Energy consumption isn't an easy thing to track -- and your electric meter and monthly bill definitely don't help the situation. They are full of confusing watt (W) and kilowatt-hour (kWh) readings that make little sense without a clear understanding of how each device in your home contributes to the whole.
The $249 (£160 in the UK at the current exchange rate) Neurio Home Intelligence device can act as your energy decoder. It provides real-time readings of the current power draw across your entire home, so flipping a light switch on and off shows an immediate shift in usage. You can also teach Neurio to distinguish among appliances for a closer look at how much your air conditioner or oven contribute to overall consumption. Unfortunately, that feature currently only works with devices over 400W and even then it regularly gets confused. Neurio also lacks any official third-party partners, despite its open platform. It also really isn't DIY -- the installation procedure is potentially very dangerous, and we highly recommend you bring in a professional to install it.
$249 is a lot to shell out for real-time energy stats, but Neurio does make it a lot easier than trying to translate your electric bill and it has promised to issue updates that should make it a more well-rounded product. But Neurio needs to hurry up -- Belkin and startup Ecoisme have promised to deliver similar devices within the next year (that might be able to do even more). Hold off on Neurio for now if you want more than real-time readings.
DIY? Not so much
Neurio is billed as a do-it-yourself device, something that is "easy" to install. I guess that could be true, if you are extremely comfortable with electrical work, but since most people aren't, I find fault with this designation. The installation requires a complete understanding of how to work safely with the breaker cover removed from your home circuit box. Since voltage remains live on the main breaker terminals (even after you've switched the main breaker off), anyone who has questions or concerns should defer to an experienced friend or hire a professional for this installation. A mistake here could could be fatal.
If you are familiar with this sort of work, this process shouldn't be too complicated. I enlisted Steve Conaway, one of our technical editors, to install Neurio. Here's a link to Neurio's installation guide if you're curious about the details, but it took Steve roughly 45 minutes from start to finish (and it probably would have taken him much less time if I wasn't constantly asking questions and stopping him to take pictures of the steps).
Keep in mind that once Neurio is installed, the device itself is completely hidden behind the main breaker cover. That makes Neurio's overall aesthetics pretty unimportant. It is a utilitarian device and I doubt that anyone would have issues with its design unless it doesn't fit the dimensions of the breaker box for some reason. But at 4.17 inches by 2.60 inches by 1.22 inches (106 mm by 66 mm by 31 mm), Neurio is pretty small.
Inside the app
After the Neurio installation, visit sensor.neur.io for configuration. Neurio does have Android and iOS mobile apps, but you'll need to get started on the Web app. On the Web app, you'll be asked to enter your email address and answer some basic questions about your breaker panel before connecting to your local Wi-Fi network. This process was very straightforward, although the setup interface looked a little dated.
Then I had immediate access to real-time energy readings on both the web and mobile app.
At first, I spent a lot of time walking around my house turning appliances on and off, amazed at Neurio's responsiveness. As far as real-time readings go, you can observe fluctuations from all of the products in your home -- flipping on on a fan or a light switch, cranking up the air conditioning, turning on the vacuum cleaner, baking something in the oven and so on.
Electric power in your home is measured by watts (W) and the energy that power uses is measured by kilowatt-hours (kWh).