11/26/2013 20:19 EST | Updated 01/26/2014 05:59 EST

B.C. entrepreneur invents energy saving sensor

A B.C. entrepreneur and businesswoman hopes to capitalize on growing electricity costs with a new device that helps consumers track the energy use of various appliances in their home.

Janice Cheam dreamed up Neurio – a sensor contained within a small black box that is wired directly into a home’s breaker panel – while she was a student at UBC’s Sauder School of Business.

Neurio connects to WIFI networks and tracks energy consumption by all the appliances running in your home, sending real-time update reports to any personal devices connected to the WIFI network.

“The way that appliances use energy happens in a really unique way. Kind of like a signature or a fingerprint,” says Cheam.

The software reads that fingerprint and assists users see exactly what appliances or electrical devices are using energy at any given time.

“There is so many unexpected ways that you can save energy that don’t require you to really change your lifestyle,” she says.

Ali Kashani, vice president of software development at Cheam’s company Energy Aware, has been testing Neurio in his home for more than a year. He says one of the primary benefits is finding out about energy usage many people are unaware of in their own homes.

“You realize when you turned everything off, your home is still using a lot of energy. That’s a really good sign that there is something going on that you need to know about,” Kashani told CBC News.

“I had a broken heater that I didn’t know about. I had a stereo that was on even when I was turning it off and this was adding up to about $30 to $40 in costs a month that I didn’t even know about.”

Cheam started an online campaign to raise $95,000 to help get Neurio to market on popular crowdfunding website Kickstarter. The effort ended on Nov. 15, and in one month the company raised $267,373 from nearly 2,000 financial backers.

Cheam says that she hopes her invention will help people make their homes energy smart, and help keep costs down as hydro rates continue to increase across B.C.

On Tuesday, BC Hydro announced that rates will increase at least 25.5% over the next five years.

“British Columbians are going to be more focused on energy saving, which is a good thing overall and we want to provide the tool to help people achieve those savings.”

Cheam and her team are currently testing Neurio in a number of homes across North America, and they anticipate the sensor will be available to the public for about $250 next summer.