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How To Monitor Electricity Usage in Your Home

February 5, 2024
Fred Sayer
December 7, 2023

To avoid rising energy costs each month, you must first understand how energy consumption works. Various factors contribute to increasing energy costs, including appliances that we use more often during the winter season like heaters. It’s important to monitor how much energy you consume at home to help you reduce expenses and your impact on the environment. If you’ve tried to save on energy but still wonder, “Why is my electric bill so high?” we're here to help. 

Our guide helps you understand how to monitor electricity usage in your home to cut costs and develop energy-conscious habits.

Why Monitor Electricity Usage?

Tracking your electricity usage can help you pinpoint the reason for excessive use and offers many benefits that can positively affect your finances, the environment, and more. 

Saves Money

Energy bills can range from $100 to $400 per month, depending on location and household size. Understanding your usage will help you find ways to use less and lower costs in the long run.

Identifies Wasteful Appliances

Broken or out-of-date appliances may use more energy than a modern version. For example, older refrigerators may have worn door seals, leading to energy leakage and increased consumption. Monitoring your electrical usage maximizes your home's efficiency by identifying wasteful appliances. 

Improves Sustainability

The U.S. power industry is the second most significant contributor to global power emissions. Too much energy consumption impacts our natural environment, contributing to air pollution, climate change, and more. Using less electricity can reduce your carbon footprint and help sustain the environment. 

Increases Consumption Awareness

Learning how to monitor your usage can help you become more conscious of your behaviors and take deliberate steps to avoid waste.

Understand Your Electricity Meters

Electrical meters track electricity usage in your home. They monitor kilowatt-hours (kWh), which is the amount of energy you’ve used in one hour. For example, 1 kWh equals 1,000 watts, so if a 100-watt light bulb stays on for 20 hours, it uses 2 kWh.

These numbers help your utility company determine how much power you use in a specific period to bill you accurately. Regularly checking your meter and knowing the type of meter you have can help you monitor usage, identify savings opportunities, and detect unusual increases. 

Smart and traditional meters are the most widely used meters in the market. Here's a rundown of how they function and which one could save you more money in the long run: 

Smart Meters

Smart meters are advanced digital devices that remotely record energy usage and transmit the information to the utility company using radio signals. They frequently include real-time monitoring and can show users how much energy they use hourly or throughout the month. 

Smart meters allow utility companies to read your energy use remotely and accurately bill you. They also offer summaries of your weekly usage, so your bill is less surprising at the end of the month.

Advantages of Smart Meters:

  • Offers more accurate billing than traditional 
  • Gives an hourly breakdown of energy consumption
  • Eliminates manual readings

Disadvantages of Smart Meters:

  • Not all households have access to smart meters
  • Some consumers fear digital hacking
  • More expensive than traditional meters

Traditional Meters

Traditional meters use a rotating disk to track electricity usage, which spins faster as use increases. Traditional meters are popular due to their existing infrastructure and lower installation costs.

However, traditional meters measure monthly consumption.  Since utility workers have to collect this data manually, readings may be less accurate. While many households still prefer standard meters, some have chosen smart meters for their modern conveniences, efficiency, and sustainability benefits. 

Advantages of Traditional Meters:

  • Less costly compared to smart meters
  • More available to households 

Disadvantages of Traditional Meters:

  • Less accurate billing for energy usage
  • Does not offer detailed reports of energy consumption
  • More likely to break down over time 
  • Requires manual readings
  • Provides monthly usage data versus hourly 

How To Measure Electricity Costs Using Traditional Meters

If you want to monitor how much electricity you use in one week with a digital meter, try the following:

  1. Find your meter and read the first five numbers from left to right on the screen. Suppose the number is 34678 (kWh) on Monday. This represents the electricity you used at the start of the week. 
  2. Write down the number or snap a photo of it.
  3. On Sunday, at the end of the week, check the number again. Let's say your new number is 35725 (kWh).
  4. Find out how much energy you used that week by calculating the difference between your initial and final readings. 35725 kWh minus 34678 kWh equals 1,074 kWh.
  5. Record your number once more for the upcoming week, but this time, try to use as little electricity as possible. You can try turning off lights, unplugging appliances, or developing other habits you think will help. Take another reading at the end of the week. 

Trying this monitoring technique will give you more control over your energy consumption habits and help you determine areas to cut back on use. 

Review Your Electricity Bill

Learning how to read an electric bill can help you determine which routines or appliances consume the most energy. You may come across unfamiliar terms on your bill, like kilowatt usage, rates, fees, etc. Here are a few things that may be included in your power bill. 

Kilowatt Usage

This section of your bill tracks energy consumption over time. A kilowatt-hour represents one hour of energy usage, and your bill displays the total monthly kWh usage. For instance, if you used 900 kWh from January 1-30, it's likely listed as January Monthly kWh Use: 900 kWh. To monitor usage and detect changes, review past bills and compare consumption across several months. Analyze periods of lower use, like when you spent less time indoors or reduced air conditioning during certain seasons.

Electricity Rates

The rate section details the cost of electricity per kWh. By knowing your rate, you can estimate how much energy you use over time versus how much you can save. The equation below shows how to calculate electricity cost. 

Electricity cost = Rate x usage

Rate: $0.13 per kWh

Monthly electrical usage: 900 kWh

900 x 0.13= $117

Rates can increase or decrease based on factors like location and time of year. Monitoring these changes can help you make energy-efficient choices during higher rate periods.

Electricity Fees

Tax fees, delivery fees, and service charges may be included in your electricity bill. These fees can add up, impacting your total bill. Understanding these fees allows you to identify areas you may have little control over but need to account for in your budget. To properly understand how to monitor electricity usage in your home, you must: 

  • Analyze usage trends: Track changes in your energy consumption over time. High usage during specific months or seasons can highlight areas where energy-saving efforts are most needed.
  • Determine peak hours: If your bill provides information on peak usage hours, you can adjust your energy-intensive activities to off-peak times to save on costs.
  • Check rate changes: Pay attention to any changes in your rate, including seasonal adjustments to help lower energy use when necessary.
  • Examine fees: Review your fees to ensure you have budgeted properly for any surprise expenses.

Use Smart Plugs and Timers

Invest in smart plugs and timers if you want to take your energy-saving game up a notch. Timer switches and smart plugs help you control and automate when electricity will flow or cut off to specific devices.

What Is a Smart Plug? 

A smart plug is a power adapter that plugs into your wall. You can control the energy flow to this adapter and any device plugged into it. Smart plugs are Wi-Fi enabled, so you can remotely monitor and control electrical usage with the smartphone app. You can schedule when devices receive power, such as turning on a coffee maker in the morning or lowering the amount of energy that devices use even when they are off, also called standby consumption.  

Popular smart plug brands include: 

What Is a Timer?

Timers allow you to set specific time schedules for your devices to run. Some electronics have built-in timers, like game consoles and TVs, that let you plan when they will go off.

Programmable or preset timers are available. They help reduce your electricity consumption and can be used for many purposes, such as automating your air conditioning system, holiday decorations, and outdoor lights. Popular timer switch brands include:

Choose Energy Monitors That Connect to Mobile Apps

Choosing energy monitors that integrate with mobile apps is a convenient way to learn how to monitor electricity usage at home or when you’re on the move. With the help of these apps, you can shut down any device or cut off power from a remote location. The data insights also help you manage your budget by showing which appliances are energy gorgers and offering tips for long-term savings. 

Identify Energy Hogs

To identify which appliances consume the most electricity, start by examining your electrical meter. Record your electrical usage weekly, intentionally avoid using certain appliances like the dishwasher, and track any noticeable changes. Another method is to review and compare your bills to find patterns of high energy use. 

For tech-powered solutions, home energy monitoring tools like Sense or Neurio will give you detailed data to pinpoint which appliances draw the most power. Use the table below to understand which appliances are common energy hogs to help you decide whether to limit using them. 

Take Control of Your Electric Bill With Arbor

We hope this guide has equipped you with everything you need to reduce your energy bills. From monitoring your electrical meters to integrating advanced electricity tracking tools, you can start making small changes that will lead to significant savings over time. 

By understanding how to monitor electricity usage in your home and working to change it, you're moving toward a more energy-efficient home. Don't let rising energy costs catch you off guard. At Arbor, we help you save on energy bills by providing hassle-free competitive rates. Take control of your energy expenses and start your journey toward a more cost-effective and eco-friendly home today.

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