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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You're looking for your fridge's <i>duty cycle</i>, expressed as % (time on/total time). The K-A-W (plugged in for a sufficient period) can determine/average duty cycle. The longer the test period, and more representative of seasonal/usage variations, the better. Example: say your fridge uses 200W while running, and runs 6hr/day (25% duty cycle, average). 200W x 0.25 x 24hr/day x 365day/yr x 1KW/1000W = 438 KWhr/yr
Good point JC. I need to do a study where I lower my freezer temp (as long as things stay frozen) and see how much energy I save. I just lowered the temp on my hot water heater so hopefully I'll see a few savings in my natural gas bill!
Mark, In response to your comments, I put up a post on the Kill-A-Watt and the TED. Hopefully, this will clear everything up for readers!
Oh ya, you're right about KW and KWH. I should have written KW...I'm trying to get KWH for my fridges.
I considered the killawatt, but here is what I did. I have a cordless phone set. I "conferenced" my wife in who was sitting in front of the TED and an excel spreadsheet. I went around and turned anything electric on and off. She recorded the KW use. I have quality data on anything and everything electric. (52 items) What I don't have is the AC and fridges over time (KWH). The rest is easy. I then sorted the data in the spreadsheet by highest monthly user and went to work.
Chris, Thanks for the info on the NY times blog. My TED is 4-5 years old. I don't even have a computer interface. I was thinking about upgrading but now I will wait for TED5000. I sent them an email because I was using the timer feature thinking it would record usage for a set amount of time. I have two refrigerators, they both use .17 KWH running, but one runs much more than the other. I need to be able to record the usage over an hour then extrapolate that out to daily and monthly power use... I cant think of another way to do that?
Mark, Definitely wait until the 5000 comes out. You need the history to be able to really analyze how you are using the power. For instance, when you are sleeping, the 5000 will be recording all power usage, so when you wake up you can make sure there are no power hogs sucking energy while your dreaming. As far as the fridges go, make sure you're differentiating between kw and kwh. I'm going to write a blog about it in the next few days. Something like this may be hard to do with TED because it is a whole house monitor, and it is hard to single out any one appliance. What you would need is a <a href="" rel="nofollow">Kill-A-Watt</a> that has wireless communications to a logging device. Something like <a href="" rel="nofollow">what this guy is trying to achieve</a>. The Kill-A-Watt does have an internal logging feature, but you can't currently export the data to an excel sheet. Does that help?
Well, this is ironic. I just discovered (at 6:45 pm on the same day I wrote this post) that when I ironed my clothes at 7 AM, I left the iron plugged in all day. Yes, I am an idiot and I could have burned my house down. Now, if I had the TED installed, I would have looked at the display unit and noticed the iron was plugged in.


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