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eMonitor home energy tracker drills deep

High-end energy monitor from Powerhouse Dynamics aims to give circuit-level details on electricity use to help people cut energy waste at home.

Powerhouse Dynamics expects its first customers this week to receive its eMonitor home energy manager, a product that enters a crowded market for tracking where energy goes in the home.

There are dozens of companies working on in-home energy displays or home energy monitor systems, many of which will be tested as part of utility smart-grid programs.

A whole-house energy monitor from Powerhouse Dynamics gets data from sensors attached to individual circuits. Energy Circle

Newton, Mass.-based Powerhouse Dynamics, by contrast, plans to sell through resellers, such as online retailers, energy auditors and contractors, or solar installers. So far, the company has more than 30 dealers signed up, according to CEO Martin Flusberg.

Many energy monitors are geared at providing a real-time reminder of electricity use to prompt consumers to conserve or turn off unused appliances. During a presentation at the AlwaysOn GoingGreen conference in Boston last week, Flusberg said displaying a home's total electricity at a given moment is of limited use.

Instead, Powerhouse Dynamics has focused on giving home owners information on how much electricity individual rooms or appliances use. It also provides recommendations--via e-mail, text, or an iPhone application now under development--on how to cut down energy consumption Flusberg said.

The price of the eMonitor product itself is on the high-end: at an online retailer now, it's selling for $799, which includes five years of monthly service.

With projected savings of 5 to 20 percent from existing bills, a consumer who spends a lot on energy could save $400 to $500 a year, Flusberg said. But at this point, it seems that most interest has been from people who want clues for finding where they are wasting energy, he said.

"We're finding that for some consumers, it's not so much about the return on investment--it's all about waste. Even though they know they won't get an immediate payback, just the fact that they can control that waste is enough," he said. Others are motivated to lower their carbon footprint, he added.

To use the system, an electrician connects sensors to each circuit going into a panel. That data is collected by the eMonitor device, which is about 8 inches high by 3 inches wide. The monitor has an Ethernet port that connects to a home broadband connection to send the data to Powerhouse Dynamics.

Once collected, a person can view energy use circuit by circuit, showing things like how much energy individual appliances or specific rooms use. The device can also track home much electricity a home generates from solar panels.

The device has a Zigbee wireless antenna so the monitor should be able to communicate with Zigbee-enabled thermostats and smart plugs, Flusberg said.

The company is looking to raise a second seed round of funding and a series A venture capital round later this year. Its product plans include making a "mass market" monitor with a lower price point.