Traditional ways to lower your home's energy use include adding insulation, weatherstripping, caulk and wearing a sweater in the winter. A new “smart” product, Curb, is trying to make all that more efficient, along with your energy usage.
Curb is a small gadget that is hardwired into your home's breaker box. Once activated, it monitors everything that's plugged into your home's electric outlets.
The device's sensors look for the electrical signatures of each appliance or device that is drawing power, monitoring in real time how much energy they are using. It alerts you to make adjustments if it finds a device is using more energy than it should.
First, it's up to you to decide how much you want to spend on your electric bill. Curb will keep you in the loop, sending reminders when you begin to get close to your projected budget, allowing you to make adjustments as needed.
The device will make recommendations as it learns about your home and its energy requirements. It might suggest energy upgrades, product swaps and changes in behavior – yes, like wearing a sweater in the winter – to help lower your bill.
A smartphone app allows you to control your home's other smart devices remotely. The app's radial dial is green when you're saving energy but changes to red when your home is wasting it. A bar graph gives you a live breakdown of the things in your home that are using electricity.
Turn the oven off
Curb will also watch for unusual energy usage and even unsafe conditions. For example, if you leave the oven on Curb will remind you to turn it off.
The base model sells for $249 but for most houses, a system will run $349 to $649.
Electricity is a significant part of the cost of living and can have serious budgetary impact in summer and winter. But costs vary around the country.
According to the Energy Information Administration, the cost of electricity is highest in the New England states, where it average 20.83 center per kilowatt house in March 2015. In contract, it averaged between 10.45 and 11.46 cents per kilowatt hour in the southeast.
How the electricity is generated will also influence the price. Coal is the cheapest source of electricity but has faced stiff regulatory pressure, prompting many utility to abandon it. Renewable sources, favored by regulators, are the most expensive.
As we reported in March, U.S. utilities are adding 20 gigawatts (GW) of electricity production this year, largely made up of more expensive renewable sources. At the same time, the industry is expected to take 13 GW of coal-produced electricity off line this year.
That suggests electric bills will keep going up, and a smart device to make them go up less just might be a good investment.