A Sense Mom’s Energy Story

Heather S. and her family have made the most out of Sense in their home. This is their story.

Heather bought a Sense Home Energy Monitor in 2018 in just one of many decisions to move away from fossil fuel consumption and toward a net- zero lifestyle. Before buying Sense, Heather decided to convert her Santa Monica home to solar power.  She found a solar provider recommended by a friend who could handle the challenge of carefully installing solar panels on her home’s Spanish tiled roof.

Along with the solar panels, the installer gave Heather an app, which was “good for the installer to diagnose problems but wasn’t useful for the customer.” Her friend had purchased Sense, and Heather decided to try it. Says Heather, “I loved that a bunch of MIT nerds in Massachusetts came up with this thing.”

Early on, she had a problem with the solar panels and got a call from the installer. In the Sense app, Heather could see that solar production had remained steady, so she was able to verify that the problem was temporary. The Santa Monica area gets an average of 281 sunny days a year, and the home produces energy most days. Says Heather: “I'm obsessed with how much energy we're making. I love seeing that big yellow solar ball in the app!”

Heather's staggering solar production

But solar is just part of the energy conservation picture for Heather and her family. She bought her first hybrid car in 2006, her next car was a Plug-In Prius, followed by a BMW i3 and then a Tesla Model S. Meanwhile, her wife also jumped on board the EV bandwagon with a 2014 Cadillac ELR lease and then a second Tesla Model S.

With two EVs charging at home and the utility rates rising, Heather saw it as a natural progression to add solar panels to their home. Now the home’s solar production covers all of the family’s electrical usage, including the EVs.

Using energy insights from the Sense app, the family switched almost all the lights in the home to LEDs rather than continuing on a more leisurely replace-as-needed path. Says Heather, “We have a fixture with Edison light bulbs and could see in the Sense app that there was a huge surge, so I said, ‘I’ll never use those bulbs again.’” She’s pragmatic about changes that work for the family. Says Heather, “We installed LED lights in the kids’ room because they always leave their lights on.”

The Sense app keeps track of home activity too. When doing laundry, she checks the Sense app to see if the washer or dryer is done. Says Heather, “It’s easier to look at Sense. I'm loving the information I'm getting, and over time Sense is identifying a lot of devices in our house.”

With 12-year old twins at home, the Sense app helps their parents keep track of what’s on and off. When Heather is at work, she knows when the kids get home because the microwave turns on to heat their snacks. And they get some affectionate mom ribbing. Says Heather, “I make fun of the kids using the microwave too much!”

Meanwhile, Heather and her wife moved from their utility’s tiered pricing to a time-of-use plan. They schedule their car charging to take advantage of the lowest rates — another smart energy move.

For Heather, the biggest change with Sense is being more conscious of electrical usage now that she can check it anytime. She entertains often and notices energy spikes on days when she prepares for and hosts big dinner parties. There are no surprises in this family’s electricity bills!

The Trends screen in Heather’s Sense app shows energy spikes leading up to a big dinner party

Update: We checked in with Heather recently to hear more about how her family (including her 14-year old twins) were progressing on their energy goals. “I replaced those high-consuming Edison bulbs with similar LEDs I found at IKEA. We have surplus electricity [from solar panel production] and keep seeing it grow on our LADWP bill” said Heather. Throughout the pandemic, she also noted that “the three of us (me and the kids) worked and schooled from home for basically a year without much of an increase in our energy consumption.”

Here at Sense, we love to hear stories about moms who are making small and large changes to shrink their home’s energy footprint and teach their kids how to live an energy-wise life. Like you, we want to make sure that our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren will still be living on a healthy planet. Happy Mother’s Day to all moms, and special thanks to Heather for sharing her energy-saving journey!

Find out more about Sense Solar here