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With electricity prices going up all over the country, it makes sense to track your home’s power consumption at a higher level than just looking at your monthly utility bill. While there are smart solutions for tracking usage for particular outlets, Blue Line Innovations’ EnergyCloud ($199) takes a whole-home approach to the task.
And unlike the Sense Energy Monitor we evaluated earlier this year, Blue Line’s wireless sensor doesn’t require access to your home’s circuit-breaker panel to provide real-time data about how much electricity you’re consuming and which devices are drawing the heaviest loads. It attaches to your service-provider’s meter, instead. The sensor sends readings to a second piece of hardware, which transmits those readings to your home’s Wi-Fi network and from there, to Blue Line’s servers in the cloud. You’ll use a mobile app and/or Blue Line’s web portal to configure and monitor the setup.
A metered connection
If the idea of touching your utility’s power meter makes you nervous, rest assured you don’t need to do anything dangerous. Where the Sense product involved placing clamps around the incoming high-voltage power lines located behind your circuit-breaker panel, Blue Line’s sensor straps around your electrical utility’s meter using an adjustable clamp. Blue Line says its sensor is compatible with most analog and digital meters used in North America, including smart meters (follow this link for examples). I found the most challenging part to be aligning the sensor with the meter’s data feed, but the instructions walk you through the whole process and it isn’t all that difficult.
The sensor runs on a single C-cell battery, and Blue Line estimates battery life at about two years. Over the couple of months I tested it, the battery life didn’t drop from 100 percent. Given that it’s sending a meter reading to the receiver every 15 seconds, that’s quite impressive.
I did encounter some hiccups while setting up Blue Line’s Wi-Fi module. Most importantly, I couldn’t get this component to connect with my Eero mesh Wi-Fi router—at all. Curiously, it didn’t have any problem connecting to any of the several conventional routers I tried, although I still needed to dntal feet from my router, plus one floor of elevation). I also discovered that Blue Line’s bridge was consistently unable to re-establish its connection to my network following a power outage. Ironically, I had to unplug the bridge and plug it back in again to get the system to resume working.
Give it time
Connectivity quirks aside, the rest of my installation went smoothly. When you establish an account via Blue Line’s web portal (or via the mobile app, available for Android and iOS), you’ll inform the service about your major appliances, the type of heating and air conditioning system your home has, and the power-consumption or circuit amperage consumption specifications for those devices. The mobile app is clearly laid out, but Blue Line presents so much information that I found its web portal (viewed on a computer monitor) easier to use, especially for the initial configuration.
Blue Line has also developed an EnergyCloud Alexa skill, so you say to an Echo-compatible smart speaker “Alexa, ask EnergyCloud to tell me how much power I’m using,” or “Alexa, what is the current rate for electricity?” This is a quicker way of obtaining information compared to opening the mobile app or navigating the web portal, but the company does not yet have anything to offer Google Home and Apple HomePod users on this front.
Once you’re set up, EnergyCloud just needs time to analyze your power consumption. Ideally, it will take about a month to start seeing meaningfully detailed usage logs, but right from the start, you’ll at least be able to see exactly how much electricity you’re consuming at a given moment. Energy usage is tracked and graphed based on three categories: the nebulous “activities,” ‘always-on’ devices, and projected consumption.
This stream of data proved fascinating. Seeing precisely how much energy those ‘always-on’ devices are sucking up was a real eye-opener. In my case, they were on average responsible for between one quarter and one third of my overall electric bill. Over time, EnergyCloud will also be able to identify each of your major appliances and how much electricity they’re pulling down. In my case, I discovered that my clothes dryer consumed 40kHh (kilowatt hours) less electricity in July than it did in June, but that my water heater used 85kWh more during the same period. If you prefer a less abstract measurement, you can configure EnergyCloud to report your energy consumption in dollars spent instead of kilowatt hours.
EnergyCloud is much less effective at identifying smaller devices in your home with specificity. If you tell the system your clothes dryer is on a 30-amp circuit, for instance, it can pick out that appliance and tell you how much juice it’s using. But its reporting isn’t sufficiently granular to inform you how much it costs to leave something like your porch light on overnight.
Blue Line says EnergyCloud’s reporting focuses on the items and activities in the home that consume the most amounts of power: Heating and cooling, cooking, heating water, washing and drying your clothes and dishes, as well as some of the more esoteric energy consumers, such as operating a spa or an EV charging station for an electric car.
Blue Line Innovations’ EnergyCloud isn’t as granular as the more-expensive Sense energy monitoring system, but it will accurately report your home’s overall energy consumption while identifying its biggest power consumers. EnergyCloud is also much easier for homeowners to install (Sense can be a DIY affair, but the manufacturer recommends hiring a professional electrician for the job because it involves placing clamps around the main lines supplying electricity to your circuit breaker panel.
Correction: Blue Line Innovations has dropped the paid subscription plan that was previously required after two years of ownership.
Blue Line Innovations EnergyCloud
Blue Line Innovations’ EnergyCloud will help you analyze your home’s electricity consumption, but it’s not the best solution for granular reporting.
- Easy to install without need to access your breaker panel
- Accurately reports your home’s energy consumption
- Two-year subscription included in the initial price; service costs $15 per year after that
- Doesn’t provide granular energy consumption reporting
- Alexa is the only supported digital assistant