Wireless Home Energy Management

May 10th, 2013 by scottgpeer

Smart Plugs

The idea of having your electrical outlets tell you how much power you are using is a good one. Adding an internet connection and ability to turn it off when you want to makes it a great idea. I previously reviewed the ThinkEco Modlet, which can be used to control and measure the energy consumption of electric devices. It has a limitation that it communicates through a computer that needs to be turned on. Now I will review two systems that have hubs that connect to an ethernet cable to your router, so you can more readily control your light or appliance from anywhere you have internet. In both cases the smart plugs and switches have low power wireless communication to the hub, but the wireless power is so low they may not work throughout your whole home.

The Lowes Iris system takes about an hour to set up. They have range extender to attempt to cover more area, but that didn’t help in my case. A small system including a Iris Smart Plug, a smart light switch (which does not take measurements), and Smart Hub costs $164. You will probably also want their $10/month premium service, which allows you to set timers on the devices. A nice feature is that every plug and switch includes a manual on/off button, so you do not need to pull out your phone or computer if you are in a room and want to turn something on.

The SmartenIt/SimpleHomeNet system can take hours or days to set up due to conflicting and sketchy documentation and a website that is not self-explanatory. A small system with one Smart Plug and the Harmony Gateway costs $280, but there is no monthly service fee needed to set timers or other control. Although it provides energy consumption data, it is not provided in a very useful way, leaving the user to interpret the data much as you would using a $30 Belkin meter.

Although both systems are intended to help you save money on electricity, due to their prices it would be difficult to save any money overall. However, if you are interested in the home automation features and would like to have energy savings as a bonus, they could be good for you.

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