So there are situations where Sense might not be a feasible choice for realtime energy monitoring. For example, we have an apartment building in a beach town, where we have 4 townhouse-like units, one of which we keep for mostly our family usage. The building has 5 separate electric meters (one for each unit, plus a house meter that feeds laundry room, the shared utilities room, and EV charger). The building also has 8 electrical panels, so Sense or some other panel-centric monitoring would be painful to buy, install and manage. I did take a look at more commercial offerings but they are far more expensive and not really suited for the scale of this building.
I’m in the middle of assembling a reasonable real-time monitoring solution using devices that provide limited monitoring using ZigBee connections to my smart meters, then doing the rollup using Home Assistant. I hit my first milestone today - I now have two RainForest Automation Eagles paired with two of my 5 meters and running and combining in Home Assistant.
I should be clear - this isn’t for everybody:
Requires a compatible smart meter - Rainforest Eagles don’t measure, they just receive updates from your smart meter. Right now, every smart meter needs a separate Eagle.
Your utility also needs to support “Share my stream”. I think all three of the big utilities in California support, but you need to read the Rainforest Automation “supported utilities” list, to see if you are covered.
The Eagle(s) also need to located within 75 feet (closer preferable) of your smart meter in a location that also has WiFi or wired Ethernet connection. I wired mine because I wanted to run multiple units in a garage close to the meters, that doesn’t hav e good WiFi coverage.
Here’s what the Home Assistant Energy dashboard looks like with two feeds from different meters via two Eagles.
No solar option like Sense - I could use Home Assistant to aggregate in solar on an hourly basis but definitely not the same as the combined Power Meter.
5-10 second updates, not every 1/2 second like Sense
No device detection
Only uses proprietary smart plugs
No DCM, Hue, Ecobee, Wiser or other integrations
No CO2 intensity or good costing features
Here’s their newest product addition, a new Eagle 3 that measures the House Meter - here it “watched” the end of my EV charging cycle. Notice that it hasn’t gad enough runtime to evaluate the Always On.
Here’s a view of the current rig. It will be prettied up once I have 3 more Eagle 3’s and a UniFi switch. I had to locate the hardware on top of cabinets in the garage closest to the electric meters. I was fortunate that I had an Ethernet drop and electric outlet nearby, because WiFi coverage is a little iffy. Had investigated powering using PoE but that would have raised my power budget beyond my current main switch.
Update - 3 Units and House Meter Online
Quick update - here’s what the Home Assistant Energy dashboard looks like with 4 Eagles connected (3 apartments and the house meter), with one more to go. You can see that the House Meter handled EV charging last night. It’s usually a very low baseline. Unit 3 is twice the size of Unit 1 and Unit 4 but both of those use electric floorboard heating. Unit 3 uses a mini split heat pump plus a small gas furnace.
Once again, Home Assistant does a reasonable job of rolling it all up, but is nowhere near a useful as Sense, especially in the waveform department. Not much I can make of the fixed range overlays of power waveforms from each meter.
Here’s the current hardware setup - Will neaten up once I add the fifth Eagle. Not cheap - will be about 600$ for Eagles, USB outlet, and new UniFi switch that accommodates 6 connections. But considering my utility bill for this building for Jan was a little over 1000$ (and we pay the utilities) it’s going to be worth it.
I looked up the Eagle energy management product discussed above. The manufacturer claims that the product has “easy self install — no clamps, no electrician — just plug it in!” This sounds preposterous until you realize that it gets it data from the meter operated by the electric company. Digging a little deeper in the instructions, “send the MAC Address and Install Code from the EAGLE 3 to your utility.” Thus, if your utility meter is not smart and/or not linked, the Eagle product is just a paperweight.
If you do have a smart utility meter and can link it, then the Eagle could be for you. Kevin found it appropriate for his beach apartments. To find out if it works for you, visit Supported Utilities - Intelligent Energy Management | Rainforest Automation. That webpage lists currently participating locations: California, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Vermont, and Washington. The place I live is not one of those, so I can’t do anything further with this information.
More Likes / Dislikes with Rainforest Automation UI
A little more of a critique on the Rainforest UI web app / iOS Ap.
Just like Sense there are some differences in features between the web app and iOS app - web app is a little more full-featured.
App and web app enable viewing of multiple meters (monitors). Unfortunately, one cannot name each monitor in an intelligent way - it’s all via cryptic 6 character “Cloud IDs”
Pre-defined utility rate schedules, ostensibly based directly on the utilities. The prices show, color-coded in the Day view of the history (see below). Unfortunately the pre-defined rate schedule seem to be wrong.
UI provides Always On, Average and Peak for each meter. It doesn’t show in the screenshot below, but all those values are computed for the range being shown (Day/Week/Month), and the Peak tells exactly when the Peak occurs. But the legends showing this info seem to appear and disappear randomly between ranges.
Compare mode - Rainforest does have a Compare mode that lets you overlay two different set time rates (Day/Week/Month), so you can see why one time person might have greater usage than another (see Week example at the bottom).
Too many different views vs. Sense - Rainforest realtime waveforms have different UI vs. history. I really prefer the Sense combines power meter.
Predefined utility ToU rate schedules are useless unless they are correct - Rainforest seems to be strewn with random and incorrect rate schedules. There are 3-4 different similar names for my PG&E rates and all of them seem incorrect.
None of Sense’s advanced device or other features (solar, integrations, bubbles, etc.) - this is all there is.
Kevin, I’m curious about an aspect of your beach apartment setup. Do you have Home Assistant running at the same physical location as the Eagles, or do the Eagles report over the cloud to the Home Assistant you keep running at your main residence?
That’s a good question - the HA Rainforest Integration today relies on a local connection, even though the Rainforest apps are in the cloud, so I’m running a second HA setup at the beach apartment. Of course there are other benefits to that since HA has a lot of location-based features.
Right now I’m just letting HA accumulate local data and plan to look at it a couple times per month, with the thought of doing energy saving automations after a few months of observation (I can only really make adjustments between tenants). If I want real-time or single unit observations, I can go to the Rainforest UI which is cloud-based and offers some level of history (I’m not sure how far back it goes - right now the history goes back 3 months, back to when I installed my first Eagle and linked to my meter #1).