Review: Microsoft Hohm and a whole-house power monitor

The basic sensor and display unit sell for around $100 (an earlier Black & Decker-branded variant can be had for around $65). If you want to connect the device to Hohm and to see usage trends, the WiFi gateway adds another $150.

Personally, I found the most value from the basic real-time display. Stick it in some well-trafficked spot and you’re sure to see it numerous times per day, getting a decent sense of how your home’s power load varies through the day and throughout the year. As for Hohm, it’s a nice site and well worth using, but it can also accept manual electric bill input at the end of each month. Unless you really need to chart your power usage throughout the day and to see detailed graphs throughout the month, the WiFi feature will probably be superfluous for many users, given its cost.

Microsoft’s Hohm energy efficiency and tracking service, still in beta, has a unique sense of style. Who expects a discussion about insulation R-values to involve pirate jokes?

“What do pirates look for in attic insulation?” Hohm asks. “The arrrr value! Insulation R-value measures how well a material stops heat flow, the higher the better.”

This can be a bit jarring at first—are the sorts of people who write about “arrrr value!” really the ones you go to for home improvement questions?—but if you’re going to use Hohm, you’d better get used to it.

“Read and follow the instructions that came with your new refrigerator. (This will not harm your street cred),” says a tip on buying more efficient iceboxes. You’ll also want to keep the new fridge away “from anything hot like an oven, direct sunlight, or visiting supermodels.”

When it comes to lighting your room, consider task lighting; it can save money because, the site informs us, “you won’t need to turn on the overhead light for your ironic cross-stitch.” Advice from Bob Vila this is not. Leer más “Review: Microsoft Hohm and a whole-house power monitor”