In an effort to help people better understand their energy usage, the Hawaii Energy Study, sponsored by Blue Planet Foundation, Kupu and Kanu Hawaii, have launched a 300 home pilot to deploy The Energy Detective (TED). Dwight Streamfellow from Living Systems installed TED at my home as part of the Study. The installation is pretty straight forward but probably best done by a trained electrician. A couple of inductance coils are placed on the main electric circuit for your house. It is then attached to the Measuring Transmitting Unit (MTU) which measures the amount of electricity you are using in real time. All this resides in your circuit box.
Inside the house the Gateway unit collects data off the MTU and stores it. The MTU and the Gateway communicate over the electric power line. The trick here is to find a low “noise” electric circuit for the MTU and Gateway to talk to each other. We spent a fair amount of time going through the house looking for an outlet that enabled the Gateway to receive readings from the MTU. Unfortunately the outlet that did work was some distance from my Internet router so right now it is not Internet accessible.
The third key component is the wireless display. This unit takes the readings from the Gateway and displays realtime readings of watts being used. This afternoon, while we were doing the installation, we had the dryer going and you could see the watts jump to 6000 for the period that it is on.
The display also shows the estimated amount you are paying for depending on your usage. The average cost per kW-hour was set during installation at $.30. So like filling up your gas tank, you can tell how much you are paying based on your usage. You can watch your costs increase as the water heater, microwave, drier or any appliance gets turned on or goes off. You can even watch the display change as you turn on a light or a fan.
Of course this is the whole point of the Hawaii Energy Study, to get us to understand what our energy usage is like. The idea is if we can do small changes, like using CFLs, minimize use of air conditioners or getting a timer for the water heater we can cut down on our electricity usage. This meter is a direct display of that usage.
In the meantime, I am going to see if I can attach a wifi dongle to the Gateway to see if I can get my Air Port to access it. Then over the course of the study period graph my usage patterns. It’s the beginning of the quantified home. Exciting times!