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.