Monitor your home’s electricity usage on your iPhone

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Date: Thursday, January 19th, 2017, 11:18
Category: Gadget, Hardware, Hardware, Home, Home Automation, Review

The RFA-Z109 Eagle from Rainforest AutomationIn our world of the quantified self, Internet of Thing (IoT) and home automation I figured it would be trivial to find a way to monitor my home’s electricity usage remotely and in real-time (without having to unscrew the panel on my electricity panel.) Boy, was I wrong.

I’m a diehard fan of Nest, Dropcam, Hue, Ring and their ilk and I’ve used TED5000 for electricity monitoring at a previous house, but TED requires a fair amount of knowledge (and bravery!) to get set up correctly. After moving to a new house I was determined to find an easy-to-install solution to monitor my home’s insatiable appetite for electricity, and I found it!

Unfortunately, home electricity monitoring products aren’t as popular as I thought, and there’s a pretty high set of requirements that you need to hurdle to achieve such a feat.

Your ability to use this gadget depends on how modern your electricity provider’s equipment is, specifically the electric meter on the back/side of your house. If you have a “Smart Meter” (or something resembling one) – typically featuring a segmented digital display – read on.

PG&E smart meter attached to the side of my home.

If your electricity meter has analog, spinning dials (like the one below), you’re probably out of luck and should ask your utility if/when they plan to upgrade to smart meters.

An older, analog electricity meter - Jason O'Grady

If you’re still reading and are lucky enough to have a SmartMeter attached to your residence, you should check out this little diddy:

The RFA-Z109 Eagle from Rainforest Automation

The RFA-Z109 Eagle from Rainforest Automation ($99, Amazon) is a small communication gateway that connects to your home’s SmartMeter, pulls data off it and uploads it to a database in the cloud. You can then access your meter’s usage data with the free EnergyVUE app (iOS, Android) and do some cool things with it.

The primary use case for the Eagle is for home electricity monitoring. Simply fire up the app (or the web portal) and you’re able to see how much electricity your humble abode is slurping up at any given moment. Which is nice.

Eagle features include:

  • ZigBee Smart Energy 1.1 certification
  • Validated by many utilities (including PG&E, SDG&E, SCE and BC Hydro.)
  • Monitor your smart meter data in real time on your smart phone, or any web enabled device at rainforestcloud
  • No clamps, no electrician
  • Optionally connect to our third party cloud partners
  • Residential Cloud Partners: BlueDot, WattVision
  • Commercial Cloud Partners: Lucid
  • Open platform with internal webserver; not locked to any particular service

Latency is around one minute, so it’s not “real-time” but it’s close enough for my purposes. Next I’d like to see alerts, e.g. send me a notification if energy use goes above a pre-defined threshold.

The RFA-Z109 Eagle from Rainforest Automation is available for $99 at Amazon.

Do you use a gadget to monitor your electricity usage? What one? Let us know in the comments. 


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