Energy meter readers monitor the entire amount of power entering your home as it happens. This is done by attaching a sensor to your utility's electric meter and reading the pulses as it records your power consumption. This is the lowest cost method for tracking total home energy use.
The unit's outdoor sensor transmits data collected from utility meter's pulse signal to a PC or remote display unit. It provides a constant, real time feedback of the power being used and logs the total kilowatt-hours.
When the air conditioner or hot water heater comes on, you will see an immediate increase in power consumption. However, turning on a single lamp may not register as a change in power due to the unit's broader granularity in resolution.
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Communications between the sensor on the utility meter and the display will generally be wireless. Wireless makes the installation easier but requires batteries. As a result, the outdoor sensor may require frequent battery changes, especially during cold weather. Consider using lithium polymer (li-po) batteries that can be recharged to reduce the cost of battery change outs.
Programming electric rates into these devices allows cost information to be displayed. On some units this is limited to just an average kilowatt-hour rate. Others offer the ability to enter tiered or time-of-use rates. Monthly billing calculations are only projections of current usage on the units that do not log and store data.
Power Cost Monitor
Be sure to check your utility meter type before purchasing an energy meter reader to verify the outdoor sensor will be compatible with it. There is a good explanation of how to do this in the Black and Decker compatibility manual.
Since the sensor clamps onto the outside of the utility meter and does not interfere with its operation in any way, most utilities are not likely to object to the installation. However, some do, so it is a good idea to check with your utility company ahead of time to be sure there will not be a problem.
Energy meter readers offer a simple way to monitor and track the energy flowing through your utility's electric meter. No wiring is required inside the circuit breaker panel. These simple features keep the cost of the units low when compared with other multi-point and circuit level home energy monitors.
However, the devices are limited to mimicking utility meter readings, cannot measure individual appliance loads and have lower accuracy levels when compared with more sophisticated energy monitors. Even these limitations do exist energy meter readers still offer a low cost, entry-level option for monitoring the total amount of electrical energy entering your home.
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