Emporia Vue energy monitor review: Understand your home’s energy consumption without breaking the bank

Want to know how much energy your home is using? You can take the power company’s word for it, or you can measure your usage yourself. With a device like the Emporia Vue you can do this fairly simply and without having to complete any major rewiring.

Like the Sense Energy Monitor we reviewed in early 2019, the Emporia Vue uses a pair of electromagnetic current sensors that clip on top of the two electrical mains that enter your circuit breaker. The sensors can detect the total amount of wattage your home is pulling down from the grid, and this information is fed once per second to an attached monitor.

The monitor, via Wi-Fi, relays that information to Emporia’s servers in the cloud, and from there to an app on your smart phone. This enables you to observe your home’s energy consumption in real time and historically.

What Sense offers that Emporia does not is a way, via machine learning, to “identify the footprint of different devices” based on the way the devices in your home use power. Over time, Sense can identify your refrigerator, oven, furnace, and more. Add the Vue Expansion Module, and you can add up to eight additional clips that connect to individual circuits in your house and monitor them directly, without any guesswork.

Emporia’s system, however, costs much less than Sense’s: The Emporia Vue base unit is just $50, plus another $60 if you choose to add the eight circuit-specific sensors (you can buy the two bundled for $100). A 200-amp, three-phase current sensor for light commercial implementations is also available for $15. That’s a significant savings any way you look at it; but, of course, you will face some caveats along the way.

emporia vue installed Christopher Null / IDG

Cramming all of the Emporia Vue’s components into your electrical panel’s box can be challenging.

First, installation isn’t entirely a matter of just clipping sensors onto wiring. The Vue itself must be powered in order to work. That means shutting down your entire electrical system (the controls for which I discovered were in a completely different location outside my home) and connecting wires to an unused circuit breaker and to the neutral bus bar. If you don’t have an unused breaker, a wire-tap pigtail is included in the box that lets you borrow a little power from a breaker that’s otherwise in use.

Connecting all of this isn’t too much trouble, even if (like me) you’ve never done any work inside your electrical panel. Emporia’s instructions are easy to follow, and the only hiccup I encountered involved the antenna for the Vue’s Wi-Fi connection. Because electrical panels are metal and (of course) full of electrical gear, Wi-Fi signals don’t penetrate far beyond the box. The antenna must be run outside the box by snaking the cable through a knockout and mounting it on the outside of the panel.

emporia vue app 3 Christopher Null / IDG

This spike in the kitchen circuit’s consumption of electricity can be attributed to the coffee maker.

My problem: My circuit breaker is recessed into the wall, which meant having to run the wire not just through a knockout but through the drywall, as well. For the purposes of my testing, I opted not to drill holes in the wall and instead just used the Vue with the cover of the breaker box removed during my testing.