Adventures in Home Energy Monitoring or “How I Became the Energy Enforcer”

September 18, 2009 at 12:45 pm 49 comments

a guest post by homecamper and Quest Software guy Joe Baguley.

It all started one drunken night a few years ago with my neighbours in the garden (as do most life-changing events I’m assured). It appeared that they were all paying an awful lot less for their electricity than me which I found confusing as we lived in similar houses.

Electrisave

After some investigation I discovered the Electrisave (since rebranded as the OWL). £45 later and I had fitted the clamp ammeter to my main feed into the house and was going round the house switching things on and off to see how much they cost. Hours of endless fun, no seriously!

I quickly worked out that my house idled at about 3.4p/hr unless the fridge/freezer was cycling when it hit 5.5p/hr. This small nugget alone dramatically changed household behaviour. Everyone was trained that as we went to sleep, or before we left the house, to check the meter. If it was more than 5.5p/hr then something was on that shouldn’t be and was switched on. Already my bills started to drop by about £10-£15/month.

Then one night I am sitting by the TV, with the meter in front of me (I became sadly obsessed) when it jumped up by 30p/hr to my amazement, something that I thought only the fridge or kettle could do for me, but neither was on. Some investigative work led me to the immersion heater (no gas water heating) and further playing showed me that the cams were worn on the mechanical timer and the thing was never turning off. One new electronic timer later and my bill dropped by a further £30/month and suddenly I was paying less than my neighbours. They were now borrowing my meter to wonder around their homes discovering savings.

Within less than 2 months the unit paid for itself.

Wattson

Ever on the lookout for new gadgets I discovered Wattson and purchased one of their first devices. This did much the same as my Electrisave, but this time allowed me to capture and graph the data using their rather cumbersome app. Now I had usage graphs and could track trends, associating activities with expense. Now I was really starting to annoy my family.

I played with that for a long time, now further rewiring both my study and TV ‘complex’ to ensure that I could switch as much off as possible ‘at the wall’ when I could, leaving only ‘essential services’ powered on 24/7 (Sky+, Cable Modem, NAS drive etc.)

The only problem with the Wattson was that though it glowed pretty colours, the display would show you your ‘estimated bill for the year’ based on current usage, so the thing fluctuated from £350-£4000 as stuff went on and off, but was to abstracted from reality to be useful to drive behaviour with the family compared to the cost/hour of the previous solution.

I was however generally happy with the Wattson, but felt that I needed more info…

GEO

So, along came an Eco show at the Earl’s Court and the discovery of Green Energy Options and their home monitoring plans. They included not only monitoring to an individual device level, but were also looking at my other big and untrackable expense – gas.

So, I begged to get on their beta trial, even though I was well outside their trial area (East Anglia) and through some stroke of luck I was accepted.

I opted for the top of the line unit, the Trio+ at £250 (discounted for the trial) because that was the one that gave me detailed reporting to a device level and included gas.

So a couple of weeks later 2 chaps showed up in my house, placed clamp ammeters about everywhere possible in my consumer unit (fuse box) and installed individual appliance monitors on everything I thought appropriate in the house (washing machine, tumble dryer, dishwasher, kettle, TV etc.)

The best piece of it all was that the data was all collected onto an EeePC running MySQL, Apache and their own Flash interface which is beautiful and well thought out. More importantly as it is a webserver I can view my house (and turn things on and off) from ‘anywhere’ after opening port 80 on my router and doing the redirect. Here are some sample screenshots:

The number of screens and ways you can view the data are fantastic.

The gas monitoring I am assured will be coming in the next couple of months, but for now the electricity detail is great. The fact it measures cost over time as opposed to one fixed point means you can learn a LOT:

  • I now know my dishwasher costs 16p/cycle, compared to my washing machine at 7p, and that running it on the thermonuclear remove the spot-welded lasagne from the dish mode only takes it to 17p. Best suggestion I have had yet is to get all plastic plates and cutlery and wash them in the washing machine. Instead we don’t put the dishwasher on part-full anymore.
  • My kettle was costing us near on 50p/week, whereas my new ‘on demand’ model costs us about 6p/week
  • The oven is no longer left on for 30-40 mins to ‘warm up’, neither is the kettle left for 20 mins to ‘warm up’. These things get hot very quickly nowadays.
  • Taking into account both the cost of food and energy used in cooking it, the chip shop is wallet friendly in some cases…
  • My ‘little 3kW pool heater’ we use in the summer for our 10’ pool costs about £9/day to run – kids now cope with it a little colder than 33C… ;-)
  • My 40” Sony LCD TV costs hardly anything to run (60-70p/week) – fabulous
  • The over 1500W of GU10 spotlights downstairs are killing us, and we are trying to find acceptable either CFL or LED replacements, none found yet but some are on their way to me this week to try.
  • Laptop power supplies left plugged in are a BAD thing.
  • My wife hates it when I am travelling and phone her up to complain about the amount of TV she has been watching instead of doing the housework… ;-)
  • My kids know that I can turn their TV off from anywhere in the world…

My next big step? – gas monitoring when they fit it. I will finally be able to answer the question this winter as to whether leaving the heating on all the time on a thermostat or turning it off at night and then reheating the house in the morning is best.

Footnote: What drove me to do all this was not only a fascination with tech, but more importantly a fascination with not wasting money. Not saving the planet – saving cash. In my experience cash beats morality every time… ;-)

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    You need tto consider the types of animals you are
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    Depending on which brand and model you choose, the correction consists of either a minor
    electric shock or a spray of citronella to the dog’s nose.
    Therre are a few special efforts that a dog owner needs too
    ake to ensure adequate dog care and safety. Thhe whole invisible fence
    system or kit consists of a perimeter wire fitted with a transmitrer antenna and an electric collar, fitted wuth a receiver.

    Give your dog or cat affection and positive reinforcement as he adjusts to his
    new boundaries. The dog fence that can be used will help out with getting
    a border sett up between the pet and a yard. anxjety over a wandering and potentially “lost family member” are
    only some of the key reasons foor moving proactively on a fencing for pets game plan. Are there models that
    will accommodate more than one dog? The transmitter is mouhted iin a dry,
    sedure location anywhere on the home.

    Thhe shock will discourage the dog too go any further.
    For indoor/outdoor and outdoor pets, cconsider installing an electric pet fence to keep your dog orr cat from wandering off your property and ibto harm’s way.
    If your pet is too strong or aggressive, the mild static correction may not be enough to stop
    an angry dog. That’s exactly where dog containment
    system expertise comes in. It iss actually a pet containment system that will make your dog
    roam around the area without breaking laws and without harmihg other people.

    If you aree considering to purchase or installing peet containment sytstem then there are
    several companies or deaers avalable out there.

    Maijntaining the electrical fence isn’t complicated.
    Yet, it doees not have to be this way. The underground pet fehce receiver activates when it enters the signal field and
    the wireless receivber activates when the receiver leaves the
    signhal field. Families looking at the latest in pet containment technologies had a word of
    thanks to give 19th century radio wave explorer, Marconi, since 21st century
    electronic pet fence collars would be unimaginable if modern over-the-air
    radio transmissions had not developed. Another possible scenario is the dog his tolerance to pain may be too low
    he may develop a type of phobia.

    One off the biggest advantages of this system iis that it is
    portable. Some dogs want to stay at home even though they have this ful
    freedom but most dogs have natural curiosity that leads them to stray when opportunity arises.
    There’s more you need to do before you can confidently set your peets free to gambol around the yard.
    You definitely do not waant to break these laws and bail your precious pet out of jail so why not consider
    getting a pet fence installed. Unfortunately, sometimes the
    batgtery supplier forgets to send them, and you are
    left with a radio ddog fence that has no active receiver.

    The instant fence features a waterproof receiver, six adjustable levels of correction, portability and a low battery
    indicatorr light. The cost for any fence depends on thee height
    of thee fence, the size of thhe region being enclosed annd the terrain that you are fencfing in.
    Train your dog and let yyour dog follow your actions.
    If your city does not allow you to build a solid doog fence,
    or else you simply do not want to set up something that will obstruct
    the view of your property, a wireless dog fence could be the perfect solution ffor you personally.
    Being completedly weatherproof, the device can bee sed indoors or outdoors, and unlike an anti-bark collar, it iss effective at
    reducing nuisance barking in multiple dogs, annd for controlling nuisannce
    barking in dogs that don’t reside on your property.

    If you are nnot at eawe wifh having a wooden or stel fence,you can consider this
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    geet this amazinhg yard. You can surely have that peace of mind while you are away because you would not have to
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    The system may be usually if ussd on aggressive dogs.
    To prevent digging under, buy the bottm of the ence several inches in the gdound or fill a
    narrow trench along the perimeter of the fene with concrete, and
    fikll the holes with concrete or patio blocks when the dog established holes already.

    It is unfortunate thzt some neighbors may deecide to bring justice to their
    yard by evfen placing strategic poison baits for your caat or dog.
    Positive Experience You must train your puppy correftly to use
    the electric dog fence in order that thhe animal could have an optimistic exposure to the device.
    A ight weight recesiver collar is placed on the dog that
    picks up the signal. So it is extremeloy important to follow
    proper training tips, in order tto avoid any harm to yoir beloved pet as
    well as to a passerby. So he easily learns hhis limits you hadd
    set forth.

    Even though the effectiveness varies as with the hidden pet fence, it offers additional securiity and protection for the animal, nonetheless.
    Final step trin your dog. That is plenty for most convfentional lawns.

    Many dog owners find it quite expensive and hence prefer other regular dog fencing
    options. Youu will have extra one-time expenses for all
    collars and the transmitter. With onnly a single transmitter,
    it is possible to cokver a space as much as 180 feet across.

    While the ultrasonic sound is annoying for dogs, it iss a verdy high frequency that is inaudible to humans, so will not disrupt you or your neighbours, juszt the dogs.

    Otther ideas include chain link kennels, which are usually built
    for far dogs and lso some other animals. Typically, an invisible dog fencce is a set of a dog
    collar and a wire. If you are in search of some cheap pet fences, then let me tell yoou that there are plenty of options available.

    I mentioned that I begin training a dog, or ppet with an indoor pet fence and I do
    this for two main reasons.

    These indoor dog fences are a fantastic investment,
    whether yyou use them alkong with an outdoor invisible, electric fence, or by themselves.
    Thhat is certainly enough for most conventional
    lawns. It’s important to be aware of various cst ranges for garden fencing.

    The shock behaves as a psychological barrier and remains in the animal’s memory for a long period.
    Thee samne goers for the rose garden or perhaps favourite
    spot of lawn. It prevents thefts and intruders from entering the premises 2) Protects animals
    from going outside the boundary premises.

    Getting to knolw your electric pet fenjce sysrem Your electric
    pet fence is designed to create a perimeter boundary and safely contain our pets within a specific
    physical area, usually in your yard. The inigial thing that concerns me when laying out the containment wire is the dogs safety.
    But why is fencing that much important in today times?

    Reply
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