Sense Blog

10 Steps to Get Started With Sense

How can Sense help you reduce energy use in your home? This checklist will guide your journey with Sense as you learn more about your home, save energy, see what’s happening, and make your home safer and more reliable.

Every home is different. In one home, the water heater could be wasting energy, while in another, incandescent ceiling lights could be the culprit. Having said that, here are the first 10 steps to take on your Sense journey of discovery into your home’s energy and activity. Let’s get started.

1. Explore the Sense App

Take 15 minutes to learn about the Sense App so you know which features will help you the most. There are features for tracking, analyzing, and planning your energy usage. Find out how to use the app to save money and take better care of your home.

2. Set your electricity rate

Start tracking against your utility bill right away by choosing Settings at the bottom of the home screen, then My Home and Electricity Cost. Enter your utility’s billing rate and the billing cycle start date from your utility bill. Now you’re on your way to knowing how much your energy usage is costing you.

3. Take a walk around your house

Walk through your home and turn devices on and off while looking at the Power Meter view on the home screen. Notice how much energy each device uses and consider whether you could reduce it. For instance, if you have 60W incandescents, swap out LEDs instead. (See the introduction to Power Meter here.)


4. Figure out what’s always on and decide if you can turn it off

Consumer electronics can be energy vampires. The bubble labeled “Always On” includes all the things that run continuously in your home. In the average home, Always On makes up 23% of the electricity bill—about $250 annually. Turn each device on and off, looking at the Power Meter view to find out how much energy they’re using. (The Always On bubble is an average over time, so it won’t change instantly when you turn those devices off.) Consider buying a smart energy power strip to track and control each device or simply turn off your current strip until you actually need those devices. (How often do you use your printer, for instance? Or the extra TV and cable box in the guest bedroom?)

Game consoles can use a lot of energy, as can soundbars for entertainment centers. Cable DVRs use about 25W continuously. Don’t ignore conventional devices like radon fans, which are sometimes overpowered for your home’s needs. (See this video of a home walkthrough.) A wide variety of other devices can waste energy by staying on, including pool pumps, exercise bikes, and dehumidifiers.

5. Pinpoint which device is on

As Sense finds devices, you need to name them. Sense offers crowdsourced options, and some devices will be obvious but sometimes it can be harder to figure out what fan, heat or light has been identified. Set up an alert in Sense for the mystery device so you’ll know when it’s turned on. To do this, you choose the device from the devices menu and then tap on the gear icon in the upper-right corner of the screen for device settings including “basic notifications” under the Manage tab. When the alert pops up, you’ll be reminded to check what’s on. It’s this kind of discovery that will lead to incremental energy savings.

You can use alerts to know what’s happening in your house, also—for instance, setting an alert to tell you when your kid’s game console turns on and off.

6. Does Sense identify every device?

Sense uses machine learning to identify devices by their energy signatures. In the first 12 months, Sense will recognize about 25-30 devices in the typical home. Since each home is unique, Sense could find more or fewer devices in your home. Since the Sense algorithms need to “see” a particular energy signature many times in order to make a positive ID, devices that turn on and off more frequently in your home will tend to be identified first. Consumer electronics and other devices that stay on continuously have what amounts to a flat line signature, so Sense doesn’t currently identify them. You can put them on smart strips and smart plugs that integrate with Sense if you’d like to name, track and control them separately.

7. Can I speed up identification by naming devices myself?

No. The machine learning in Sense needs to learn about devices in your home without your help. For more details see this. Having said that, existing smart plug and Phillips Hue Lighting integrations allow Sense to talk directly with these devices and gather the data that describes what is happening.

8. How to tackle the big stuff

We hear from customers about big savings from devices that are using way more energy than they suspected. Prime suspects are pool pumps, water heaters, electric heating, HVAC systems, and dehumidifiers. We’ve also heard about people forgetting to turn off driveway heaters or roof de-icers. Take the time to analyze how much energy these suspects are using and check out Sense Saves for inspiration during your hunt for energy hogs.

9. Watch for irregularities that signal failing devices

If you notice an energy pattern that’s changed, it might signal problems. For instance, the Sense app might show that your heat pump’s energy curve is spiking repeatedly as the pump tries to turn on—a sign of a bad capacitor. Or you might see a sump pump turning on and off too frequently, pointing to either a flood in the basement or a malfunction. You can see those kinds of changes in the Now screen under “Today” or look at the individual device’s Power Meter screen.

10. Track your progress and set goals

One of the most valuable features is the Trends menu, where you can set goals. You can see your overall usage by various time frames, compare to other houses and give yourself a pat on the back or be spurred to action, and set goals for your next utility bill. Once you’ve set goals, you’ll get alerts to tell you how you’re trending toward those goals – a helpful reminder to hunt down some more energy wasters in your home or to notice when energy usage spikes.

Check out sense.com and the Sense blog for more tips. Have more questions about using Sense? Come join us in our Community forums!