The Energy Detective

As I discussed in monitoring intro, knowing how you are using your power is one of the most important steps to take for your energy conservation efforts.  While we wait for the smart grid to arrive, we have a few options on the monitoring front.

While actively reviewing your account history with your power company each month is a start, it really doesn't tell you that much.  It tells you how much you used in a month, but not HOW you used it.  You can run outside and check your meter every few minutes, but that is a little hard to do while you are sleeping or at work (or sleeping at work).

Home power monitoring made easy

Home power monitoring made easy

Another option that I have found is called The Energy Detective.  I purchased this device (about $145) last Fall and was very impressed.  This handy device hooks over your incoming power lines (turn OFF your breaker, take off panel board, and install) and was very easy to get up and running.  The company is based in South Carolina.  Their customer support is top notch and believe it or not, they actually had excellent directions.

Once you hook in the main unit, it sends a signal over your existing home wiring to a display unit that you can plug in anywhere in your house.  Since I work a fair amount from home, I placed my display unit in my home office.  This was also beneficial because I purchased their software (about $45), TED Footprints.  The display unit is an instantaneous view of how much power you are using at any given instant.  If you want to be able to record history so you can see how much power you use over time and how you use it, you need to purchase the software and hook the display unit (USB) into your computer.

It was very rewarding to be able to sit at my computer, see how much my house consumes when only my laptop is being used (200 watts - all usage aside from the laptop are vampire loads), and tell when my fridge kicked on because I noticed a change in the display unit.  This way, I could tell when my wife left the downstairs lights on when she went to work!

The only downside of the current TED model is that there is no internal memory!  This means that when you want to record your usage history, you have to keep your computer on the whole time, which obviously defeats the whole "conservation" goal.  When I called tech support to complain about this, they informed me they were coming out with a new model that had 5 days worth of internal memory called the TED 5000.  They allowed me to return my unit (they have a 30 day window) and reimbursed me.

I am waiting for the TED 5000 release (they expect it to be out by May) which I am going to purchase right away.  I highly recommend this device and the company for anyone interested in power conservation!

***Update: Our review of the TED 5000 is up !

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A bit if time has gone by and the TED 5000 is out - I assume you have your purchase with the same high hopes I had when I bought mine last month. The concept is great and when it works (and you have a lot of time on your hands) it gives unprecedented insights into your homes behavior. However the limitations become obvious right away and the name "Energy Detective" is right on - you have to be a detective to figure out what is driving the spikes in usage you see. I posted a blog with more feedback ( detailing some of the problems I've had with the TED 5000 system. Mostly these are not major, but as a small company I guess they have a hard time with tech support. I've received replies but no answers so far - and now they just seem to be ignoring me. If you are looking at these types of devices I wouldn't bother with anything that doesn't give you visibility into historical usage (even as limited as the TED5000 is). Its just too difficult to watch a monitor real time and get anykind of decent information besides what happens when you turn one thing on/off. And you can get that with a Kill-a-Watt for a tenth of the prices.
I have been doing a bunch of monitoring in our apartment using a <a href="" rel="nofollow">Watts Up Smart Circuit 20</a> I have wanted to get some accurate lighting energy data on our bedroom/bathroom/home office circuit, and did not want the "noise" from the rest of my apartment confusing the data. One of the attractions is its ability to store data each second, but on reaching its memory maximum it recalculates and automatically will save data each 2 seconds, and then 4, etc - always giving you the most accurate granularity of data for whatever time period selected. I do not use the wireless connectivity capabilities, I use a USB cable to connect my laptop directly to the Smart Circuit device. This means I sit by the distribution board to get the data, but it avoids all issues with networking. I am pulling the stored data directly from the memory on the SC 20. I also have the real time software option, it is pretty cool to watch the energy change on a circuit (I have only worked on the 110 Volt circuits) second by second. The device is not for those who are uncomfortable being inside their electrical distribution board. It requires disconnecting the wire from the trip switch on the board, and wiring the SC 20 in series on the circuit. But, you only need drop power on the actual circuit being tested. Once when you insert the SC 20, and once when you take it away. I have yet to find a use for its ability to remotely disconnect the circuit. It does work, so probably useful for business applications. I have yet to actually want to lose power to a circuit in my home, when I am not there ..... You can see the results of the monitoring - 2 days of my old incandescent bulbs, and then 2 days of my new CFL bulbs - <a href="" rel="nofollow">Energy Saving Light Bulbs - Incandescent vs. CFL</a> A 15 second interval chart of the old bulbs compared to the new bulbs - <a href="" rel="nofollow">Do Energy Saving Light Bulbs save Electricity</a> including a detailed comment on power factor and other negatives to CFL's from Peter Dublin In the articles I state the actual power factor of the new CFL bulbs I sourced - EnergyStar. In summary "Individual CFL's have a Power factor of between 55% and 70% (the actual power factor on the circuit during the above testing was 100% for the incandescent bulbs and 85% for the CFL bulbs) If ever there was a confusing topic filled with FUD (Fear Uncertainty and Doubt) this must be high on the list." I did a monitoring of my fridge, article still to be posted, 1 day at maximum settings, and after it settled down a second day at moderate settings - I was surprised - maximum settings uses almost twice the energy of the "reasonable" settings. Max settings 1.943 Kwh per day - reasonable settings 1.093Kwh per day I noticed a post somewhere that the fridge is the main energy consumer in an apartment - not in our case - the compressor runs at 160 Watts approximately 15 minutes in the hour. I took a look at our furnace - gas fired - yikes, the electric fan guzzles 340 watts - is running up to 30 minutes in the hour to maintain 64 degrees when outside temp just above freezing the other day - in Mill Valley California at that.
open4energy has published a <a href="" rel="nofollow">complete list of home energy monitoring devices</a> to help users asses what is best for their circumstances and budget. The key point to remember is "be informed" on where energy is being used in your home and business. Equipped with this information you will make good decisions on how and where to save. There is no point in buying a <a href="" rel="nofollow">smart power strip</a> for $125.00 to save 2 Watts of printer standby power, when the same $125.00 would pay for one years rental of a new DVR, saving 60Watts of stand by power. In fact there is no point in spending anything when the only solution is "turn it off" or unplug it. I am all for spending, but please can it be on devices that result in less energy being consumed, and real savings being made for you!
Alex, Good points and great list of home energy monitors. I recommend everyone check it out. What about this one: It has an electronic eye that "reads" your meter and sends a wireless signal back to the display unit. I agree that smart power strips are probably a waste of money. I'd recommend people spend that $125 on something that is going to have a larger impact.
We are helping find participants for an on-line survey of home energy monitors. There is a list of qualifying devices and you need to be using one of them. The study ends August 30 2009, is offering a $10.00 Starbucks card for completed surveys. We vouch for the fact that there is no "trickery" with this request. This is an important subject for we need changes to our attitude, we need to change how we use energy, and we need technology to assist us where it can help and is energy effective. If you are using a device to monitor your home energy please help with your feedback.
Just wanted to make a comment, on the TED1000 model it IS possible to profile some devices that have a draw of at least 1000watt(1kw) Ohh and if you check the site there is some information that's been disclosed. Something that is maybe not very clear from the site is that the application is now embedded and no longer requires a PC. As a matter a fact I can monitor my house from my HTC PocketPC. Prety much anything with a web browser will be able to access it. I've tested the iPhone and the Wii just out of curiosity. Admin: The fridge in my house turned out to be the most waste-full appliance. For some reason previous owner set it to "Arctic Freeze" setting so your on the right track. Next up, load shedding, comming soon.
Roman, Thanks for the comment. I did check the website and noticed there is finally something up about the TED 5000. It looks awesome! Can you post some info about accessing the data through the iPhone? I think that would be of some interest to many. Could you either do it on your site, or if you would like I would be happy to let you post it on this blog!
FYI I just received a response from the energy detective. They say the 5 day storage limit is not the case. Thank god. That would be fairly useless with the cheap cost of memory these days. Of course they would not comment on what the limit would be, but did say the details would be published "soon". A little frustrating. I don't get what the big deal is with dislcosing some information. Just say it is subject to change so we have some idea of what this thing can do.
My friend Ravi and I installed his TED a few days ago, where we coined the term "HyperHousers" the equivalent of the folks who trick their cars out for maximum performance. Some people want to save a little money, some want to save the planet, and some are completely obsessed with shutting all waste down entirely...
You're right, the KAW wont work with the 220V Air/Cond. But perhaps configure TED across only the A/C circuit (or any circuit - instead of the whole house) to get some data...


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