Saturday, July 09, 2016

my typical electrical day summer

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This chart recording originates from the Blueline Innovations EnergyCloud software and their sensor device attached to my electric meter outside. I am able to view a recording of my whole house electric use. This is a 24 hour period a couple of days ago. I took a screen capture and added the black and red letters and lines with arrows to explain what I see. (click the pic to enlarge)

Their software and device does not know which of my many electric appliances is using the electric energy. I am shown the total and how it varies very precisely (every minute or so) over time. I have learned to recognize my appliances through the patterns they make in the recording. I can isolate each by switching off as much of everything else as I can or by operating each individually during the quiet times and watching their effect on the recording. Perhaps a bit like recognizing the instruments in a band, each appliance "sounds" different in the pattern it makes in the recording. I've been calling pattern it's "signature". When two appliances operate at the same time, their signatures are added together in the recording.

Let me describe the day electrically.

Starting with the period I've labled A, it is morning the previous day and I am working around the house doing various things, running a vacuum cleaner and a machine or two out in the shop, getting ready to go out for the afternoon. Nothing very significant electrically is going on.

B is my peak period, from 12 noon to 6pm. Electricity during this time for me is five times the non-peak rate. I have recently added timers to my water heater, refrigerator and freezer to prevent them coming on during this period. This seemed obvious cost saving but I have done this only now as a result of being able to see my energy use. I won't save actual electricity since those appliances will have to "catch up" when they come back on, but I will have shifted electric cost to the non-peak period. I will save on my bill by not using electricity in the peak period. My water heater certainly is significant.

Your major user appliance may not be a water heater, it may be something else. Software like this (whole house monitoring) may help you to understand your own consumption, or at least that is what is promised. It does take some study and diligence to apply the data.

I will be out of the house for the afternoon so electrically there should be almost nothing going on during B. There are two peaks I have labeled G! What happened?

What happened is that I came home and opened and then closed both garage doors about an hour apart. G are the garage door motors. Although the spikes reach almost a kilowatt, they don't last long and don't happen often so their contribution to my total is small. Unlike the water heater which persists for minutes once it starts, even though no hot water has been used for hours!

The house starts really using electricity at 18:00. The timers are set for 18:05. The huge peak W is the water heater. There are three W peaks in the recording. The water heater uses a steady 3kW for about 7-15 minutes and comes on usually every six hours or so. The first W, the one after 18:00 has the toaster oven added. The toaster oven uses about a kW and it pulses ON-OFF-ON every few minutes to regulate the temperature. That is the thick blue band on the top of the water heater peak.

At about 22:00 I started the dishwasher. The second W peak occurs just after that, about 22:30. I have learned that stating the dishwasher will almost certainly cause the hot water heater to come on.

The third W peak occurs the next morning about 6:00.

C is overnight. The computers are off and there is only a couple of LED lights on. The pattern during this time is the refrigerator and freezer cycling on and off.

D is morning activity and some work out in the shop. Not much going on electrically but what is there is added to the refrigerator and freezer which are part of the background for the whole recording except for the peak period B when they are inhibited from running by the timers.

I think I have a pretty good idea of where my electricity goes. You might see from the recording why I instantly fixed on the water heater as a major user of my electricity.

It is summer now. Winter will add complexity to the recording because of heating requirements and more lighting due to shorter days. Also the basement and the house temperature will fall so the refrigerator and freezer won't be working as hard but the water heater will need to work harder!

Checking my daily electricity use has become easy and part of my normal routine here, like checking the weather and the news.

I am disappointed so far with the PlotWatt software. McMaster FlexPlan advises "The date on which Plotwatt validated your installation was 2016-05-09 and it takes 30 days for Plotwatt to learn your energy consumption in order to produce meaningful results." I am part of the McMaster study, (Ontario MoE funded project). It is now 2016-07-09 (60+ days) yet I see no meaningful additional information from PlotWatt.

Presumably, the study is paying for my PlotWatt access. You can watch the Plotwatt pitch, which seems primarily aimed to businesses rather than households. I have not received even one notification from Plotwatt at two months and counting.

Readers will also notice that when I wanted to calculate the energy use of a particular appliance that I had to resort to drawing rectangles on a screen capture and calculating the area as a series of blocks. This "area-under-the-curve" function ought to be a part of the BlueLine software I think.

The access to a power utility's data by the way comes about through an initiative called GreenButton.

Thanks for your interest.
George Plhak
Lion's Head, Ontario, Canada

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