whether you’re trying to identify where your energy is being used or how to use less, your local utility, in partnership with Nebraska Public Power District, wants to help. Contact them or visit www.nppd.com for more energy-saving ideas.

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