MeterPlug, a small connected device for electrical outlets, is the latest new project to help consumers learn about their electricity consumption. The plug acts a pass through between any electrical appliance and an outlet, measuring real-time energy usage and recording it over time. Best of all, it adds a little smarts to what’s otherwise generally not considered a sexy activity: MeterPlug pairs with a smartphone app for data, alerts and for control over the plugged in appliance.
Using MeterPlug looks pretty simple: Just plug it in to an outlet and connect any appliance you want to monitor into the Meter Plug. You’ll see actual energy usage for the appliance on an iPhone(s aapl) or Android(s goog) handset that supports the Bluetooth 4.0 LE standard. The MeterPlug itself uses a scant 0.1 watts of juice, so using it won’t add any noticeable cost to your utility bill. And when the MeterPlug sees that a connected appliance hasn’t been used for a while, it cuts the power to eliminate any “Vampire” drain.
On the phone, you can turn on or off a device connected to the MeterPlug, which is a nice extra, but the real value is in the energy monitoring. With the companion app, you can view consumption history over time or the actual current use and cost, based on electricity prices. Armed with that data, you can see which appliances are using more electricity than others, which could help you decide when to upgrade to a more efficient model.
I like the idea behind the MeterPlug, but it may be a little expensive for most. Currently an IndiGoGo project looking for funding, it will cost you $45 for one. That’s a discount over the expected $60 retail price, but to get the biggest benefit from an energy monitoring approach, you’d really need multiple MeterPlugs. If these were to some in around $25 to $30 each (or less), I could see a much bigger audience.
The team behind MeterPlug will be demonstrating the gadget at next month’s Consumer Electronics Show, so I plan to take a closer look at it. We already monitor our power, mainly because of our 41 solar panels generating electricity, and have smart strips that kill of vampire drain when appliances aren’t in use. I think we’re in the minority however, so I’ll dig for more info on the Meter Plug at CES.