To be completely honest, we weren’t real excited when we first brought home the latest version of Blue Line Innovation’s power monitor. Wrapped in a generic box stamped with the dryly serious (but immaculately descriptive) name “PowerCost Monitor,” the object of this review sat on a shelf for a couple of days. It exuded a businessy, utilitarian feel, like a newly purchased paper shredder, surge protector, or box of paper clips.
Once we got this simple little electricity cost monitor set up and going, however…well…let’s just say it became a part time obsession. We found ourselves impatient to get home from work and see how much power our fridge was drinking in, or find out how much in cents-per-hour it cost to watch our favorite evening reality show. Studies have demonstrated that even basic awareness of how much electricity you use leads to unconscious changes in your daily gadget-using habits. Could the Blue Line PowerCost Monitor be more than a fascinating toy? Could it catalyze a whole new way of life? Perhaps… Read on for the full story.
The graphics on the outside of the PowerCost Monitor box are friendly and encouraging. A 1950’s-retro cutaway illustration shows a woman standing inside her ranch-style house looking at her power monitor while it gets signals from the sensor on the electric meter outside. Curvy little white lines depict the radio waves passing between the monitor and the sensor (they talk to each other through the air, via the magic of radio waves!).
The warm feeling we got from this mid-20th-century (re)envisoning of energy-conscious domestic life subsided a little when we actually opened the PowerCost Monitor box. Its daunting array of contents includes two separate instruction manuals (one for setup, the other for use), the LCD unit that displays info, the sensor unit that attaches to your electric meter using an included clamp strap, a shim, and a “template” sticker. A wave of apprehension swept over us when all this technical equipment poured out of the package. It looked like we were going to need tools and a focused effort to get this thing going.
The Blue Line PowerCost Monitor limits itself to a handful simple, useful functions. The time and the outside temperature are displayed at the bottom of the monitor’s large, easy-to-read LCD display screen. The top of the screen shows your real-time total electricity consumption in terms of kilowatt hours (kWh). When a button on the monitor is pressed the same line will show how much you’re using in terms of cents per hour. You can also view your total electricity consumption–in either kWh or ¢’s per hour–since the last day the monitor was reset. Press another button to show a predicted estimate of how much electricity/money you can expect to spend in a month at the rate you’ve been going. Then there’s the “appliance” button, which allows you to see how much a single appliance consumes in your home when you turn it on. This is the function that will have you systematically turning lamps, blenders, and heaters on and off all over your house throughout the following week, just to see how much energy each one hogs.