Electricity Monitoring System

I have been working with a local start-up on a wireless metering system. Its one of my company’s first big full cycle development jobs. It finally came out of the closet last week. Can’t show too much of it yet, but with all the green talk around here I thought I would share. You can read more on my blog, but here’s the basic idea:

The PowerTab plugs into a home’s circuit breaker to be able to monitor how much power the house is using. From the circuit breaker, the monitor sends a signal via Power Line Communication to the display unit. A person can carry this display unit around the house flicking the power on and off to devices around the house and see, in real time, how much power is being consumed. Its a great little tool for educating people about how much power they are consuming by leaving common household items powered on.

Hi. I’ve seen several of these concepts over the last 5 ~ 6 years. The best by far had no information display, LCD, knobs, dials or other ephemera. It just glowed with colour change representing power usage: i.e. keep it in the green (low power), minimize time in blue glow (high power). It was a beautiful design made more so because it was simple.

Would be interested in seeing the product you refer to. Also, this isn’t a concept. A working proto is in our lab.

There is a color aspect to this device also. The company is working on the algorithm for it so we can’t really be too sure how it will be implemented in its final form.

As of right now, as you said, Green is “good” red is “bad”.

But if you think about it, How do you gauge your house’s good from bad on day one? It is a constantly changing number. It may be red during the day but green at night. Do you take an average? Statistically, over time, that average will flatten out.

Having no interface at all would be challenging, at best, considering all the different factors that play into the localization of each product. Rates are different in BC from Ontario, for example. Ontario has a handful of different power companies, while BC has one.

We’ve done what we can to simplify it down as much as possible. At the end of the day, its their S/W group that will make this thing sing and dance.

the renderings look really nice.

whats the proposed environment? are these outdoor fixtures? i know you said they’re wireless, so i suppose they could fit in anywhere, but where do you see the user putting them?

Its a 3 part system.

The monitor is in the circuit breaker and detects the “flow” of electricity into the house. It then sends that data throughout the house via PLC (Power Line Communication).

The transmitter plugs into any outlet in the house. It receives the signal from the monitor and then relays it (wirelessly) to the hand-held display.

The display is what you see rendered above. It is what you carry around the house as you flip lights on and off, etc.

I likey.

I heard from several Prius owners that they like the interactivity with the on board computer to play “how good can I get my gas milage today”… this could bring some of that flavor to the home.

Similar to Pier’s one, is the Watson from http://www.diykyoto.com/ which retails for £149…purdy

Ya, there are several competitors in this market. There’s an Aussie company called TED, and one other. They’re both ugly, design-wise. I remember seeing one from Japan on Gizmodo recently as well that had cutsie little penguins on the interface.

The Japanese and this Watson 01 were the first to use Design as a selling feature.

what about having some crazy units like how long it took the oil form and how quickly your burning it off.

Funny you say that. They’ve been thinking about equating power consumption to some sort of semi-esoteric value like you’re referring to.

I am sure there has to be some way to equate it to barrels of oil per year you’re burning by leaving your computer on…but my brain is too small to wrap around that one.

I’m curious as to how much energy a device like this consumes on it’s own?

hehe…kind of like how much each hybrid consumes in production :wink:

Something like that.

Right now there is a concern about vampiric electronics consuming energy even when switched off. It seems that a monitoring device like this is using energy all the time and while it is providing useful information, it is also adding to the problem it is designed to solve.

So my question is: How much energy do these devices use, and is this a significant amount?

Good question.

I will see if I can get that answer.

They are aiming for less than 2 Watts. Firmware is what will drive this and that development is not complete yet.

I hope they are going to put it in to sleep mode so you could get it down to some micro/nano watts when no one is looking at it.

as a draw of 2 watts left on all the time would be 17.5Kwh per year = 7.5Kg (16.5lbs) of CO2

((2 * 24 * 365)/1000)*0.43 = 7.53

multiply this by their customer base and it starts to add up.

I got the conversion from here: http://www.aber.ac.uk/ensus/what/what.shtml

KWh of electricity - multiply kWh/annum by 0.43 to obtain kg/CO2/annum

I agree that this needs a sleep mode. I will see what contingency they have for this.

Does 2 watts of power draw get offset by the value it brings in educating the user to turn off a pile of 60 W bulbs?

The most striking thing that this product did while prototyping for me was show how huge of a difference just installing CFC bulbs makes over Edisonian bulbs.

Education/understanding of the impact of flipping a switch helps oodles towards conservation. Its easy to flip a light on when it doesn’t have any context.

I read here: EnergyCloud® that; “Domestic energy use studies have demonstrated that real-time feedback yields energy savings anywhere between 10 and 20 percent.”

Do these numbers match your research? If so, then 2 watts is fairly insignificant. As a consumer, I am more concerned with saving money than CO2 emissions. At an average of .09 ¢ per kWh here in Phoenix, 2 watts adds up to about $1.58 per year. My energy bill for a 2200 sqft house is about $2400 per year. If I can save $ 240-480 per year, that is a tangible motivation to use a product like this. This also equates to a significant reduction in CO2 emissions.

As far as a sleep mode goes, I think the biggest motivation comes from being able to see the consequences of your energy usage at a glance at any time. How about if it only “pulsed” a signal to update the display every few minutes instead of a constant stream of info?

Just to clarify a small detail, this isn’t “my” product. This is a “client’s” product (www.energy-aware.com). It is actually an interesting project for a lot of the students on the forum here. It is a company formed by a group of University of British Columbia grads. Part of their senior project lead them to the numbers you note above. They had an Emily Carr Student do up an ID concept, they created a business plan and ended up winning a few student business competitions. In turn, they got a handful of seed money to start a business. From that, they have raised a significant amount of money through some good British Columbia Gov’t grants/incentives, friends and family, and Angel Funding.

We have working protos in our lab and we’re days away from production tooling. Its been interesting working with a young group learning the ropes in a trial-by-fire situation.

Yeah CFL’s are pretty neat. You can even get fancy daylight ones now for that full spectrum D65 feeling