Deter­mined to find ways to reduce the world’s energy con­sump­tion, a group of five elec­trical and com­puter engi­neering seniors at North­eastern Uni­ver­sity have devel­oped a home power-​​monitoring system that not only tracks how much energy spe­cific devices use, but gives con­sumers simple ways of making greener deci­sions, even when they’re away from the house.

Marc Neuwirth, Kris Eberle, Hannah Echo, Josh Tappan and Sean McGrath unveiled the project during the Col­lege of Engineering’s senior cap­stone pre­sen­ta­tions in early April. Dubbed Num­bers Empower, their system offers con­sumers a detailed pic­ture of their energy-​​consumption habits, showing them poten­tial areas where they might cut back.

Wire­less radio sen­sors attached to home elec­tronic devices (tele­vi­sions, lamps, toasters, fans, and so on) track how much power each device uses. This infor­ma­tion is trans­mitted to a router that col­lects all the home’s power-​​usage data. An online com­puter pro­gram can con­vert the data into cus­tomiz­able graphs that show how much power a spe­cific device or the entire house uses during a par­tic­ular hour, day, week, or year. The project was spon­sored by National Grid.

So, if you’ve ever won­dered how much energy your laptop wastes when it’s left on all night, Num­bers Empower can give you the pre­cise answer.

That was our main thing—visually showing people exactly where their power is going,” says Neuwirth.
The com­puter pro­gram also cal­cu­lates how much each of your devices costs to run, mul­ti­plying the kilo­watts used by the cost per kilo­watt listed in your energy bill.

Num­bers Empower lets con­sumers set up auto­mated sched­ules for turning their appli­ances on and off. And an inno­v­a­tive Web-​​based com­po­nent allows elec­tronic devices to be con­trolled remotely. Leave a living-​​room lamp on by mis­take? Use your smart­phone to turn it off while you’re at the super­market. Or use your work com­puter to turn on your home air-​​conditioning just before you leave the office for the evening.

The engi­neering stu­dents say the Num­bers Empower (http://​num​bersem​power​.com/) idea came from their joint interest in sustainability.

Our main goal is to reduce demand on the grid and save the con­sumer money,” Eberle says. “More than any­thing, we want you to be able to look at these graphs and make your own decisions.”