Notification Triggers Lake Pump Inspection

Device: Pump
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Thought I’d share a quick success story for my Sense device.

Today I got a notification that my lake pump had been abnormally ‘on’ for longer than normal. Since installing Sense a few months back and the device correctly identifying my lake pump, I’d been observing its on/off pattern. I noticed that the pump was usually on for about an hour each time it activated. So I took the opportunity to set a notification that would alert me if the pump ever stayed on for 90 minutes, thinking that would be a sign of something going wrong. Well, today that notification came!

It triggered me to do a visual inspection of our 300’ waterline that runs down our cliff. I thought to myself that there must either be a break somewhere, that the pump wasn’t working correctly (although Sense showed me its power consumption had not changed), or the lower lake levels had plugged or kinked the intake. And sure enough, I found a broken connection in the waterline! Took me about an hour to replace the section and things were back to normal!

Well Pump stuck on

Device: Water Pump
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I found a buildup of minerals in the well pump pressure switch diaphragm affecting both the cut on and cut off pressures. It was a 30-50 PSI factory set switch and was running from 20-75psi due the the buildup! I took the pressure switch apart and thoroughly cleaned the diaphragm parts, after cleaning it was running in the 20 psi range but was 50-70 psi. I adjusted the pressure settings to 30-60 as I am okay with the pressure drop and allows the pump to cycle less as opposed to the 40-60 I would normally set for a 2 story house.

Sense exposed a billing error

Device: Other Device
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We installed Sense in the middle of an issue with the well pump trigger which had broken in an on position. Cost us thousands, and Sense helped us narrow down the problem. But more recently we had a surprising surge in electricity consumption that would have gone unchecked without Sense. With two years of data in hand I could show the utility that most months Sense and their readings and estimates were very similar. Just 3-5% off. And then it jumped to 600-740% off. Without the data from Sense we would have had a harder time making a case for an adjustment. They knocked 10,000 kwh off our recent bill. I noticed a similar pattern a year ago that I will be addressing next with them.

Sense identified solar array problem

Device: Other Device
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Some of the microinverts in my solar array were putting out errors. Not unusual on cloudy days, and I was told they might have stopped reporting but were still giving power. But when I looked at Senese trends there was a clear step down on the max solar output. And it coincided perfectly with the date and time the microinverters last reported. Put in a warranty claim with the manufacturer and got free replacements.

Saved money and prevented a fire

Device: Dryer
Make: Samsung
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Shortly after receiving my Sense I began experimenting with everything in my house. During my adventure I discovered an odd behavior coming from my dryer. It would turn on and off frequently without a pattern one would normally see. After observing it for a short period I realized the heating element located inside the dryer would spike up and then settle and turn off almost immediately, so I decided to take a look. I pulled out the dryer and checked the venting. There was a small amount of lint but nothing significant. I then decided to go outside and check the vent termination. This is where the culprit was located. The vent screen was completely clogged, this trapped more than 90% of the heat inside of the vent thus causing the heating element to overheat frequently. Once I cleaned the vent screen, I also decided to clean the entire vent and discovered a large quantity of lint.
When I was finished, I fired it back up and it ran smoothly. I would have never discovered this without the Sense appliance, The investment was well worth it.

Identified a poor Fujitsu install immediately

Device: Heat Pump
Make: Fujitsu
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We decided to change out our heating system on our small home. Every company that came pushed mini splits. We had 5 quotes all for about the same price. We took the plunge on a Fujitsu system from a larger company in case we ever needed service we wanted a place that had a decent amount of techs working for them. What we didn’t realize was how poorly trained the sales person was. After settling on 3 zones instead of 4 due to cost and a room we don’t use much we had it installed. Everything was great the day after the install when it was 46F out. Fast forward a week and it’s now 4 deg F at night. I woke up to a 60 degree home and a condensor fan that sounded like it was trying to take off to deep space. I opened the Sense app to see almost 6,000 watts of power being drawn and it had been rapid cycling all night. 3 weeks later of back and forth and another frigid night and the company finally did a full load calc on the house…..OOOPS! They under sized it by 40%. My poorly insulated home uses as much power as a house 3-4 times it’s size. Not only that but the rapid cycling was due to a serious leak at a union. The company had to remove the system as it would have doubled our utility bill unless we started insulating. That’s in the plans but our tired old heating was priority. This device and app provided quick evidence that the system was not right from the beginning. I learned a ton about mini splits due to this debacle and if it weren’t for the immediate evidence I would have been questioning for months if the system was correct.

Sense helped us avoid food poisoning

Device: Oven
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Smart oven had been set up to cook a roast over several hours during the day. About 4 hours in, we noticed the oven was off. There was some residual heat inside, but we had no idea how long it had been cooking versus off. There were no smart oven logs to help either. We could turn it back on and hope it had not been in the food poisoning zone for long, but there had to be a way to find out for sure.

Identified 2 appliances about to die!

Device: Fridge
Make: Kenmore
Model: 106.8772681
Estimated Savings:

We had a very old freezer — more than 35 years old — which we thought was “still going strong”. After installing Sense and get a number of devices recognized, it was clear from the usage that this freezer was not only a major power hog, but the power meter also showed it was running about 55 minutes (or more!) every hour. Recognizing the savings potential, we took our time shopping around and settled on a new ‘basic’ freezer, which “paid for itself” in less than a year; Sense shows that its “on” cycle is ~20 minutes/hour (vs 55!) AND the power while on is about 1/4 of the old one.

Fast forward a year later: our old (but not as old as the freezer) analog fridge (which we loved the inside layout of) started making noises louder than usual at times; cleaning the coils did not help. Looking back over ~6 months at the Sense “Trend” data, it was clear that the “on-cycle” times started getting longer about 6 weeks earlier.

Then, one day it wouldn’t start after a brief power outage … panic! Turned it off, back on — whew. It started back up.

We’d been casually looking at possible replacements, but with the added incentive of the Sense data showing a recent gradual increase in the “duty cycle”, we knew we had to decide on a replacement. It took us almost 3 months to agree on one and get it in — but we didn’t have to make a “rush” to decide and get the quickest one available. We also were able to wait for a good sale (praying the old one wouldn’t die before we could get the new one in!). The new fridge has the latest cooling technology and runs at about 1/3 the monthly cost of the old one … and no scramble to “salvage the contents” of a failed fridge.

While most new replacement appliances will give a power savings, Sense allowed us to plan for replacement and wait for a good sale — which was about an additional $800 savings between the two appliances!

Real implementation of AI/ML

Device: Other Device
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Most technology firms seem to be using Artificial Intelligence [AI] and Machine Learning [ML] all day long and the future in computing. Sense on the other hand, instead of stating it as the future has made it the PRESENT.

Sense is great al learning about devices by itself in an extremely noisy environment ( read about how Sense device detection works). In my case, it was able to correctly identify the following devices which was astonishing
1. Condensate Pump
2. Microwave light bulb
3. Refrigerator Light Bulb

My story points to these devices, as most of these devices turn ON for fairly less than a minute. So it’s not just about being able to detect the big appliances like an Air Conditioner or Furnace Fan or washing machine or heater.

In my case, I was ready to replace my Condensate Pump thinking it’s faulty and the reason for water around my FURNACE and in my garage. I put in a bucket to catch water, but Sense ENABLED me to see how many times a day it was running. I could then look-up videos on YouTube to clean my pipes ( and actually redesign the outlet from the HVAC to the condensate pump.

There was still a lingering question – I need data to know if the condensate pump still works, and how much have things changed, because of a change in cleaning and updating the pipes.

I could see that my condensate pump worked about 12 times as opposed to 3 times a day, and the run time increased from 12-14 seconds to 19-29 seconds. I knew at that point that I can use data to rely and know if something is going bad.

I also had a Furnace Fan going bad, and suddenly drawing 2x the amount of energy to run. Sense was able to detect it as a “new” furnce fan. Had some HVAC issues, and the HVAC technician spend about 5 hours to finally deduce that the FAN was going bad, causing the issue with cooling.

Now Sense Enabled me to look into historical data, and current data to confirm if the HVAC technician was right or was just looking to make more money from the current gig.

SENSE EMPOWERS AND ENABLES for now. It will soon be able to predict about failing devices much better

High usage alert found a water leak!

Device: Water Pump
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Got a “new high energy use” alert – took a look at the app and saw 6,000 watts more use than typical. Made no sense. Went through the house looking for anything and none of the usual suspects were on….

Then I went outside and saw some droplets of water splashing over the gutter (it was a clear day).

Sure enough, the rooftop water heater had sprung a leak, causing our water pumps to run non stop and the electric water heater to try and keep up. Shutting off the water immediately stopped the leak and the energy use.

I honestly don’t know how long it would have taken to notice this leak… could have been days or even weeks – instead, it was 30 minutes start to finish.