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Meter Messenger Ezine #114 - Google PowerMeter is Powering Down
August 15, 2011

Issue #114
July-August 2011

Visit Home Energy

Table of Contents

Google PowerMeter Powers Down

Microsoft Hohm to Follow Suit

On Line Options for Monitoring Energy Data

Ten Energy Saving Tips

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Google PowerMeter Powers Down
Google PowerMeter, as many of you know, is an on line application that allows home energy monitor data to be viewed over the Web. Meter manufacturers added code to their firmware to allow customers to take advantage of this remote viewing system at no additional charge. Just recently, Google announced they will be retiring this service on September 16, 2011, and I quote:

"We are pleased that PowerMeter has helped demonstrate the importance of this access and created something of a model. However, our efforts have not scaled as quickly as we would like, so we are retiring the service. PowerMeter users will have access to the tool until September 16, 2011. We have made it easy for you to download your data: simply log in to your account and go to "Account Settings" to export to a CSV (Comma Separated Values) file. We will be contacting users directly with more information on this process."

"Not scaled as quickly as we would like" is the key phrase here. Apparently, the growth numbers they anticipated never materialized. This could have spawned from a number of reasons; recession and slow economic recovery, slow emergence of standardization in the Smart Grid arena and the illusion that installing a home energy monitor saves money all by itself - no effort required.

With unemployment stabilized at over nine percent, every one family out of eleven has far more serious economic worries to contend with that shaving a few dollars off their electric bill every month. Even if one has employment, uncertainty about future healthcare costs, taxes and the general state of the economy still keeps many on edge. All this uncertainty hurts the sale of home energy monitors since most purchases are funded with discretionary income. If monitor sales are down, so is the growth of Google PowerMeter users.

Developing uniformity and standardization within the Smart Grid is a monumental task. Input from utilities, manufacturers, government and consumers is very diversified. Add to this the sheer magnitude of having to consider the power needs of every home and business in the United States and you start to perceive how big the Smart Grid Initiative really is. This monolithic task is being tackled by industry leaders, utilities and standards development organizations but takes time.

As a result, the big players in the energy monitor market such as Johnson Controls, Honeywell and others have remained on the side lines with respect to delivering new products to the residential market. Introducing products that are not ready to conform to Smart Grid standards (which are still under development) could prove to be a financial disaster a couple of years down the road. Thus, the majority of home energy monitors come to the market from smaller start-up tech ventures.

Without the marketing horsepower of large contenders behind home energy monitor products yet, critical mass in the market place has not been reached. This limits exposure to just "those that are looking" rather than the general population. Again, lower sales and fewer Google PowerMeter Users.

Most energy monitor sales literature touts savings claims of 20 to 30% and in some cases higher. What many people don't realize is that thorough analysis of their electrical data is needed along with a systematic plan to reduce energy consumption. The energy monitor adds value as a tool to measure how well one is doing against that plan.

Simply expecting energy bills to go down because one installs an energy meter is a misnomer. For a great tool to help you build your energy reduction plan download our Power Panel Profiler. If is FREE with a subscription to this e-zine.

When customers come to the realization that "some assembly (of information) is required" the enthusiasm of some wanes. As this attitude sets in, less people are apt to take the time to set up a Google PowerMeter account and monitor their energy consumption on line. Thus, the growth rate has diminished so Google has decided to deploy their resources elsewhere.

Google PowerMeter will be retired in one month - September 16, 2011.

Microsoft Hohm to Follow Suit

In a recent communication to a customer Microsoft expressed similar plans to phase out their MS Hohm project at the end May of next year, and I quote:

"Dear Microsoft Hohm user:
We are writing to let you know Microsoft Hohm is being discontinued. The service will remain available through May 31, 2012, and you can continue to enjoy the full benefits of Microsoft Hohm until that time. Microsoft remains committed to leveraging the power of innovative technology to address environmental challenges, and we will continue to develop technologies that support long-standing growth and maturity within the market. This includes helping people and organizations around the world reduce their impact on the environment - please visit the Environmental Sustainability or Microsoft Power & Utilities sites to learn about ongoing sustainability initiatives and products. Please visit the Microsoft Hohm blog and website for more information about the transition.
Thank you for using Microsoft Hohm.
The Microsoft Hohm team"

Although not as widespread as Google PowerMeter, Microsoft Hohm was building a presence with Blueline Innovations Power Cost Monitor customers. This monitor is simply an energy meter reader and with Microsoft Hohm, whole house consumption could be monitored on line. The system also offered suggestions, albeit somewhat standardized, for reducing energy usage in the home.

I believe the program is being phased out for the same reasons Google has decided to shut theirs down. The anticipated growth never materialized.

So, the big question for home energy monitor users and those considering an energy monitor system is how do I see my electrical usage over the Web when I am away from home? Read on...

On Line Options for Monitoring Energy Data

Even though Google PowerMeter and Microsoft Hohm are discontinuing service in the near future, energy monitor manufacturers have their own software, web servers and mobile phone apps that will continue to provide home energy data to those on the go. Below is a summary of these tools offered by some of the more popular energy monitor manufacturers.

eMonitor from Powerhouse Dynamics The eMonitor is designed to accept and analyze energy data on their web server as part of the data subscription service they offer. This data can be accessed from anywhere on the Net. Earlier this year they released upgrades to their server software and introduced a mobile phone app. We reviewed this release in our April Meter Messenger.

eGauge Energy data can be hosted on ones own domain for a monthly subscription fee or the software can be purchased with a one-time fee that allows one to run it by them self.

Brultech Model 1240 Brultech provides their own dashboard software which includes a web server which allows one to view data over a local network or the Web. Additional third party developers provide a variety graphic displays and analysis screens although most of these applications appear to be local network only. PC Anywhere software or similar networking tool would be needed to view them over the Web.

TED 5000 by Energy, Inc. Energy Inc. offers a variety of third party applications that allow access to energy data from mobile phones as summarized on their web site:

TED-O-Meter is a free smart phone application that is compatible with iPhone and iPod Touch. An interactive dial shows real-time electricity usage.

People Power 1.0 is a free energy manager app available for Smartphones that provides real-time insight, choice, and control over household energy use. It integrates with the TED 5000 Gateway™ through a simple set-up and connects to People Power’s analysis software to deliver useful information anytime, anywhere.

MiraWatt T5K allows you to view power usage data on your iPhone. A simple swipe gesture on your iPhone will change the view from Hour, Day, Week, etc.

iTED is a mobile application for iOS and Android OS devices such as the iPhone and Droid phone models for monitoring energy usage in conjunction with our TED 5000 series. You can monitor your home and or business energy usage while-on-the-go or the help figure out about how much that new appliance you turned on uses in energy!

TED 5000 is a free mobile application for the iPhone that provides current Power and Cost, as well as average power and cost for the billing cycle. The user can refresh their energy data anytime by clicking the refresh button.

AndTED is an energy monitoring application for TED 5000 users on Android. This application allows you to view MTUs independently, which is great for consumers with solar or wind installations.

TEDisplay is a mobile application for HP/Palm webOS devices, such as the Palm Pre and the Palm Pixi. TEDisplay works with your TED 5000 to monitor energy usage directly on your phone. TEDisplay supports multi-MTU configurations with access to just about every data value available from the TED 5000. And, with a properly configured home network, you can monitor your energy usage from just about anywhere!

As you can see, there are a lot of options available to keep you in touch with your real time energy usage profile. Subscription based services tend to be more robust, i.e. you get what you pay for. However, with the rapid deployment of comprehensive smartphone apps the gap is narrowing. Study the features carefully and try to test drive several systems before deciding which one will best serve your needs.

Ten Energy Saving Tips

1. Resist the temptation to lower your thermostat below the desired temperature on these hot summer days. The air conditioning system will not cool any faster just because the thermostat was lowered to 72 degrees rather than 74.

2. Whole house fans are more economical to run than air conditioners. They draw cool air through the house and exhaust warm air out the attic. This is a viable option to air conditioning in northern climates where cooling systems only run a month or two out of the year.

3. Ceiling fans increase cooling comfort by circulating air. Moving air absorbs heat faster than stagnant air. Try raising your thermostat two degrees and use a ceiling fan. The fan motor will use much less energy than the air conditioning system.

4. Avoid placing lamps or TV's near your thermostat. The heat from these devices will fool the thermostat into thinking it is warmer that it really is. The result, the thermostat directs the air conditioner to run longer. The best location for a thermostat is at eye level above the return air vent.

5. Getting hot working in the garage or an outdoor building that is not air conditioned? Consider an evaporation cooling fan available at most home centers. Water is evaporated in the air stream of the fan which creates a noticeable drop in temperature.

6. If you don't have drapes to pull over your south and west facing windows during these warm months try installing a reflective film to reduce solar heat gain.

7. If you live in a moderate to warm climate, say south of Interstate 40 in the US, look for low solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC) windows when buying replacements or building a new home. In cooler climates look for double pane windows with a low-e coating on the glass to reflect heat back into the room. Lower U-ratings indicate better insulation potential for windows in cooler climates.

8. Reduce outdoor lighting costs by using compact fluorescents that are enclosed in a floodlight housing. Curly-Q compact fluorescents are not suitable for outdoor use by themselves. They must be protected with in a weatherproof enclosure.

9. If you use natural gas or LP for cooking on your stove check to see that the burner emits a blue flame through the full range of temperature settings. If excessive orange flame exists combustion is not efficient and fuel is being wasted. Be sure you are using the correct burner jets for your fuel. Check with your appliance manufacturer or gas utility if the problem persists.

10. If shopping for gas appliances look for units that use electronic ignition rather than a pilot light. The pilot light burns gas 24/7 and presents the risk of an open flame that could ignite a gas leak or accumulation of other flammable vapors. A pilot will, however, remain on in the event of a power failure but it doesn't matter because the gas has to be turned on with an electrically powered solenoid valve.

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