Issue #108
December 2010

Visit Home Energy

Table of Contents

Take a Bite Out of Your Electric Bill with Ecodog

Home Energy Monitor Web Page Enhancements

Home Energy Outlook for 2011

Ten Energy Saving Tips

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Take a Bite Out of your Electric Bill with Ecodog

One of the new meters featured on our site is Ecodog's FIDO (TM) Home Energy Watchdog. It is a higher-end home energy monitor designed to measure electricity at the circuit level. One of the most unique features about this system is that it allows you to use a floor plan template, or build your own, to map out the location of all the devices you are monitoring. You simply drag and drop an icon for the device into the proper room on the floor plan. When you click on that icon, energy usage stats and tables appear for that device.

Another interesting feature is the systems ability to provide security alerts when appliances are running too long or at unexpected times. These alerts can be sent to you at any location via email or text. It can also deliver energy saving tips based on the usage profiles monitored for certain devices.

Ecodog's FIDO system measures power by circuit breaker on the main panel. Each module is capable of measuring 16 single-pole, or 8 double-pole circuits, using four sets of four donut CT's on the load side of each circuit breaker. The software has the ability to monitor up to a maximum of 1024 circuits so full circuit level monitoring is available for any sized home.

Energy usage information is transmitted via power line carrier (PLC) communications to a network adapter that is plugged into an outlet near the computer. PLC signal strength is designed to bump itself up to compensate for weak signals over longer distances that can sometimes be problematic for wireless communication technologies. The network adapter connects to any computer via RS-232 serial or USB port when energy usage information is displayed.

Any alternative energy source such as wind solar or micro-hydro can be monitored and netted against electrical load being drawn from the grid. For more information about how this information is displayed check out the Ecodog screen shots on our EcoDog Review page.

Ecodog maintains an up to date database of utility rates applicable to their customers around the country. The software taps into this database automatically to keep rate information current including frequent fuel cost adjustments. Recommendations for selecting the most cost-effective time-of-use or net-metering rates based on the user's consumption patterns are provided where applicable.

The system also incorporates analytics that apply these consumption patterns to provide custom alerts via SMS text or email to advise the user of savings opportunities or unexpected use. The messaging function is user defined and enables proactive notification and response without having to constantly monitor reports on the PC. There are no contracts, subscriptions or user fees for this service.

The Ecodog Home Energy system does provide a myriad of features. If you are considering this system to monitor energy at your home, here are a few additional facts to consider. First, this system is not IP based. It communicates with a single computer via a serial or USB connection nor does it have a separate display device at this time.

Ecodog is about to release a software update that does allow energy information to be viewed across your local network LAN but not via the Internet because the company recognizes security issues related to energy use and feels it's safest maintained within the user's home. Tools such as PC Anywhere (TM) would be needed to access the data from a remote location.

Another consideration is that Ecodog does not measure the total load as it enters the panel. It measures individual loads and aggregates total load with in the software. This can be done with acceptable accuracy provided all circuits are monitored. If you have a typical 200 amp service with 40 breakers in the panel, 40 CT's will be needed.

This number can be lowered by combining smaller circuits such as bedroom outlets. To do so, the wire from each breaker must be routed through a common CT. This only works if breakers are in close proximity to each other and are on the same phase.

In conclusion we feel the Ecodog Energy Monitor System provides an excellent tool for circuit level monitoring within the home. Floor plan mapping, security alerts and an interactive rate schedule database should prove effective in taking a good bite out of your electric bill. If you do choose to go this route be sure to understand communication capabilities and limitations and be prepared to install a lot of CT's.

Home Energy Monitor Web Page Enhancements
The most frequently visited page at Home Energy is Home Energy Monitor Systems. This page delves into the different types of energy monitors that track power for the entire home. Measurement points, network communications and Internet connectivity are discussed and diagrammed to give an overall understanding of system capabilities and limitations.

The second part of this page has contained a product comparison table for home energy monitors, up until now. We have just created a new page for all these tables called Smart Meters Compared. As new products emerge on the market we want to be able to capture these product details and display them in a clear fashion that makes it easy for our visitors to compare and understand. This new layout will allow us to add many new system specs. and still keep things easy to find.

At the top of the page is a brief summary explaining how monitor systems are organized by the number of measurement points they offer. Each category displays a skeletal table showing the model name of the monitor system featured. Clicking on this name takes you directly to the top of the table that contains all of the system's specifications, links to manufacturers and pricing information. A button called "Smart Meters" has been added to the navigation bar so you can access this information from anywhere on the site.

The Home Energy Monitor Systems page will remain as is, less the spec. tables, to provide the overall picture of the capabilities and limitations of home energy monitor systems. As new ideas are built into home energy monitor systems, we will discuss the pros and cons of them here.

Home Energy Outlook for 2011
Before delving into thoughts and ideas for next year I would like to take a moment and wish you all the best this holiday season. I would also like to thank you for becoming a subscriber to the Meter Messenger E-zine. Our subscribers list has grown steadily since we started out with our first issue last May.

Our goal for 2010 has been to get established on the Web as a site that provides valuable and useful information to our visitors about how to reduce energy costs through metering. We have received a few comments from visitors that lead to believe we are moving in the right direction. However, to what extent, is difficult to quantify. So, we welcome your comments, good or bad, to let us know if we are providing the type of information you are looking for.

As 2011 rolls in, I invite you to contact us with your input. Just a comment or suggestion is fine. At this point, I do not want to solicit a formal survey as we all struggle with "information overload".

One area we will be focusing on next year is to further develop our business relationship with the various energy monitor manufacturers and distributors. This should translate into better pricing and a simpler transaction process for our visitors wanting to make a purchase. Getting ourselves established as a viable Web entity has been a precursor to this step.

Another area is to make the site more interactive for our visitors. Is there an interest in setting up a forum to discuss home energy issues? Would people like to share there "Energy Hog" discovery stories? What about product reviews? Nothing like first hand experience to tell it as it really is. If you are upgrading to a newer monitor system, would a Classifieds section help you generate a little cash from the old system? If any of these ideas appeal to you, please let us know.

Technical content on the site will continue to grow. Key subjects to be added include a discussion of insulation and efficient windows in the Energy Ideas arena. Integration of energy monitors into home automation systems is emerging. We'll make additions to the site to keep you abreast of this rapidly changing technology.

New standards are being developed to define how energy information will be communicated between unique devices, between those devices and energy management systems and between those energy management systems and the utilities. As these standards solidify, we'll keep you up to date on the latest trends with the Meter Messenger.

In closing, I encourage you to contact us with your thoughts and suggestions and we'll do our best to integrate quality ideas into the site.

Ten Energy Saving Tips
1. As we close out the year think about small but effective energy saving changes you can make in your home office or at your place of work. Top of the list should be to turn off computers, printers and peripherals when not in use. Connect to a power strip timer or smart switching strip to help automate the process and stop vampire loads.

2. Connect laptop chargers, cell phone chargers and any other peripheral charger to the power strip. Equipment does not need to be charged 24/7 to keep batteries at or near 100%. Chargers continue to draw power, even if the device being charged is disconnected.

3. Computer screen savers do not save energy and they use a small amount of CPU capacity. Its better to let the screen go blank into sleep mode or shut it off all together.

4. Consider a laptop as a replacement for your desktop next time you upgrade. Besides being very portable they use less energy.

5. Consider solar powered sidewalk lighting - especially now that the days are much shorter. Solar outdoor lighting requires no wires and there is no energy cost.

6. Clothes dryers that shut off with a moisture sensor are more energy efficient than those that just run out a timer. Look for this option next time you are shopping for a clothes dryer.

7. If we exclude HVAC and hot water tank loads the next top five energy hog appliances are spa heaters and pumps, pool pumps, refrigerators washing machines and clothes dryers. Reducing run time on any of these will help your electric bill.

8. In winter keep south facing drapes open during the day to capture heat from the sun's low angle and close them at night to minimize thermal loss.

9. If your home has hydronically fed radiators place a heat reflector between the radiator and the wall to direct more heat into the room.

10. Check for drafts, worn weather stripping and gaps under exterior doors throughout the winter season. Seal those gaps as soon as possible to lower discomfort from the cold and a high electric bill.

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