Issue #109
January 2011

Visit Home Energy

Table of Contents

The Energy Detective Story

What is Google PowerMeter?

What is Microsoft Hohm?

Ten Energy Saving Tips

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The Energy Detective Story

Energy, Inc. of Charleston, SC was one of the first companies to introduce an energy monitor designed to measure power use for the entire home. Their first product, the TED 1000, came out about five years ago. It could track power at the service entrance and show power usage and cost through its display. Using a USB connection, the energy information could be logged and analyzed with Energy, Inc's. Footprints software package.

The TED 1000 was an innovative idea at the time and received some press notoriety because of it. However, the TED 1000 was limited by today's standards. It was not IP (Internet protocol) capable so the display could only connect to one computer through a USB port. No outside Internet interface was possible. The original unit could only measure power at one incoming panel with its single set of CT's (current transformers).

Since that time the TED 1000 has been replaced with the TED 1001 and TED 1002. The TED 1001 is essentially the same as the TED 1000. The TED 1002 adds a second set of CT's so homes with 400 amp service can have both 200 amp panels monitored. The TED 1000 series continues to be a good value for the homeowner who just wants to keep an eye on overall power consumption and cost.

Realizing the limitations of the TED 1000, Energy, Inc. launched a new monitoring system in 2009 called the TED 5000. The TED 5000 uses a combination of power line communication, wireless and IP for its devices to communicate with each other and with the outside world. The system can accept up to four sets of CT's which allows for sub-metering of larger appliances or sub-panels. The Footprints software can aggregate these loads or show them individually.

Since the TED 5000 is IP based, any computer on your home network can view the Footprints software or you can opt to connect with Google Power Meter so your electrical usage profile can be viewed from anywhere on the Web.

Installing the system is not difficult, but you must use care when installing CT's inside your electrical panel. If you are not comfortable working with home electrical wiring, by all means, hire a qualified electrician to do it.

The CT's are clipped onto the incoming feeders from your utility's electric meter. Realize that the point these feeders connect to the main breaker remains hot - even with the main breaker shut off.

The CT's connect to the MTU (measurement transmission unit) which is wired to a spare 2-pole breaker. When energized, voltage is measured through the connection to the breaker and current is measured through the CT's. The MTU converts the current and voltage data into a power line communication signal which is sent out across the wiring in your home.

A second device, called the Gateway, plugs into an outlet near your router or Ethernet switch. The Gateway receives the power line communication signal from the electrical outlet and analyzes it with the Footprints software which resides on the Gateway's miniature Web server. Output from the Gateway enters your home network through a Cat-5 connection to the router or nearest switch and is transmitted via wireless to the optional TED 5000 display.

The Footprints dashboard can be viewed on any computer connected to your LAN (local area network). When setting up the software it is very important to properly record and enter the serial numbers of the MTU(s) and Gateway. Communications will not work unless devices are properly identified. Check for firmware upgrades and follow installation instructions carefully.

Use your latest electric bill to set up current rate information. Monitor your bill for rate changes and FCA (Fuel Cost Adjustments) which may occur monthly, quarterly or annually depending upon where you live and update the Footprints software accordingly. When you have accumulated enough data to cover a complete billing period, compare the kilowatt-hours and cost estimate with your bill. It should be within a couple of percent provided the billing date in the software matches your electric bill.

If you use Mozilla Firefox for your web browser you can download and install TED the Toolbar for free. It provides energy data and cost projections real time across the top of your browser window. Color coding of kilowatt demand shows low usage (green), moderate usage (yellow) or high usage (red). Access is limited to your local area network but energy info is quite useful if you spend a fair amount of time on your home computer.

After using the TED 5000 for over a year I have found it to be reliable as long as communication between devices is maintained. Here are a few of tips that have proved to be helpful:

1. Set up a fixed IP address such as It has proved to be more stable than relying solely on DCHP, especially if you have more than two or three devices on your network.

2. Plug the Gateway into an outlet wired directly to the panel where the MTU's are installed - the closer, the better. Communication proved to be unstable when the Gateway was plugged into a sub-panel outlet.

3. Locate the display module as close as possible the Gateway. Metal appliances, and multiple walls can restrict wireless signal range.

The TED 5000 offers a moderately priced energy monitor that can track and log home energy use effectively. Use of additional CT's and the load profiling software in Footprints can also provide a tool to monitor the individual loads of larger appliances. However, there are not enough channels available to consider the TED 5000 a circuit-level monitor.

What is Google PowerMeter?

EDITORS NOTE: Google PowerMeter was retired 09-16-2011 at Google's discretion and is no longer available. See Meter Messenger #114 for details.

Google offers a free opt-in service that will track your energy usage on line called Google PowerMeter. It requires your utility to use a smart meter that is compatible with Google PowerMeter or a home energy monitor that interfaces with the Google PowerMeter API.

The following home energy monitors do work with Google Power Meter: Blueline Innovations, Watts Up, TED 5000, BrulTech 1240, eGauge and eMonitor.

In order for a home energy monitor to work with Google PowerMeter it must be able to communicate over the Internet (IP based). Energy monitor manufacturers apply for access to use Google PowerMeter. When granted, they program their monitors using Google's API code.

Participating energy monitors and smart meters upload electrical usage on a near real time basis to a Google PowerMeter server. Data can be viewed from any Internet access point including smart phones. Weekly emails provide a record of historical usage.

Data displayed shows energy consumption graphed over days, weeks or months. The base of the graph depicts energy used by devices that are always on - often a source of vampire loads. Average kilowatt-hour rates can be entered so usage can be viewed in dollars as well as kilowatt-hours. Other features include a budget tracker to set goals and monitor progress.

Google's Privacy Policy claims no personal information will be shared between any user's utilities or energy monitoring device. You have the option to opt-out at any time, delete energy information or ask the utility to stop sending information to Google PowerMeter. Data will be store securely according to Google.

Keep in mind, however, that whenever the data is stored it can be used to develop aggregate statistics about power consumption for your demographic without releasing your personal information. If you are not comfortable with your energy information being used in this manner you may want to give it a pass.

Since Google PowerMeter is geared for managing data for the masses, it won't provide the analysis that most energy monitor software packages do. However, if keeping an eye on your energy usage while on the road is important, you may want to check it out.

What is Microsoft Hohm?
Microsoft offers a free web-based application called Microsoft Hohm that is designed to save you money on energy costs. It is in the beta stage of development.

Information is gathered through a series of questions asked about your house, appliances, energy consumption and location. This information is analyzed within a database of energy information that was developed by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the Department of Energy. Output provides a report of personalized energy saving recommendations.

This report ranks your house with a Hohm score between 0 and 100 (higher is better) This is essentially is an energy efficiency rating. Data you provide about your home is used to determine its current level of efficiency. This level is compared to Department of Energy information about the maximum level of energy efficiency achieved for similar type homes in your area.

You have the option to share this data on the Web. If you choose to do so, here's what will be shared: A Bing map centered on your home will be public, as well as information you provide about the year it was built, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, square feet, type of air conditioning, and type of heating. In addition, your Hohm Score, energy usage estimate, and estimated savings will be public. You do have the option to un-share this information if you wish.

Microsoft Hohm is in the early stages of gathering energy data automatically. Thus far, only Blueline Innovations Power Cost Monitor is compatible with Hohm. As for utility providers automated data feeds are live for Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD), Seattle City Light, and Xcel Energy. All other utility data must be entered manually as of this writing.

If you are interested in seeing how your home ranks, sign-up and answer the questions in the survey. If you have more questions about the program you may be able to find the answers here.

Ten Energy Saving Tips
1. If you have a fireplace, install glass doors. They reduce heat loss up the chimney, aid in more efficient combustion and provide a barrier to sparks.

2. Select seasoned hardwood that has moisture content around 20 percent for most efficient burning. Check for cracks in the end grain, a darker color or a hollow sound when you knock on it as telltale signs the wood is properly seasoned.

3. If you have an older fireplace consider upgrading the fireplace insert to a newer, EPA certified unit. Check state and local web sites for possible tax incentives or rebates for such projects.

4. If firewood is not readily available at your home consider burning sawdust logs or wood pellets in your fireplace or wood burning stove. The added heat offsets your heating bill and you will be using products made from the lumber production waste stream.

5. Check to see that all ducting is insulated, especially in unconditioned spaces such as the attic, crawl space or garage. Use a minimum of R-6 insulation to cover bare ducting. Up to half of the heat in conditioned air can be lost by routing it through ducting that is not insulated.

6. If remodeling a room with windows facing south in the northern hemisphere, consider tiling the floor or using masonry products on the wall. These materials have a greater thermal mass than carpet, wood or wallboard. This means they can absorb more passive solar heat when the sun is high and radiate it back into the room when the sun is low.

7. If you work at home or spend a fair amount of time at home alone, turn down your thermostat and use a space heater to keep your immediate work area comfortable. A 1500 watt space heater only costs $0.15 per hour to run if you are billed at at $0.10 per kwh. Plus, there are no heat losses through the ducting.

8. Do you have any double pane windows that fog up? This indicates that the seal maintaining the vacuum between the panes has been broken. The thermal efficiency of double pane glass disappears when there is no longer a vacuum between the panes. Replace the pane it as soon as possible to reduce energy losses.

9. If considering window replacements, look into dynamic windows. By applying an electronically controlled tint, similar to photo-gray eye glasses, these windows can reduce heat loss by 20 to 30 percent. They work well in both heating and cooling climates.

10. For a lower cost approach consider window film to add a permanent tint to your south and west facing windows. Highly reflective films wok best at reducing heat gain in warmer climates. Combination films are effective in both warm and cool climates. Both reduce UV damage to furniture.

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