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How smart home energy monitors could avert huge bills

During last week’s power crisis in Texas, prices surged to the market price cap of $9,000 per megawatt-hour for several days, resulting in some huge bills for a lot of homeowners. (To put that in perspective, the state’s seasonal average is $50 per megawatt-hour.) The entire US, not just Texas, has a lot of infrastructure work to do in order to avoid more power crises like this. But in the meantime, how can consumers protect themselves from exorbitant surprise power bills when extreme weather increasingly occurs?

Smart home energy monitors that use mobile apps (search “smart home energy monitor” to see the sorts of products that are available) can enable collaboration between consumers and utilities that will help both respond better to extreme weather events. Here are some examples of how the monitors could be used:

  • Utilities could notify their customers individually via a smart energy app to turn down their heating system in very cold weather or set their AC higher in a heat wave to reasonable temperatures that decrease the surge in demand and reduce risk of blackouts.
  • A smart energy app could notify utility customers in real time if their bill hits a certain threshold or is trending higher than usual so they don’t end up with a shockingly high monthly bill from a variable rate plan.
  • Smartphone alerts could remind consumers when their utility’s time of use program enters a higher rate period so they can save money by using their washing machine, dryer, or dishwasher when electricity is less expensive.
  • With the permission of customers, utilities could see energy patterns “behind the meter,” such as how well an HVAC system performs, and recommend maintenance or replacement options that qualify for rebates in order to reduce the load on the grid during peak summer hours while saving customers money.
  • Smart EV chargers can communicate with the grid automatically to charge when the carbon impact is lowest while making sure the car is ready on the owner’s schedule.

Mike Phillips, CEO of home energy monitor company Sense, told Electrek:

The life-threatening blackouts in Texas, which triggered astronomical rates for some utility customers, are just the latest example of how important it is for utilities to adopt smarter technology. By using the Sense app running on a Revelo smart meter, for instance, a utility could communicate directly with customers to warn them about rate changes and suggest ways to reduce their usage during peak demand times – preventing catastrophic blackouts and saving their customers money.

Here’s how Landis+Gyr‘s Revelo, an example of an IoT grid-sensing meter, works:

Photo: Sense

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Avatar for Michelle Lewis Michelle Lewis

Michelle Lewis is a writer and editor on Electrek and an editor on DroneDJ, 9to5Mac, and 9to5Google. She lives in St. Petersburg, Florida. She has previously worked for Fast Company, the Guardian, News Deeply, Time, and others. Message Michelle on Twitter or at Check out her personal blog.