SenseEvery time I see an advertisement for the Sense Home Energy Monitor there’s always the same slew of comments from people who haven’t used it.

These include:

That they can see usage online with their power company (yeah, total usage, not what’s actually using power.) That it won’t save them money because they already turn the lights out (I diagnosed a bad water heater element and discovered a battery charger was pulling 60 watts without doing jack, discovered a tiny AC was using the juice of four,) or that it’s a very limited use device. I’ll address the limited uses below.

Now, there are legitimate complaints, just saying those are not.

Here are some things I’ve done with the Sense Home Energy Monitor that aren’t listed as selling points. Oh yeah, just to make it fair I’ll add a complaint section at the end.

And to point out any biases if I convince you to buy this I make a commission, so feel free to remove the tracking code and when you like it just send me money :) .

#1 – oven/bath timer

Have you ever hit the timer button on your stove only to come back and either someone else has hit it or you forgot to hit start? You can look in your Sense timeline and find out exactly when you turned the stove on. Just did this yesterday for the kid’s dinner because evidently I can’t press Timer reliably.

I’ve also used the timeline feature to figure out exactly how long my kids have been in the bathtub (when the hot water heater kicked on,) – oddly used this more times than I should have.

#2 – warning you when stuff is on out of hours

Got kids? Be afraid. Be very afraid. I’ve got a sink disposal button and a microwave at toddler level, and two kids with no concept of the stove being dangerous.

A little finagling with IFTTT and Tasker can turn a Sense event at certain hours into a wakeup call. I really hope Sense will add hours to their app pretty soon so you don’t have to bring third party apps in, but it’s doable.

#3 – alert you when the curling iron’s been left on again

My wife’s purchased four curling irons in the past 15 years, and three of them eventually didn’t turn off and burned something. I’ve got a nice slightly heat-damaged sink now. Sense has the ability to alert you when a device has run more than so many minutes right in the app.

#4 – use your phone, IFTTT, and Tasker to warn you to go home

Using IFTTT to send an email, Tasker to check if your position, and Autonotification to check the email, you can script a warning that you left the house with the stove on.

This sort of feature really needs to be built into the Sense app rather than requiring third party scripting.

#5 – see when a device is going south

Sense Home Energy Monitor running longIs your refrigerator running? Well you should go catch it. When a fridge is going south you’re going to start seeing it using more electricity as the compressor is running longer and longer.

When your AC needs refrigerant you’re going to see the compressor running longer. Same tech.

When you’ve got a bad heating element in your water heater you’re going to see it running longer.

Luckily you can set an alert to automatically let you know when these are running longer than normal.

#6 – have the Sense Home Energy Monitor alert you when your freezer has died

Sense Home Energy Monitor deep freezer alertIf you’ve got a freezer in your basement you’ve probably dreaded coming down and discovering that the freezer died, or that a breaker tripped, and caused you to lose a few hundred dollars worth of food.

Built right into the Sense software is the ability to warn you before you’re dealing with all your freezer foods turning into hot mold.

Mmmm hot mold.

#7 – let you know the kid left the fridge open

See #5 – if the fridge is running constantly the door is most likely ajar.

#8 – let you know little ones are up at night

I’ll preface this with this will only work if there’s a unique lighting situation in their room as generally a lightbulb looks like a lightbulb to Sense. However two or three lightbulbs look like two or three and can be tracked.

#9 – fact check the utility meter

Ever wonder if your meter is right? Read a bunch of people in your neighborhood group saying the utility company just rips you off? Yeah, probably not. They’re usually just unaware of some vampire power drain, have found an article where the meters were off in some condition, and will waste hundreds in electricity before eventually doing something about it.

Just to make it fair, a slew of complaints

There’s no way to train it, it’s a deep machine learning system. As such if something doesn’t behave like expected it won’t be detected unless it cycles on and off regularly. No way to say “Hey Sense, I’m going to activate this blender.”

Some things look too much like other things – coffee maker and rice cooker. There’s no logic to tell the machine learning thingie that this is wrong and actually that other thing you detected. While not life threatening if something gets detected as something else I can’t trust a trigger action to be correct.

The very limited notification options mean you have to use a third party service for some things. You also can’t create more than one trigger in the app. You know, I’d like to set trigger actions/know both: if my fridge isn’t running, and if it’s running too long, or have hour of normal operation as an option.

The Sense Home Energy Monitor is available from Amazon for $299 for the standard unit and an additional $50 for the solar package add-on.

Anyway, those are some things I’ve done – have you scripted anything interesting?