New monitoring technologies can make you a smarter energy consumer

By Ben Delman on April 30, 2021

Going solar is a great first step to take control of your energy use. Advancements in electricity monitoring let you take this control to a new level.

Every solar system will come equipped with some form of monitoring. This is an important tool that will show you how much electricity your system is producing. It will tell you how much electricity your system is producing when. This can alert you to any problems with your system.

New technology allows you to monitor not only how much electricity you generate, but how much you use as well. You can tell how much electricity specific devices are using. This is important information to know if you would like to add battery storage as part of your home energy system. It can also help you decide where to make efficiency upgrades. You can use this information to buy a system that is appropriately sized to your needs.

Let’s look at some of the benefits and kinds of advanced monitoring systems.

Maximizing battery storage during  power outages

If you live in an area with unreliable electric service, you know how costly power outages can be.

Virginia solar homeowner Adrian De Luca had this in mind when he installed his system. “We have a lot of outages in our area,” De Luca said. De Luca said his system gives him “more control over loads during an outage and more detail about how our home consumes electricity.”

He installed a 10.8 kW system with battery backup. This is a common combination. He also added advanced monitoring technology. This helps him help maximize his storage capacity during an outage

You can set up some advanced monitoring systems to automatically control which parts of your home continue to use electricity during an outage. This lets you keep important electric equipment like your refrigerator or heating system working. You can see which of your appliances are using the most electricity. This can help you to decide when making an upgrade to a more efficient device makes sense.

Saving money through smarter electricity use

An increasing number of utilities are changing the way they charge customers. Typically, the price you pay for electricity stays the same no matter when you use it. Under time-of-use (TOU) pricing, electricity will cost more during times of high demand and less in times of low demand. The goal of TOU pricing is to encourage customers to change electricity to lower peak demand.

Automated energy systems can help you change your usage automatically.

Managing electric vehicle charging

Pairing solar with an electric vehicle allows you to create your own fuel. It also adds a significant electricity user to your home. Smart monitoring technology can help you manage your usage so that your vehicle charging doesn’t interfere with the rest of your household usage. This maximizes your ability to save money on solar-powered fuel.

Monitoring solutions

There are a number of different products that offer monitoring for your solar and your home. In addition to these products, some inverters come with load monitoring capability as well.

Energy monitors

Home energy monitors are a low cost way to monitor your electric usage by appliance or circuit. They can help you figure out how to use less energy. A monitor connects to your electric meter and displays how much energy your home is using. This gives you information to make your home more energy efficient. Energy monitors vary by brand. Many generate personalized recommendations for increasing energy efficiency. Brands include Engage, Home Energy, Smappee and Vue Smart.

Demand controllers

Brands such as Measurlogic and Energy Sentry make home systems that start with installation in the $2,000 range. If your utility employs Time of Use billing, these systems manage your electric use as a lower cost battery alternative. Under Time of Use billing, the price you pay for electricity varies at different times of the day. These demand controllers can time high energy usage appliances (such as water heaters or dishwashers) to run at times when power prices are lower.

Some utilities have demand controllers or demand control programs. These programs allow utilities to control your high-energy devices. In return, they may offer you a small rebate for participating in the program. For example you may, the utility may use the demand control to limit customers’ air conditioning from running at peak level at the hottest time on the hottest day. Doing this can lower the utility’s need to buy additional electricity to meet high demand.

Smart energy panels

Smart energy panels monitor the activity and energy usage of appliances and circuits. They also manage your loads and can tell how much of your monthly electricity bill is attributed to specific devices.  This type of smart panel is also a demand controller and can time high energy usage appliances to run at times when power prices are lower or when other appliances aren’t running for off-grid applications. This is a way to use a whole home battery backup with fewer batteries by managing the demand of different high usage appliances.

This type of smart energy panel is meant as an alternative to a demand control device or extra battery backup and the most popular brands are Lumin and Span and these panels can cost between $2,500 and $8,500 including installation. Lumin is meant as an addition to your current electrical panel. Span replaces your electrical panel.