Saturday, August 20, 2016

measurement and control

INDEX to the series

I have been learning about my home electrical usage through my smart meter data and finding it not so smart without some added software. Nevertheless, I have been making use of all this new data and making improvements (reducing the variable portion of my electric bill) while making plans for next steps some of which involve more measurements.

Adding the timers to the water heater, fridge and freezer to move them off my peak rate times was an obvious move but a bit bothersome. The timers don't always work. I had trouble with a wireless type so went with plug in autonomous timers. The cheap Chinese ones I bought on Ebay for $10 each sometimes do not switch as they are supposed to. I went electronic but it would be simpler just to have mechanical timers and cheaper. Try to find three prong versions (properly grounded). The timer for the water heater had to be wired in.

I have been thinking about remote controlled AC sockets. Particularly interested if they monitored the load as well as controlled it, something like the Belkin WeMo.

What if these devices mounted directly in my electrical panel as snap in replacement approved devices that communicate wirelessly? That doesn't exist yet. Maybe with the Internet of Things (IoT)?

Controlling my appliances could be done currently through some type of home automation system, via software, in a browser. That would be nice. I am looking around for suitable systems.

About the monitoring, I still don't have appliance level data from my smart meter or any meaningful breakdown. There are software tools (some of which have their own hardware and sensors) like Plotwatt, Bidgely, Navetas, eyedro and Neurio.

Some, like Plotwatt, are being marketed to the utilities as a service they would provide, whether added to my bill or not, is playing out now in the market. I am looking at my account on-line at Hydro One Networks and I can see many tools to help me understand my electrical usable but no GreenButton links as yet or any appliance level information, just general.

There are systems marketed for the DIY types like TED (The Energy Detective) and OpenEnergyMonitor.

But using my smartmeter is not the only way to understand my house electrical and to monitor my appliances. It might not even be the best or only way. It will probably be some combination of tools that will guide me to what I need to know.

Different tools work different ways. Some plug in between my appliance and the wall. Others involve the installation of a small sensor in my electrical panel.

Of the plug in kind, the Kill A Watt has been popular for a number of years. It measures the energy used at the outlet and stores some totals like kWh per day, week, month, year since plugged in and if you enter rates, it will give you a cost. It does not connect to anything so you can't get the data out of it and when you unplug it resets. Not very useful with tiered rates but the kWh measures could be useful. It is limited to regular plug in 120 VAC appliances up to 1500 watts so you can't use it for a water heater, clothes dryer or airconditioner or a furnace, in fact any of your larger appliances. But still a useful tool. I have had one for years. It does not measure low power very accurately, like below 10 watts.

These and other types of plug in meters may be available at your library

Understanding home electrical use is part of the broad category of Noninvasive Load Monitoring (NILM) - good background at Wikipedia.

Some interesting academic links:

Thanks for your interest.

George Plhak
Lion's Head, Ontario, Canada

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