The Energy Detective

Back in October I had a chance to talk with some Central Hudson (our local power company) reps at an IEEE conference.  During that conversation I was disappointed to find out that there weren’t any near term smart meters coming out.  If I wanted to get access to my real time power consumption, I’d have to do it myself.

Up until this fall, the ways I found to do this myself were un appealing.  There is a device which has an optical sensor and monitors how fast your meter wheel is spinning.  There are some DIY instructions on adding per circuit monitoring, what was way more DIY than I was willing to do inside my circuit box.  Then I found The Energy Detective 5000, which just started production this fall.

The setup is pretty simple.  There are a couple of induction clamps which go around your mains coming into you circuit box.  They plug into an embedded device which connects to 2 circuit breakers for power and signaling.  All of that lives inside your circuit box.  There is then the “gateway”, which is a power bring with a network cable coming out of it.  You connect that to your home network and it presents you with a web interface for your power data.  The install took me about 10 minutes to do… and then 30 minutes to realize the statement that the gateway “should” be on the same leg as the the black wire really was a “must” instead of a should, after which point everything was working.

The TED 5000 will also accept billing rates and carbon rates for your power consumption so you can have real time translation to dollars or tons of co2 if you like.  It will connect to Google’s Power meter, so that your iGoogle environment will show your power graphs.  There is also a head unit that you can put in your living room (which sits next to our wireless weather station) that displays all that without a computer.

Pretty quickly you get a sense of what’s going on in your house, especially as you get to look at the graphs at different granularity.

This is just a quick set of annotations I was able to put into place based on my experiences in the last 24 hours.  The raw data that builds these graphs is directly accessible via xml in case you want to write your own analysis programs, which is something I’m definitely thinking about.

So far, in the 20 hours I’ve had it working, I’m quite impressed with the whole system.  Be forewarned though that the TED folks are getting a lot of press over this device, which means their 3 – 6 weeks backorder turned into 10 weeks for me, and their communication about that wasn’t great.  However, the end result is definitely worth it.

6 thoughts on “The Energy Detective”

  1. Nifty. We moved in August and our electricity bill has gone up quite a bit since then. Plus, we’ve been thinking about thinking about solar panels, so I’ve wanted something like this to geek out. Bummer for the 10 week wait.


    1. I assume at some point their production capacity will catch up, so 10 weeks won’t be the norm. They’ve also specifically thought about houses with panels, so you can have 2 MTUs, one for the grid and one for your panels, and it will add them together correctly.

      If you are into geeking on data, you might also want to check out, they sell a network attached thermostat for your home which is both display and control.


  2. At Gridspy, we provide a similar system.

    Our system uploads your power data live to a dashboard on the web. Its based on the same sort of clip-on sensor technology and is split into several parts so you can figure out which part of the house is using the most power. It is totally live, so you can see the power readings change online each second as your usage changes.

    You can see one of our dashboards here:

    And read about our system here:

    We are doing field testing in Auckland, New Zealand right now, with plans to take over the world shortly. Let me know if you are interested so I can tell you know once it is ready.


    1. @Tom: Very cool that you guys are doing this in .nz as well. I’m very excited that so many folks are starting to produce these home monitoring devices and that the market seems to be there. Best of luck to you in expanding your market. I’d definitely be interested in learning more about your device once there is a 110 V version out there.


  3. There a number of other interesting options already available to home owners without waiting for ‘Smart Meters’ from the utilities. We are a startup company working with the Current Cost Energy Meter (did you know they have sold close to 1 million sold in Europe through the UK Government, EON and Scottish Power, and are now available in the USA for $99). We are a startup company in based in Boston called
    makeHistori automatically calculates and trends day, week and monthly power consumption and costs from the Current Cost meter.

    Users can access their energy web pages from anywhere and compare time lines of their energy savings with their friends or time synchronize their data with other public timelines such as News, Stocks, Weather, Blogs and Twitter feeds.

    Each users data has security, and the ‘data owner’ can decide whether to allow sharing of his data or keep it totally hidden and secure.

    You can see an example of live house power at a simple page at this link

    and a full Microsoft Silverlight based portal example here:

    We are not making any money yet and are looking for help, advise and investment and are interested any feedback that you may have. We think we are on the right track to a providing a ‘low cost residential smart meter solution’.


    1. @Tony: I had previously looked at the Current Cost, but hadn’t realized it was finally available US side, very cool that that is now available.

      It’s unfortunately that you are focusing on Silverlight. One of the nice features of TED is that it’s using Canvas and HTML5, which means it’s cross platform supported.


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