Review: Current Cost EnviR from SmartNow NZ

How much electricity is your house using right now? What about when you turn the kettle on? And if you used that much electricity on average for the month, what would it cost you? Would it make a difference to your electricity consumption if you knew the answers?

EnviRI’m guessing that you have no idea what the answers are. I didn’t either, until I got an EnviR up and running. SmartNow have lent me one to review. The EnviR is a small LCD display that shows instantaneous electricity draw from one or more transmitters installed in your house. I’ve got just one transmitter hooked over the main phase running from my meter box.

I had a couple of early headaches with beta hardware, but once a production unit arrived, the setup was smooth and painless. The hardest part was getting the transmitter’s current clamp around the main power wire. In theory this is something an electrician should do, but it was trivially easy to swing open the meter panel and clamp the big red wire. Don’t tell the insurance company.

The EnviR offers a couple of configuration options, including the ability to enter your cost per kilowatt-hour. I use Powershop as my energy supplier, which is perfect because my approximate per kWh cost is the only thing I pay – there’s no base fee or additional charges. This means that when the EnviR tells me my monthly cost is going to be $150 based on current consumption, it’s actually fairly accurate.

What about cool graphs?

The EnviR display shows instananeous consumption, and a rough graph of the last 24 hours. If you want historical consumption information, you can get an optional network “Bridge” for the EnviR. This connects the display unit to a network cable, and in turn uploads consumption data to my.CurrentCost.com. From there, you can also connect to Google PowerMeter. PowerMeter is a simple site that graphs energy usage, and allows you to share and compare usage with other users. The resulting graphs give you an interesting view of your ongoing power consumption.

Check out this example: we were away for a week, and here’s the day we arrived home:

EnviDayComparison

Before we went away, I turned off the hot water, and unplugged everything I could find. The only things left running were the fridge, the lizard’s heat lamp on a timer (which is that low hump you can see from 8am-8pm), and ironically the ADSL router and EnviR so I could log usage. When we arrived home I turned on the hot water, and I think we turned on a couple of computers and did some laundry. That big spike is probably dinner cooking.

Does it “work”?

The big question is whether a device like this changes your consumption behaviour. That’s a clear and unqualified yes in our case. We have the device set up right beside our television, and after a few days I got to know approximately what the house “baseline” was. I’d sit down to watch some TV, and notice that consumption was a couple of hundred Watts more than normal … time to go and hunt down some idle phone chargers and turn off the bedroom lights! This is not something I would have noticed or bothered about before. Additionally, after seeing what a difference we could make by turning off PCs, lights, and chargers overnight, it’s now a family ritual to turn off as much as we can before bedtime.

I can say categorically that the EnviR has reduced our power consumption. At this rate it will probably pay for itself in less than a year.

You can grab one direct from SmartNow’s online store for $183.50, and the optional network bridge for $65.50.

5 Comments

  1. Thanks Ben, I’ve been looking at this sort of device for a couple of years but they now seem to be getting to that cheap/useable/functional sweet spot. I like the idea of quantifying (cost wise) my power usage decisions. Just how much is it costing me to leave that PC on 24/7…

    Just a query – do you think the network bridge is something you would use long term? Or maybe better put – would you buy one (if you had to pay for it)? It seems like something I might look at initially and go “cool” but longer term responding to the real-time feedback of the unit seems like the way to go.

    Cheers

    • Yeah I’d say definitely get the bridge. It just makes it completely hands-off and simple for logging. I suppose you could get the cheaper USB cable, but that means leaving a PC on permanently for logging.

  2. +1 to Bens suggestion to get the bridge cable – I looked at one of these mid last year and we’ve also seen a sustained reduction in our power consumption behaviors.
    The game theroy in play here is *awareness* – these things are dang easy to understand (and to set up). Go get one!

  3. I have one of these here in the UK (which I got for, erm, free from my power company). It definitely lowered my power consumption to the point where I can look at the graphs on the power company’s site and clearly see when the monitor arrived.

    Our place is now down to an average of just under 2kWh a day, whereas before it was just over 3.

  4. I purchased one of these (and the bridge) at around 10pm last night and when I got home from work today it was there waiting. Less than 10 mins later the unit was up and running and another 10 mins and it was uploading to google powermeter…

    I was amazed to see the consumption jump up just by switching on all the lights in the kitchen, it really makes you think about your electricity.

    Excellent service from SmartNow NZ and so far a brilliant product!

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