What should I use to manage my energy usage?

I have been keen on monitoring my energy usage for a while now. It’s probably because I am a bit of a miser and any savings I can make anywhere are hotly pursued. I’m also a bit of a gadget freak.

My first attempts was to use stand alone devices as they were cheap and didn’t require much setting up. I used an OWL electricity meter monitor and a Maplin plug in Power and Energy Monitor to monitor individual devices. This gave me an idea of what I was using minute by minute day by day etc but there was no data storage and graphs or remote access. This got me thinking about what I really wanted from my energy ‘management’ system.

Energy Management Requirements:

  1. Must collect data and store it in the cloud.
  2. Must provide graphs of usage and comparisons with peers.
  3. Must be able to export to my PC for further analysis and reporting
  4. Must be accessible over the web for when I am away from the home
  5. Must use recognised industry standards like ZigBee or Z-Wave so that I could buy from other manufactures and it still work as a system.
  6. The home network must be separate from my home computer and media network which is WiFi based.
  7. The system should be capable of expanding to from just monitoring to management.
  8. The system should be able to work with any possible security  management system I might include at a later date.
  9. Some big industry boys are using the products
  10. Hopefully has a cheap starter kit so I can get going and abandon if it doesn’t work out.
  11. Hopefully I could control the system from my Android SmartPhone.

I was very tempted by the Vera Home Control System which use the Z-Wave system. However this would have required forking out a reasonable sum just to get going.  So I settled on the ZigBee based Smart Energy from AlertMe.com which is only £49.99

For this price you get an electricity meter monitor which connects via ZigBee to a hub and then to a display screen. The hub also passes your data to your account in the cloud automatically.  Thus not only do I get a constant read out of my electricity but I can see all the charts on the internet which also predicts my costs.

This a screen capture of my energy usage and cost prediction

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And a graph of my usage today

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I wanted to play with their smart plug which also connects to the hub using ZigBee. The smart plugs not only capture electricity consumed but the attached device can be switched on and off remotely from the dashboard.

I have connected mine to my fridge/freezer just to see how much it is costing me and whether its time to get a new one. Not that I want to switch it on and off remotely Here is the graph of my fridge/ freezer consumption today

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Future possibilities

  1. I could extend this system to include a camera and sensors.
  2. There is talk that AlertMe are considering full energy management since they bought Wattbox see this news item

My requirement that Big Business is interested in the company and it’s products is met by British Gas’ interest and use of its products  see this news item

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My Solar Photovoltaic Rig

Last autumn I took the plunge and had solar photovoltaic panels installed.  I have detailed below the components of my rig, who installed it and how much it cost.

I have also embedded a Google spreadsheet which shows the performance of the rig since installation (Sheet 1) and the income I have earned (Sheet 2). This spreadsheet should automatically update each month.

Solar panels for your home

PV Cells – I have 12 Yingli PV modules. The product is the Multicrystalline YGE 185 Series module type YL175P-23b with peak power output 175W. The installation is rated at 2.10 kW

Inverter   – power-one Aurora PVI-2000

Meter      – ISKRA Type: ME162 D3A51 M3K0

Installer  – PV Solar UK

Cost        – £10,640 incl VAT

Commissioned 28/07/2010

Estimated annual generation 1573.00 kW (@41.3p = £649.65 pa

I opted to have my exported electricity metered separately rather than accepting a flat 50% of the amount generated.

My Solar PV Performance

This uses the Google Docs embed feature.  Alternatively go to the Google spreadsheet directly  My Solar PV Performance