The very notion of the the smart grid seems to have people looking at their electricity consumption in a new way. The state of today’s technology affords us the capability to view details of home or business electricity use at a granular level, which presents an opportunity for energy cost savings and efficiency improvements. Plus, let’s face it, some folks just love looking at data and statistics. Knowledge is power, right? So, it isn’t surprising to see home energy monitoring devices taking off as an electronics product category.
UK-based Current Cost produces several home energy monitoring systems and more than a few accessories to enhance those products. Here, we review the ENVI, which uses wireless technology, a table-top LCD display and PC/Internet connectivity to deliver energy use and cost information to its user in real time. This type of device belongs to the home energy management category, which is a green home type of device for helping you monitor and make informed choices on your home energy usage.
De-boxing and set-up:
The ENVI packaging is smartly designed such that it wastes no space. The packaging itself isn’t particularly “green” though. The treated cardboard and paper are labelled as recyclable, but that’s the limit of its earth-friendliness-no vegetable based inks or anything. Perhaps it is enough that purchasing the product is itself meant to be an effort to reduce waste and emissions. The back of the packaging is certainly intended to evoke that feeling.
Inside the box we found the ENVI LCD display, DC power adapter, a transmitter box with two D-cell batteries already installed, two “sensor jaws,” an Ethernet-to-USB cable and a seven page product manual.
Setting up the ENVI was mostly quick and painless. I started by removing the housing from my circuit breaker box. Once I had access to the two main lines coming into the home, I clamped a “sensor jaw” to each of the lines, attached their leads to the appropriate jacks on the transmitter, then mounted the transmitter using the provided adhesive backing. Two D-cells were already installed in the transmitter. Once the protective plastic strip is pulled, a red LED begins blinking to indicate that the transmitter is active.
I decided to place the monitor display in an area where home network and power cables were in easy reach. Once the monitor was plugged in, it took about eight seconds to start showing real-time usage data. The transmitter and monitor must be paired, which involves pressing a small button on the transmitter and holding a button down on the monitor. It’s a quick process that requires little from the user. In this case, the two had already been paired so I did nothing to get them to communicate.