Why Monitor Your Electricity Use?
If you want to reduce your electricity consumption, a good place to start is by measuring it accurately. The old-fashioned way to do this was to read your electricity meter daily. But today there are much more advanced ways to monitor your electricity use. Specifically, you can now buy a whole-home energy monitoring system that give you second-by-second information on your power use. Some of these systems let you see your electricity use through an app on your smartphone, while others come with a dedicated display module. Either way, the information that these devices provide will let you pinpoint energy use to individual appliances. Therefore, a whole-home energy monitor will help you to identify and replace “energy hogs” and show you which behavioural changes can make a big difference to your electricity bill.
Why I Needed an Energy Monitor
I decided to get a whole-home energy monitor for a number of reasons. Firstly, as a conscious energy user, I wanted to better understand my electricity use and the energy that my appliance were consuming. I hoped this information might help me reduce my electricity consumption and save on my electricity bills. Secondly, in my work as a solar PV system designer, I spend a lot of time talking to customers about electricity use and how to save on electricity bills. I figured that I could learn some first-hand insights from monitoring my own electricity usage that I might be able to share with these customers. Finally, I’m working on power purchase agreements with commercial electricity consumers. Whole-home (or business) energy monitors are pretty much the only tool for the job if you’re doing an evaluation for a power purchase agreement.
Why I Chose the Empria Vue
There are plenty of whole-home energy monitors on the market but I chose to go with the Emporia Vue for a number of reasons:
- Emporia get excellent reviews.
- The Vue comes with a mobile app that allows for remote monitoring
- You can download and historical energy data as a .csv file.
- I got a prompt and informative answer when I contacted Emporia’s customer support with a question.
Emporia Vue Cost in the EU
The Empoia Vue itself is bargain, but shipping and taxes are high if you’re buying from Europe. See below for a breakdown of what my Emporia Vue cost, with accessories, delivered to Ireland. Note that I included an extra CT clamp for three-phase systems. You don’t need this if you’ll only be using the Vue for your home. I also had to get a power adapter from Ebay to make the Vue work with the Irish 240VAC power supply.
|Emporia Vue with 3-Phase Capability||$69.99||€63.48|
|240 Volt power adapter from Ebay (inc Shipping)||€13.33|
Delivery took only a few days despite the Vue coming all the way from America. I was also happy to see that the Vue was well packaged and arrived in perfect condition.
Installing the Vue
Set-up was extremely easy. Firstly, clamp CT sensor around the power lines that lead into your electricity meter. The Vue comes with at least two sensors but you’ll only need one for a (European) single-phase power supply. Secondly, plug in your power supply and connect it to the Vue. Finally, download the Emporia app to your smartphone, turn on Bluetooth and follow the instructions to hook the Vue up to your Wifi. You’ll need your Wifi password. I was able to complete the process within minutes.
Emporia advise getting an electrician to wire the Vue into your distribution box. However, I decided to simply plug my power supply into an extension lead as a more temporary but adequate solution. I chose this option because there’s a good chance I’ll need monitor a different electricity user in the near future. Clamping the CT sensor around the incoming power lead was extremely easy. However, if you have any doubts about what you’re doing then stop and call an electrician. Mistakes with electricity kill, so be careful.
Monitoring Energy Usage From Your Phone
Monitoring with the Vue is extremely easy. Just open the app and check out the second-by-second energy display. You’ll soon get to know the “signature” for each appliance in your house. I went into my kitchen and turned on the kettle, then the microwave, then the toaster. You can also view electricity use by minute, hour, day, month or year.
Exporting Data to a .csv File
The Emporia App lets you export your energy usage data to a .csv file. Simply go to the app and use the “export to CSV” function. Emporia will then send you an email with a link to your data. For example, here’s a graph I made from the .csv file that I downloaded:
Special Considerations for Using the Vue in Europe
The Emporia Vue is designed for the North-American Market, where most electricity is 2 X 120 Volt split phase. By contrast, Europeans generally use 220V or 240V single phase. Officially, we’re all using 230V, but in reality it’s 220V for continental Europe and 240V for Ireland and Britain. The voltage difference has three main implications for European Vue users:
1) You’ll Need to Buy a Different Power Adapter
I emailed Emporia to ask about this and they gave the following specifications:
“The power supply provides 12V DC to the Vue and we estimate it’s 500 mA. The male barrel jack on the power supply has an inner diameter of 1.35 mm and an outer diameter of 3.5 mm. Polarity does not matter.”Emporia Energy Support, 2020
I simply ordered a compatible power supply from Ebay and it worked perfectly. It cost me €13.33 including shipping.
2) Adjust the Voltage in The Emporia App
The Emporia Vue calculates your power consumption by multiplying volts by amps. It can measure amps in real time, but the voltage is a fixed value. If you’re not using 120V then you’ll need to adjust the voltage multiplier in the Emporia app. For Ireland and Britain, use a multiplier of 2. For continental Europe, use a multiplier of 1.833.
3) Measurement Range
Emporia claim that the Vue is accurate from 2 Amps to 250 Amps. For North American customers, this translates into a range of 240 Watts to 30 kW. However, for customers in Ireland and Britain, the range jumps to 480 Watts to 60kW. This will be a disadvantage for most people because some small loads like lights and laptop chargers will be lost beneath the 480 Watt threshold. On the other hand, the 60 kW capacity could be an advantage for commercial electricity consumers.
You can buy some additional add-ons for the Emporia Vue. The first is a system for monitoring energy production and consumption in houses with solar panels. This is a great idea because it lets you monitor the performance of you solar panels as well as your energy consumption. Secondly, you can add an “expansion module”. This allows you to monitor electricity consumption individual circuits in your house, for deeper insights into your electricity use. As I haven’t tried these features personally, I won’t be able to review them here.
Final Thoughts on the Emporia Vue
I was very impressed by Emporia’s service and the ease of using their product. Specifically, I got very quick responses to my email enquiries and the set-up took only minutes. Likewise, the app works with no hassle or complication. Overall, the Vue was an excellent product from an excellent company. There were only two downsides for me. Firstly, shipping and taxes can make the Vue a little expensive for European customers. Secondly, I wish that the Vue was more sensitive to very small power loads. Despite these downsides, I was still very happy with my purchase. Overall, I would recommend the Vue to anyone who needs a smartphone-based whole-home energy-monitoring system. The Emporia Vue just works. You can buy the Emporia Energy Vue here.