With it’s dazzling array of features and slick design, the Smappee is sure to impress. But behind the sparkle, how does it hold up under real life conditions?
Well developed automatic detection of appliances
A wide variety of compatible protocols like Nest and IFTTT
Ability to upgrade to gas and water monitoring
Smappee started life in 2012 and claims to be the first product to do automatic appliance detection. The headquarters are in Belgium but the monitor is manufactured in configuration that are compatible with every electrical grid in the world.
The box is box is simple with a lot of green. Green to remind you of it’s planet saving potential… probably.
Smappee Energy Monitor
2 current sensors (US)
3 current sensors (elsewhere)
4 / 6 current sensors with solar kit
1 comfort plug
What’s great about this list of parts is that there’s no screws and no bolts. Nothing too fiddly. Just the minimal number of items needed for a functional energy monitor.
metric: 160mm x 100mm x 35mm
imperial: 6.3″ x 4″ x 1.4″
It’s not super simple but it’s probably one of the easier ones to install. The manual does a good job of clearly illustrating how to safely install the energy monitor.
You may need to remove the panel in the breaker box though so be careful.
Removing the panel in the breaker box may expose live parts that stay live even if the power is switched off.
The safest option is to have this part of the installation done by a licensed electrician.
The unit is actually quite a bit larger than most of it’s competitors so chances are high that you’ll need to install it outside of your breaker box. Furthermore, you will need to plug it in to a normal outlet. A lot of homes don’t position an outlet near the breaker box so you may need to run an extension lead.
A sensor unit, power cable and extension lead dangling outside a breaker box doesn’t make for a very neat installation. Especially considering many competitors (like the Neurio) can happily be installed completely inside the breaker box. I would prefer to sacrifice ease of installation for a neater finish.
I do appreciate the fact that they sell extension leads for the sensor clamps. You’ll find this very handy if you’re breaker box is out of range of the WiFi.
The Smappee covers all its bases and has a web, mobile and desktop web interface.
The app now comes in two versions, and, at the you time writing, you can run both at the same time if you so wish.
The app called ‘Smappee Energy Monitor 2.0’ has only just been released and has a much nicer interface than its predecessor. Furthermore, the new app appears to be a lot less buggy than the old one. It is this app that is going to be my main focus in this review.
The app is design is minimalist and functional. The design looks a lot more attractive than their previous offering.
Simple ‘flat’ icons, slim fonts and a consistent color scheme all combine to make the app feel right at home in any modern day smart phone.
The home screen gives you a rundown of how much energy you are using currently.
‘Always on power’
Your always on power is what the sensor decides is the amount of power you consume when you’re not at home or asleep, This would be things like the standby power for the TV, fridges, water heater, etc.
The consumption graph shows a graph of how much energy you’ve been using in the past day, month or year.
It does a good job of displaying a useful amount of information. You can pinch to zoom the x axis and get exact values by clicking on one of the bars.
Unlike the old version of the app, you can’t see a more detailed version of the graph if you view it in landscape mode.
The consumption graph screen will show you the cost of the electricity that you have used so far.
If you switch to the appliances screen, you can see an estimate for the cost of individual appliances. Of course this estimate will only be accurate if the Smappee has done a good job of detecting the appliance. As discussed below, there’s a good chance that this won’t be the case.
The app only lets you put in one electricity price. This will be fine for most people but if you have some sort of tiered electricity plan (where electricity costs different amounts at different times of the day) you will find that the app isn’t accurate
If tiered energy monitoring is required, you can switch to the old app which has support for two tiers.
Smappee stores all consumption on a central web server (or the cloud). This is good because it means the data is easily available from anywhere with an internet connection. The downside is that there’s a chance the company will decide to switch the servers off at some point in the future. The company has been around for 6 years, will it stay around for another 10? It would be nice but there’s certainly no guarantee.
Data sent to and from the cloud is encrypted but the company is not explicit about what type of encryption is being used. Consider what the data is that is being collected by Smappee. The fact that it is encrypted is a very good thing.
One very unique feature of the Smappee is the fact that it allows you to mine SolarCoin.
What is SolarCoin?
To better understand solarcoin, I’m going to start with the most well known cryptocurrency: Bitcoin.
If you want to get some Bitcoin, you can either buy it or mine it. If you want to mine it, you’re going to have to solve some very complicated computer problems. This is required to authenticate transactions that other people are making.
Mining consumes a lot of power but it does ensure that the system is very secure. Nobody has yet been able to hack it directly.
SolarCoin is an alternative cryptocurrency. It’s similar to BitCoin but instead of requiring power hungry computer calculations as proof of work, it does the opposite. It requires that the user generates electricity from solar panels.
Using an appropriate energy monitoring device (like the Smappee), you will receive one SolarCoin for every MWh (Mega Watt Hour) of solar electricity that you produce.
SolarCoin can then be traded for other cryptocurrencies or normal, everyday currencies like dollars or pounds.
Since SolarCoin can be traded for real life (fiat) currencies like dollars an pounds, you can earn money for generating clean solar power. Sounds great, but how much money are we really talking here?
Well… the answer at the moment is: not very much.
A large 4kW solar array will produce about 3.4MWhs of electricity per year. That’s 3.4 SolarCoin.
At time of writing, one SolarCoin was worth $0.39 USD. That one year of energy production will net you a total of $1.33. Don’t go spend it all at once.
The good news is that it’s a cryptocurrency! It’s a new technology and cryptocurrencies are notoriously volatile. That 3.4 solar coin might only be worth $1.33 now but don’t forget, Bitcoin was worth even less at one point.
The Smappee comes with something called a ‘Comfort Plug’. This goes in between your power plug and your power outlet. It gives you the ability to turn on or off the device that’s plugged into the Comfort Plug with the app. You can also schedule times or set triggers from other events detected by the Smappee.
The comfort plug is handy to have however I would have preferred to have a cheaper product and not had the plug included in the package.
Furthermore, the plug itself is light on features. It doesn’t monitor electricity usage itself and it is unable to provide confirmation as to whether the turning on or off has been successful.
As an (expensive) optional extra, you can get the Smappee switch. This is like a much more fully featured comfort plug. It allows two way communication between the app and the switch and measures the electricity that runs through it.
The great thing about this is that it completely removes any guesswork from the appliance detection software. You know exactly how much electricity the device it’s attached to is consuming. It’s not going to get confused with other devices or by abnormal usage patterns.
A handy new feature of the switch is that you can use it to train the main unit to recognize specific appliances. To do this you’ll need to connect it between the appliance in question and the power point. After a couple of weeks, the Smappee should be trained on the appliance and you can move the switch to another device.
This training feature would be handy if you only have one or two appliances that you want to train but it’s completely impractical for anything more than that (unless you buy more switches of course).
Smart Home Compatibility
If you have some existing smart home gadgets, chances are, the Smappee can talk to them. It works with Nest, QIVICON, Conrad Connect, OpenRemote, Artik Cloud, IFTTT, MQTT, Alexa, Stringify and more.
When most energy monitors are offering support for only one or two protocols, this is certainly a breath of fresh air. Furthermore this allows the Smappee app to act as a central ‘command center’ app. This should allow you to control all your smart home devices from one place.
I’m really impressed with the trigger options available through IFTTT. You can have individual devices as well as changes in overall consumption trigger events.
The main draw for Smappee’s Alexa integration is it’s ability to control it’s ‘comfort plugs’. This means you can easily switch on or off other devices in your house with a simple voice command. Very useful feature, I’m glad to see it.
The only downside at the moment seems to be that there seems to be some reliability issues.
If you’re looking into getting aa smart energy monitor, chances are, you have a Nest. Well good news, the Smappee app can connect to your Nest. This means you can control both devices from the one app.
This is a similar app to IFTTT but it is much more powerful. Stringify allows you to very easily create complicated ‘flows’ with multiple triggers and multiple actions. The list of supported devices is not as vast ast IFTTT. fortunately the Smappee is one of those devices.
I am not going to go into all the platforms that the Smappee connects to because it is actually just too numerous and I have a day job. Suffice to say that if you know what QIVICON, Conrad Connect, OpenRemote, Artik Clout, MQTT or OCPP is then you should know that the Smappee supports it.
The Smappee has an public API. If you can’t find what you want to do using the plethora of platforms mentioned above, you have the ability to write your own tools. You’ll need the appropriate coding knowledge of course but this really does make for endless possibilities.
You also have the opportunity to leverage code created by other users. For instance, if you have a Magic Mirror, a user has created a tool to connect that to your Smappee.
If you want to download the raw data, the Smappee gives you the opportunity to download it in either CSV or Excel file formats. If you want to create you’re own custom graphs and tables that you can’t find through the app then this is the feature for you.
The Smappee takes into account the actual voltage of the line. As such, it’s accuracy, as in the number of watts of energy it detects the whole house using is usually spot on. The sensor itself makes measurements 4,000 times a second. The app, however, will take a second or so to register a change in electricity.
Appliance Detection Features
Automatic appliance detection
Manually teach it your appliances
Measures current 4,000 times per second
Measures appliances as low as 30W
How The Appliance Detection Works
Smappee use a clever piece of technology called NILM (Non Intrusive Load Monitoring).
Here’s what the company has to say about how NILM works:
You can compare Smappee to Shazam, the app that identifies songs. When an appliance uses electricity, it has an electrical ‘tune’- a unique tune for every appliance! By connecting a clamp to the phase wire, you can enable Smappee to ‘hear’ all these tunes on the power cable. Smappee uses its patented NILM technology to recognize the tunes of the most important appliances. Then it assigns these tunes to the correct appliances and labels them as such.
The technology is not perfect, however if you’re patient, you should be able to detect the major appliances.
You do have the option of going around and manually teach it your appliances. To do this, you have to have to turn as many things off in your house as possible. Then you’ll need to turn the specific device on and hope that it registers in the app. This process is tedious and not very not always successful.
My temptation would be to go around and try and teach the Smappee everything in my home as soon as I got it. Resist this temptation. If you do nothing, it should do a pretty good job of detecting the devices by itself.
The software has no way of actually telling you which device is which. It will tell you when it turned on and off and how much electricity it used. It will be up to you to to use some detective skills to figure out the device and label it appropriately.
How the Appliance Detection Performs
So how does it function in real life usage? Well, unfortunately, at it’s current stage, it’s just a little bit lackluster.
The Smappee should be able to detect more than half of the appliances in your house. As far as the current generation of smart energy meters go, this is actually pretty decent. There is no smart meter on the market that will detect your appliances with a hundred percent accuracy.
When devices are detected there is still the chance that it won’t be picked up at certain times. You may also find that switching on one appliance will sometimes register as another item in the app.
It’s not perfect but it should give you enough information to be able to make some very useful adjustments to your power consumption habits.
The Smappee is a great devices that certainly does a lot. I really commend the company for making a concerted effort to give you control of all your smart devices from the one app. It even gives you the option of adding a gas or water monitor.
The app itself is slick it’s just a pity it’s currently missing a few features. If you have the patience for the imperfect appliance detection then you are bound to appreciate the insight the app gives you. Overall a very solid energy monitor with all the features you could want.