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A new device called the Energy Detective gives users a window into their home energy consumption and the appliances that suck the most power. Manufactured by Energy Inc., the system includes a transmission unit that connects directly into a building’s circuit breakers and a compact screen display that plugs into any electrical outlet. It retails for $145.

For maximum impact, the device not only tells you how many kilowatts you’re using but also how much your energy consumption at any given moment is costing per hour, how much money you’ve spent on energy in the month to date, and how much you’re projected to spend given the current rate of use. It’s clear that this is the type of information people can act upon — whether it means turning off a light or running the dishwasher during off-peak hours. Counting on this behavior, Energy Inc. says the device can save homeowners anywhere between 10 and 20 percent on their electric bills.

When Joe Hutsko of the New York Times’ new Green Inc. section took the Energy Detective for a spin, he noted the detailed nature of its data output. For example, he was able to pinpoint the power costs of baking cookies (49 cents per hour), running his eco-friendly washing machine ($2.37 per hour), turning on his oil radiator (20 cents per hour) and more.

Home power meters may still seem like a novel idea, but the field of companies who make them is getting pretty crowded. On an individual appliance basis (and for under $100), Kill-a-Watt and Doc Wattson can tell you how much energy your fridge or thermostat may be using. And the PowerCost Monitor, Brultech’s Home Energy Monitor, and systems out of EnergyHub, Tendril (which has its own iPhone monitoring app now), Onzo and Greenbox all do basically the same thing on the household scale.

The Energy Detective hasn’t yet distinguished itself from this crowd in a major way — not even by price (the PowerCost monitor is cheaper, at about $109 per unit). But this area of cleantech is growing rapidly, and there seems to be enough room for all of these players to continue innovating and refining their products for the time being.


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