Sense Blog

Saving Big with Sense Solar

Learn how Sense user Tara S. cut her electric bill in half with Sense Solar.

In the southwestern corner of Oklahoma, the Wichita Mountains rise from rolling grasslands and ramble across 30 miles of terrain, their ancient granite peaks sheltering bison, elk, coyotes, and prairie dogs. In this wide open country, people are close to the land, connected to the rhythms of weather and seasons. 

Tara S lives in Elgin, OK and can see the Wichita Mountains from the windows in her home. With more than 230 sunny days annually in the area, Tara decided to reduce her utility bill by installing solar panels. EnviroSolar, a Sense partner and top solar installer in Oklahoma, converted her home to solar. Before equipping her home with solar panels, however, EnviroSolar installed the Sense Home Energy Monitor in her electrical panel so that Tara could find out how much energy she was using. 

Right away, Tara was engaged in tracking her home’s solar production and energy efficiency together. Says Tara, “I was obsessed with the Sense app at first and wanted it to find as much as it could in my home.” Immediately Tara did something very smart with her Sense app. She walked through her house turning things on and off, looking at the Power Meter to see how much energy her family used. If you’re already a Sense user, you should do the same. Learn more here

She realized that her incandescent lights were using a lot of energy and switched to LEDs throughout her home. She could see that her Always On power usage was high and cut back drastically by unplugging or turning off devices she doesn’t use during the day. Her Always On is now about a third of what it was originally, about 180W. Over time, she expects to replace various consumer electronics with more energy efficient models.

Tara had Sense installed in March. EnviroSolar returned in April to install her solar system and connect it to Sense. Later that month, her heater and air conditioner were detected by Sense. Sense gradually discovered more appliances including her heat pump, air handler, fridge and its ice maker and light, two water heaters, the septic system aerator, dryer, washer, oven, coffeemaker, and the griddle appliance on her stove — adding up to more than 20 devices over time.

Tara kept checking her Sense app on a regular basis — and then it helped her out in a pinch. Here’s what happened, in her words:

A compressor went out in the heat pump and the house got really cold. I could see in the Sense app that the home’s electricity usage was really high, so I went around checking things — and discovered that the heat pump wasn’t on so the emergency heat was running to keep the house warm, which is more expensive than running the heat pump. I got the heat pump fixed and avoided a big increase in my electricity bill.

The pump’s replacement part cost only $60, a fraction of what it would have cost her had she let the emergency heater run longer. This was the first time she had a problem with the heat pump and noticed it because of Sense.  In the summer, it just stopped working. Says Tara: “One of the best things about Sense is it warns you about problems before something gets ruined and will cost you a lot of money.” To read more stories like Tara’s, be sure to check out Sense Saves.

Many solar customers are disappointed if their solar panels don’t offset their utility bill entirely, but several factors go into home electricity usage, including the residents’ habits, utility’s variable pricing and night-time vs daytime electricity usage. With Sense, Tara knew exactly how much electricity she was using, day and night, and she could compare it with solar production in real time. Says Tara: “If I didn’t have the Sense app, I don’t think I’d be very happy with the solar panels overall. I wouldn’t be able to see what I was saving in such detail.”

Today Tara’s summer utility bill has been cut in half, which she credits to the combination of solar panels and energy reductions, and she’s reduced her winter bill by a third. 

Tara keeps track of what’s on in her home with Sense. She says, “It’s the coolest app on my phone. My boyfriend uses it too.” She’ll even message him to say, “Why is this device running? Can you turn it off?” She observed that a bigger family could benefit even more from seeing what’s on in their home and turning off devices that are wasting energy or could be a safety hazard.

Sense has made a real difference in Tara’s home life. Her comment that first caught our eye says it all: “I LOVE this device! I got Sense at the end of March when my solar panels were installed. Since then it’s learned almost 20 devices. There are a few discrepancies in appliance discovery, but overall I’m super happy with my Sense monitor!”

Thank you, Tara, for sharing your Sense Solar story!

Read more Sense user stories at sensesaves.sense.com