The ability to monitoring energy usage and adjusting it according to how much is needed to avoid unnecessary drainage is one of the key ingredients to building a more sustainable future. And a team of researchers at MIT has come up with a clever system that allows you to see exactly how much power each of your devices is using with great accuracy. And the system is also very easy and affordable to install and use.

The key part of the system is a sensor the size of a postage stamp, which is attached to the incoming power line of a home. The data collected by the sensor is analyzed by special software, which looks at the spikes and patterns in voltage and thus identifies and monitors the energy use of each device. The software can accurately distinguish between all different kinds of lights, motors, and other devices in the home and know exactly which ones are turned on or off, and at which times.

Privacy of an individual’s home energy usage information is also protected by this system, since all the info is circulated only within the home and isn’t shared with anyone else. They’ve already done extensive testing and the system proved great at saving energy and money, while also increasing safety. In one of the tests, the sensor detected a voltage anomaly, which was the result of faulty wiring that was causing copper plumbing pipes to carry a live voltage.

It took the team about 10 years to research and develop the system. The first hurdle was developing a device that would be easy to install. The next step was coming up with the software that would be able to accurately interpret the data collected by the sensor. As a result of thorough testing, the software is now smart enough to, for example, show how much energy the refrigerator has used in a given time frame, when it is turned on and off or when it goes into defrost mode.

They are planning to bring the sensor to market soon, and once they do, it will cost less than $30. Homeowners will also be able to install it themselves using a zip tie.