Heat Meter measures energy use in real time

The device can be easily installed and monitored from a smartphone

A new, Wi-Fi connected device called the Heat Meter allows homeowners to track propane, natural gas or oil use in real time and compare their home's efficiency with others in the area.

See the Heat Meter in action in a video on YouTube.

The small unit attaches magnetically to a furnace or boiler and listens to vibrations and when the unit's flame ignites. Since most heating systems burn fuel at a constant rate, as long as the Heat Meter, made by Y Shape Inc., can detect how long the flame is burning, it will be able to accurately predict energy costs. Homeowners will need to input their home's square footage.

Radu Gogoana, a product development engineer with Y Shape Inc. likened the Heat Meter to a bathroom scale. "Just buying a scale won't help you lose weight. The Heat Meter is a measurement tool that provides useful insight to lowering your energy consumption."

Erick Fuentes leases an apartment in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and has been part of the Heat Meter pilot program.

"The most interesting feature is the 'what if,'" he said. "What if I set my thermostat two degrees lower or what happens if it's two degrees higher."

A mobile application allows Heat Meter users to track their energy use and compare it to others in the area. Fuentes lives in a very efficient, well insulated, modern apartment that is heated with natural gas. He said his typical natural gas bill in the winter is about $60 a month, which includes the use of a gas stove. The Heat Meter application told him if he lowers his thermostat by two degrees, he could save $36 over the heating season. That might not seem like a lot, but for a much larger home, the savings could be in the hundreds or thousands of dollars.

The Heat Meter isn't available commercially yet, but can be purchased for $150 through a Kickstarter campaign.

Nick Barber covers general technology news in both text and video for IDG News Service. E-mail him at Nick_Barber@idg.com and follow him on Twitter at @nickjb.

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