Tweet-a-Watt: nice concept but limited

tweetawatt tweet-a-watt killawatt kill-a-watt home energy monitoring DIY energy efficiency

July's Popular Science "kit of the month" features plans to build a Tweet-A-Watt.  The Tweet-A-Watt is a great idea, but very limited in scope.  If you remember my post on the Kill-A-Watt you know that this devices measures individual circuits.  So it can measure your toaster, refrigerator, TV, or even a power strip with several appliances plugged in.  But the Kill-A-Watt cant measure your AC unit or your Washer/Dryer - devices that usually use 220 Volts.

In order to see the big picture, you need a whole home energy monitor, like the TED 5000.  This measures how much power your whole house is using, and not just a single circuit.  Energy Circle is helping users measure their whole house consumption and display that data over Twitter with an older version of The Energy Detective (TED).  Something that in my opinion is much more valuable than Tweet-A-Watt.

I'm not trying to discredit what Tweet-A-Watt has done, it is a pretty cool application, but to spend $90 dollars on a kit that will only display one circuit (this doesn't include the $20-$30 you'll spend on the Kill-A-Watt) is a little pricey.  I would rather save another $110, buy a TED, and display my whole home's consumption.

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Can't we all just get along? Seriously, though we're obviously big proponents of whole house monitoring via devices like the TED, the Kill a Watt is also a vital tool, and what the Tweet a Watt folks did to integrate with twitter was a breakthrough for public data sets. Clearly an inspiration for our public display of the TED data at our house, and for our slightly different take on a twitter stream at @EnergyCircleKW. The recipe we used to connect TED to a USB router, which we open-sourced here: has proven to be challenging for non technical folks. So I can appreciate the out of the boxness of the tweet a watt solution, and pt's point about apartment dwellers and others without access to the box is important. As to the TED 5000 situation, full release is coming soon, but I don't have a definitive date. In the meantime, you can call the TEDsters direct and may be able to get one on the phone as Chris did. Alternatively, email us at info at energycircle dot com and we'll get you on our waiting list.
I wish I would have been part of the beta, because then I wouldnt have had to pay for mine! I heard about it because they have a mailing list for those who were interested in the TED 5000 and I was on it. They let it be known on the mailing list that they were available for sale. As I said previously, they are not advertising their availability on the site. You will just have to trust me. I will ad a new comment on the Pop Sci site reflecting our conversation.
hi chris - do you have some type of special relationship with them / part of a beta? the site doesn't say call them, it just says “Coming SOON – starting at $199.95″ and it’s not listed in the store. i'm just going by what their own site says. not everyone lives in a house - it seems a large percentage of humans will eventually live in big cities and apartments (and work in offices) - so we provided an open/educational kit for those folks. keep in mind, the tweet-a-watt can easily clip on to a breaker too, we just do not sell that as a kit or product, it's open - so others are doing that. we like all power meters, if you can measure something, it seems like you improve things - our own power usage went down once we started to measure and from the comments on your site most folks who measure power also seem to be lowering their consumption, that's great all around. your updated statement seems more fair, thanks - i don't pop sci allows comment edits though.
TED has the 5000's for sale in a limited number, at least they did a few weeks ago. You just have to call them. They aren't advertising on the website because they don't have too many. Ok, I will concede that saying "bad for big picture" may not be a fair thing to say and I could have worded it differently. You're right in the fact that the Kill-A-Watt is a very useful tool in understanding how appliances consumed data. I've used mine many times. But as you dig in deeper to my site I really try and harp on the big energy consumers in the house, which for the most part are lighting (non-lamps)/heating/AC. When referring to the "big picture" this is what I mean. The big loads. Unfortunately the Kill-A-Watt (Tweet-A-Watt) can't really tackle these types of energy hogs. It's not a flaw in what you're doing, it is just the nature of the product. In an effort to be a little more fair, let me say this: Tweet-A-Watt is a great learning tool and helps users gain an understanding of how appliances and devices around their house consume energy. It is a great tool for those beginning to make an effort to reduce their electrical energy consumption.
hi chris, please read the site and documentation - the tweet-a-watt is cheaper than the product you are promoting, the TED 5000 is at least $200 and it's pre-made, not a kit (the title of the article is *kit if the month*). the TED looks very cool, but many people do not need or want a solution like the TED 5000 (it is also not released according to the site, you can't actually order it). many people live in apartments (we do) and if you don't have that many things plugged in to outlets *and* you might not have access to a breaker panel, the tweet-a-watt kit might be for you. some folks work in an office and only want to monitor their office, etc etc... "out of the box" tweet-a-watt sends data to the google app engine as well as twitter. the tweet-a-watt can work with a breaker panel, the project is open source, many people have made mods that do more. that's the nature of a kit, it also teaches folks how to measure power, do electronics - that's what the big picture is about :)
Not to mention putting all the gear together to build/test the tweet a watt. I like the concept a lot, but TED seems like far less work. You could augment it with a regular old kill a watt to measure an individual "suspect" device.
hi chris, on the TED site it says: "Coming SOON - starting at $199.95" and it's not listed in the store ( - it doesn't seem available unless you have some type of special relationship with them / part of a beta? i can't buy one on the site. as far as your main point here, on the pop sci site you said "Bottom Line: Good for posting your entertainment system's energy consumption, bad for the big picture" - that's not really fair to say, the tweet-a-watt does more than posting an entertainment system's energy usage, like you said (now) - there are different types of customers, some for whole house, some for per-outlet (and using power strips) and some who use this for education. it seems really unfair to say "bad for the big picture".
PT, good comment and you have good points....except that you can order the TED 5000 because I have one up and running: You are probably right that the tweet-a-watt is great for apartment dwellers who may not even have access to their breaker panel like those living in a single family home. And it is a great educational tool. I guess my main point is that there are just two different customers between those looking for whole home meter and those looking for a single device meter.

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