Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Sunday, December 12, 2010

SmartNow Home Energy Monitor and Google PowerMeter in the Australian Daily Telegraph

A fantastic article by John Rolfe was published in Sydney's Daily Telegraph last Thursday.


It's a great read - thanks John.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Google PowerMeter Video - now available in Australia and New Zealand with the Current Cost ENVI

I received this the other day - it's a great example of what Google PowerMeter is capable of, and how you can use it to reduce your energy bills:

The Current Cost ENVI is fully compatible with Google PowerMeter, and is available from www.smartnow.com.au and www.smartnow.co.nz

Friday, September 24, 2010

Faulty / inefficient aircon unit costing $228 per year in standby!

After Scott's first email, that we posted here:


... we got another email from him this morning:

"My journey of discovery didn't end at the hot water system.

My night time standby power has been consistently over 200 watts since I installed the ENVI. From my googling the average for Australia is 86 watts.... So I turned absolutely everything off in the house. Still reading 140 watts?

Next stop was the power board. I started by turning the obvious circuits off. Stovetop, oven, aircon ciruit.

As soon as I turned the airco circuit off, the meter dropped [130W] to 10 watts. I was dumb founded. The aircon was not running, but turning the circuit back on showed it consumes 130 watts in standby.

I confirmed it was the outdoor component of the split system by turning the isolation switch off at the outdoor unit.

[Once I'd turned this off, the house draws] only 10 watts in use (which is the dc converters for the down lights)."

We did some quick maths on Scott's findings.

130W = 0.13kW.

0.13 x 24 hours x 365 days = 1138 kWh (or units of electricity) used per year!

At $0.20 per kWh (that's an average across Australia) that's $228 a year.

Over ten years, that's $2280, assuming that power prices aren't going up!

Using the Current Cost ENVI to hunt down faulty appliances

We received the following email from Scott today - this is unedited:

"I also want to give the Envi power meter a huge thumbs up. My house has been chewing through the power (average 30kwh/day) and I’ve been scratching my head trying to work out why. We don’t have a pool, we have a heat pump hot water system, we have low wattage bulbs, insulation in the roof, we hardly ever use the dryer or split airco.

By installing the ENVI power meter I was able to find out that the heat pump hot water system was running for a while then overheating. As a failsafe “feature” the heat pump then uses an electric boost to heat the water to temp. Imagine my surprise when the meter went from 1kw (compressor) to 3kw (boost). There is no obvious sign that there is a fault and has probably been happening since install going off my power bills. I can’t wait to see how much I’ll save on the next power bill now that the heat pump is fixed. With the ENVI I’ll be able to keep a close eye on it in the future. It’s well and truly paid for itself in the first month (and then some)."

Monday, September 13, 2010

Solving Driver Issues with the Current Cost ENVI Prolific PL2303 USB Cable

A couple of our customers have recently had some strange issues with both Vista and Windows 7 x64 with installing the drivers for the USB Cable (which contains a Prolific PL2303 chip).

Anyway, the following link seems to have solved everyone's problems:

Which lead to:

Which lead to this:
http://www.usglobalsat.com/download/546/win_drivers.zip which is version 1013 (WHQL Win 7 x64 Version

Now, we can't guarantee that this software isn't going to eat your computer alive from the inside because it isn't our software and we haven't tested it. However, it seems to have solved the issues.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Use the Current Cost ENVI to determine if your transformerless solar inverter is using power after dark

We’ve recently had a few reports of “faulty” ENVIs, whereby people are reporting power readings from their solar panels on the ENVI after dark.

One of our customers thought initially that it could be power being generated by moonlight!

In actual fact, it appears that the inverter is drawing power after dark, typically 70-90W, but occasionally spiking to over 200W.

The reaction from the solar inverter manufacturers has been that the ENVI must be faulty, or it could be that the inverter is causing interference to the transmission. Naturally, we have been very worried about this, and have been working our socks of to work out what is going on. This included using a variety of different wireless electricity meters on the same circuit – they all agreed to within a couple of Watts, ruling out the interference suggestion.

Eventually, the answers have become clear. A Fluke Multimeter was reading 0.31 Amps being drawn after dark. A service engineer also reported a power draw of 300mA. 0.31A x 240V = 74.4 Watts.

This has been established in two cases so far, and in no cases have we received any evidence to show that the Current Cost ENVI is reading incorrectly. We’re not going to name the manufacturers involved here for liability reasons, and will continue to keep you posted with any new information we receive.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Using the Current Cost ENVI to hunt down faulty appliances

We just received an email from a lady who we spoke with a month or so ago.

She had just received a Current Cost ENVI from us (http://www.smartnow.com.au/current_cost_envi.html), and was concerned about the readings it was showing. With nothing on in the house she couldn't get the power consumption down to below 6-700 Watts, even by turning the fridges and freezer off.

It turns out that two things were happening:
1) The Septic System Sludge Pump was stuck on and running 24 hours a day
2) The fan on the top (that is on 24 hours a day) was pulling 250 - 300W - considerably more than the advertised 100W.

By finding and solving these two issues, we think she'll have saved $700 a year (workings below) just with the fan, which she is replacing completely for a whirlybird.

300 W = 0.3 kW
0.3 kW x 24 hours = 8 kWh = 8 units of electricity
Average electricity cost = $0.22 / kWh
Total cost per year = 8 kWh x $0.22 x 365 = $700 per year.

Get a Current Cost ENVI today and discover where your power is going.


Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Another New Google PowerMeter Feature

So Google really are spoiling us now... with a new tab called "Actions"

Basically this tells you how you're doing against similar sized properties and their average power consumption, and gives you advice on how to reduce your energy use.

As you can see here, we're doing pretty well. As you complete the recommendations you earn badges to show that you've performed the actions, and the suggestions get more and more targeted. It's fairly touchy feely-stuff that I don't think the early adopters will take to, but for the mass market it is very interesting indeed. Combined with the power of the Current Cost ENVI, we believe that most homes should be able to knock at least 25% off their power bill using these tools and simply eliminating waste.

More information from http://www.smartnow.com.au/current_cost_google_powermeter_australia.html

New Google PowerMeter Feature for the Current Cost ENVI in Australia and New Zealand

Google have added some new features to the Google PowerMeter interface!

The first is a "mouseover" ability that shows you exactly how much power was being drawn at a particular point in time.

[caption id="attachment_75" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="Google PowerMeter Australia connected to a Current Cost ENVI, demonstrating the latest mouseover feature to be added"][/caption]

Very useful - it's a feature that has been lacking and we're very pleased to see it arrive.

More information available here: http://www.smartnow.com.au/current_cost_google_powermeter_australia.html

STOP - Read this before you buy your Solar Panels

Much is made in the press and online about installing solar panels, and given the vast numbers of solar panel providers who are popping up around Australia at the moment, it looks like the idea has caught the public imagination.

The main thing that people focus on is "how long is the payback period"?

i.e. If I'm going to pay out $10,000 on a system, how long does it take before I have made that $10,000 back through either: the electricity company paying me for the electricity I generate and sell them, or the amount of money I will save by not paying the electricity company for the power I have used.

A key component is whether your feed-in tariff (the amount of money that you get paid per kWh) is paid Net or Gross.

Net is where you get paid for every unused kWh you push back to the grid.
Gross is where you get paid for every kWh you generate, irrespective of whether you use it or send it to the grid.

Now, obviously, if you're going to install a system in an area that pays a Net Feed-in Tariff (such as Victoria - at approx $0.66/kWh), you want to ensure that you're pushing as much of the power you generate back to the grid as possible.

Now let's look at a typical house power consumption, with the help of a Current Cost ENVI and Google PowerMeter.

The graphic below is for a three bedroom wooden house in Melbourne's western suburbs.

This home is relatively efficient, but observe the "Always On" power use of 4.3 kWh per day. This is the amount of power that this house is using every day, even if the owners were on holiday.

Let us make an assumption here that the solar panels will be generating at least 180 W (the level of the standby power use in this house) for 12 hours a day on average over the year.

This means that an average of 2.15 kWh per day is being consumed by appliances on standby that would otherwise be being pushed back to the grid.

This is 2.15 kWh x $0.66/kWh = $1.42 per day that is not being earned.

Doesn't sound like a lot does it? Let's multiply that by 365 days... $520 per year!

Now let's assume that this house in it's current state sells back $1000 of electricity per year to the grid, which gives it a ten year payback time ($10,000 / $1000 per year = 10 years).

And now let's work out how long the payback time will be if the owners remove their "Always On" power consumption during the day...

$10000 / $1520 = 6.5 years.

So just by reducing your standby power consumption, your payback time falls (in this scenario) by a third....

Now, consider this - the average home "Always On" figure in Australia is not 180W (4.3 kWh / 24 hours)... it is far, far higher. We have seen homes in Australia that use 3 or 4 or 5 times this figure when no-one is at home.

So before you spend tens of thousands of pounds on a solar PV system, get yourself a Current Cost ENVI from SmartNow an hook it up to Google PowerMeter. Yes, we want you to buy our product, and we're in business to make money. But believe us when we say that it's going to be the best investment you make this year.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Current Cost Bridge is On Sale in Australia and New Zealand - connect direct to Google PowerMeter

The Current Cost Bridge is now on sale from SmartNow in New Zealand and Australia
http://www.smartnow.com.au/current_cost_bridge.html http://www.smartnow.co.nz/current_cost_bridge.html

This allows you to connect a Current Cost ENVI or ENVI-R to Google PowerMeter without having your computer on. The Bridge plugs into the back of the ENVI, and connects to one of the ports on your internet router. The data from your ENVI is then pushed to your personal area on the Current Cost website (details to follow) and then can be forwarded on, should you require, to Google PowerMeter which installs on your iGoogle homepage!

For less than $50, the Current Cost Bridge brings Google PowerMeter and reduced power bills a step closer for people all over Australia and New Zealand.

The Bridges are on sale from SmartNow for delivery at the end of September.

Windows 7 Data Cable Drivers – Connecting Current Cost ENVI to Google PowerMeter – Australia and New Zealand

The content of this post is largely taken from http://currentcost.posterous.com/windows-7-data-cable-drivers, the Current Cost blog.

To connect a Current Cost ENVI to Google PowerMeter, you have two options – either purchase a Bridge from SmartNow http://www.smartnow.com.au/current_cost_bridge.html or you can connect through your PC using the optional USB cable. For most versions of Windows and Mac you need to install the Prolific driver.

However, it is not necessary to install the drivers for the Data Cable for Windows 7. Simply connect the Data Cable and the drivers should be located and installed automatically. If you have previously installed the Data Cable drivers and cannot get the Data Cable working correctly, please follow the instructions for “Uninstalling the Data Cable Drivers”. Uninstalling the Data Cable Drivers With the Data Cable plugged in to the PC, go to Control Panel -> Device Manager. Expand the Ports node. Select the “Prolific USB-to-Serial Comm Port”. Right click – uninstall. Click to view large Download this gallery (ZIP, undefined KB) Download full size (146 KB) When the uninstall is complete, unplug the Data Cable from the PC. Go back to Control Panel -> Programs and Features. Select the item called “PL-2303 USB-to-Serial” and click “Uninstall” Follow the wizard to complete the uninstall process. Reboot the computer.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Accuracy of Wireless Home Electricity Monitors

We often get enquiries about the accuracy of wireless home electricity monitors, so here is a summary of our findings.

Almost all real-time displays available in Australia and New Zealand currently get their data from fitting a CT (Current Transformer) clamp to a cable.

The current flowing through the cable generates a magnetic field. The magnetic field subsequently generates a current in the CT Clamp, which is measured and the data is sent to the display via the transmitter.

As a result, because a CT Clamp cannot take into account such things as Power Factor and varying voltage, it can never be 100% accurate. From experiments with the Current Cost ENVI we ave found it to be 1 – 2% accurate up to 1000W, and 3-8% from 1kW – 10kW (with the accuracy decreasing as the power increases).

The Current Cost ENVI default voltage is 240V, so in areas where the voltage is noticeably different, the accuracy will decrease. However, the ENVI-R (due to be available in October / November) comes with a new transmitter that allows multiple voltages to be set (200V, 210V, 220V, 230V, 240V, 250V, 260V).

With regards to Power Factor, some people make a big fuss about this. However, most household appliances have a Power Factor of close to 1 (the assumed PF in the Current Cost ENVI and most other wireless electricity monitors). It is only in commercial environments where there are large electric motors in operation does this become a real issue.

As an example, the Graham Restaurant in Port Melbourne has an ENVI connected up. Since they’ve connected it, their power consumption has reduced from approx 440kWh per day to 260kWh per day – their monthly bill is usually within 3% of the kWh reading that the ENVI has determined. 260kWh a day is a LOT of power – the average house should be using less than 10kWh per day. http://smartnowenvironmental.blogspot.com/2010/05/turn-off-your-coffee-machines.html

However, all the points above are largely irrelevant in my opinion. If you’re after accurate measurement of power used, you’ve got to spend $thousands for an expensive bit of kit to be installed to do this. The Current Cost ENVI http://www.smartnow.com.au/current_cost_envi_store.php costs $139.95 in Australia, and is compatible with Google PowerMeter Australia and New Zealand http://www.google.com/powermeter/about/about.html. This will tell you clearly that your electric heater is drawing 200 times as much power as your energy efficient light globe, and hence turning lights off in your house is not going to have anywhere near as much impact on your bill as turning off your electric heater / excluding drafts / insulating your house.

It’s all about behvioural change – these electricity monitors provide the information people need to be able to make educated decisions about their power consumption and importantly at this time of rising prices, be able to do something about them in an informed and pragmatic fashion.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Google PowerMeter "Always On" Power Consumption with the Current Cost ENVI

A great piece of information from the Google PowerMeter is the 'Always On' consumption!

This shows you how much your house is using all the time, and what all those devices on standby are costing you.

On this screenshot we can see that this home is using 4.3kWh per day - which is over half the total of 6.5kWh per day. Just think about that - over half your power bill is being spent on keeping equipment running that you might not even be using.


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

New Google PowerMeter for Current Cost ENVI from SmartNow

The latest release of the Current Cost Google PowerMeter software (version is now available for download. This release adds the ability to upload Current Cost history to Google PowerMeter. Currently only the 2 hour history data is uploaded. There have also been various bug fixes for internationalisation.

You can download the latest release of the Current Cost Google PowerMeter software here:


About Google PowerMeter:

Google PowerMeter and www.SmartNow.com.au and the Current Cost ENVI

Just a few short weeks after the launch of Google PowerMeter and the response has been incredible. Fortunately we've got stock arriving very shortly so we can keep up with the demand!

The Google PowerMeter is a fantastic tool - the first responses we are getting from our customers are that they are amazed at the proportion of their money they are spending on their Always On - basically the stuff that's on all the time.

We are seeing people using 10 kWh a day... and their Always On figure accounts for 6 kWh! Over half the bill spent on standby!

Exciting times... www.smartnow.com.au

Monday, May 24, 2010

Google PowerMeter comes to Australia and New Zealand with the Current Cost ENVI

The Current Cost ENVI is now compatible with Google PowerMeter.


Here is the link to the Google Blog with the announcement!


This means that you can get Google PowerMeter one of two ways in Australia and New Zealand:

1) Purchase a Current Cost ENVI and USB cable from SmartNow. Plug the ENVI into your computer and upload the data to Google PowerMeter.

2) Purchase a Current Cost ENVI and a Bridge, available in August 2010 from SmartNow (Pre-order from 1 July 2010) and plug your ENVI into the Bridge into your Internet Router... this means that your power information is uploaded to Google PowerMeter without your PC being on!

For more information please see http://www.smartnow.com.au/current_cost_powermeter.html

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Smart Meters not so Smart

The Age this morning ran this article.

Whilst we at SmartNow are generally in favour of Smart Meters, we're in favour of it being done properly. At the moment, the allegation that the consumer is paying for the Smart Meter, but the power company gets all the benefit are completely true.

It is a real shame that they are not including real-time displays with the rollout, as this is effectively the only way that people can learn to reduce their power bills. Getting a power reading for the previous 24 hours just doesn't cut it.

Peer reviewed studies from around the world have repeatedly found that getting instantaneous information about consumption is the only way that people can learn how to reduce their energy use. You turn something on or off, and watch the power spike or fall.

Instead, with the feedback that customers are getting here, you turn a device on or off and have to wait 24 hours to see the effect.

So, whilst we're waiting for this system to be put right, get a Current Cost ENVI or TREC and slash your power bills.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Sokitt's Energy Audit Blog - how to save cash...

Finn at Sokitt has pubished some interesting findings of his own home energy audit...


Here he explains about his findings with his own personal coffee machine, fridge, and kettle.

Well worth a read.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Monitor the Power from your Solar Panels!

We've just launched a great new package to enable solar panel and micro-generation monitoring using the Current Cost ENVI.

The package includes:
A Current Cost ENVI
A Current Cost TREC
A USB Cable.

The two transmitters are installed to monitor the power the house is using and the power the solar panels / wind turbine is generating respectively.

The ENVI receives data from both displays, and sits in the study / home office and downloads the data to your PC.

The TREC sits somewhere more accessible - maybe the kitchen workbench, or next to the TV - an also receives data from both transmitters, allowing the whole family to keep an eye on their power use.

And best of all... this package saves you $30 off the cost of the individual components!

Click here for more information!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

CurrentChart Software for the Current Cost ENVI

We've just installed Kerry Neighbour's CurrentChart Software.

This is a new piece of software that Kerry built for his own purpose and has very kindly made it available for free.

Frankly, it's sensational. It works instantly, it looks great and the charting is incredibly flexible.


Sunday, May 9, 2010

Tiny PC that draws only 10 Watts

We met Yawarra a few days ago at an exhibition. We were very impressed with their tiny PCs that draw miniscule amounts of power - 10-12 Watts when running and only 1.5 Watts in standby. I actually couldn't believe how small they were until I held on in my hand.


If we ever need a PC we'll be buying one of these in a heartbeat.... you could kit out an office with these and save a fortune in power bills.

Smart Grid time-of-use pricing put on hold

For a while we have been slightly concerned about the Victorian Smart Grid roll-out.

Basically, the customer pays for the Smart Meter, and gets none of the benefits.

This snuck under our radar six weeks ago - apparently they're continuing to deploy the Smart Meters but they're not going to be used for time-of-use pricing for the time being.


In the mean time, whilst they sort this out, you can get a Current Cost ENVI to give you the information that enables you to take control of your own energy use from us at SmartNow.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Turn Off Your Coffee Machines...

A Current Cost ENVI was recently installed in the legendary Melbourne restaurant, The Graham (www.thegraham.com.au), a few days ago.

It was discovered that between midnight and nine AM, over 100kWh had been used.

A substantial proportion (approximately half) can be attributed to fridges, cold rooms, security systems and an oven that is left on overnight to slow roast various dishes.

However, the rest of it came from the coffee machine. Over the course of the night is used 60kWh just to keep the water hot. If turned off over night it only takes ten minutes to heat up again in the morning.

Total saving per year? Approximately $3500.

Total saving over the lifetime of the coffee machine (assuming 25 year life)?
$87000.... and that's assuming that electricity prices are going to stay the same!


Monday, April 19, 2010

Energy Efficiency on the World Stage

The fastest, cheapest way to make the biggest impact on the available domestic energy supply is through energy efficiency.

Closing the efficiency gap between available and cost-effective options and the wasteful way energy is presently used will not only reduce the pressure on world resources; it will also save money, an estimated $2-to-$4 for every dollar spent.

Energy Efficiency on the World Stage

Depending on your point of view, this post is a little on the dramatic side for our liking. However, it does raise some interesting points and shows that energy efficiency is a measure that can be taken now and will save money - it's an important point, and makes the arguments over anthropogenic global warming completely irrelevant.

Energy efficiency saves money.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Power upload to Pachube!

So here it is - the live feed of my apartment's power consumption using the Bridge!

This has been achieved using a Current Cost ENVI (CC128), plugged into a prototype "Bridge" (basically an Arduino with some cunning software on it) which is then plugged direct into an internet router.

The Bridge will be commercially available in early May.

The timestamp on this is about ten hours out, as I am in Melbourne and this timescale is in Zulu, but you should get the idea. You can see the spikes where I turn the electric hob on, and the cycling of the fridge.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Current Cost ENVI now uploading direct to Pachube

So we've just received the prototype Bridge...

Simply plug an ENVI into the Bridge, plug the Bridge into your internet router, and hey presto! Power information being uploaded to the internet!

pachube :: connecting environments, patching the planet - bridge19

Lots of potential here...

Sunday, March 28, 2010

NSW Power Price to rise 64% in 3 years

A large proportion of our customers are from NSW, where power price rises over the last few years are really putting the squeeze on consumers.

But there is worse to come:

Scary, if you're a family of four in a conventional (i.e. badly built) Australian house, trying to keep it cool in summer and warm in winter using electricity.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Recalibrate your TV and save money!

I stumbled across a useful little article whilst researching something completely different...

Apparently, most TVs, when they come out of the box, are set at a very bright setting. This means that your expensive Energy Star gogglebox is sucking back more juice than it realistically needs to.

In some examples, by setting the television to the correct level, you can save an average of US$9 a year.... and in some cases, over US$25 a year (assuming that the TV is on 5 hours a day).

In some homes where the TV (or multiple TVs) are always on, this can add up to some serious cash over the lifetime of your pride and joy.


Let me know what you think... Thanks!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

SmartNow / Current Cost ENVI home energy display

The ENVI is about the get enhanced capability to upload energy consumption information to your PC and the Internet.

The Current Cost ENVI wireless home energy monitor can be connected to a PC using the optional USB cable available from www.smartnow.com.au and www.smartnow.co.nz

However, a new product (shhh... top secret) is about to make this astoundingly easy!

We'll keep you posted, but keep an eye out for the update!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Current Cost TREC is now here in Australia and New Zealand

Great news! We've just received the first delivery of the Current Cost TREC!

The TREC home energy monitor is the baby brother to the ENVI, and is available from our websites at www.smartnow.com.au and www.smartnow.co.nz

The TREC is simpler and smaller than the ENVI, but realistically it only lacks the PC interface and the capability to deal with 3-phase power. It's really sleek and we're really pleased that it's arrived.

This is perfect for those who do not require the bells and whistles that the ENVI offers, or those who require a separate display for use elsewhere in their house (i.e. one in the office, one in the kitchen).

More very exciting developments on their way over the next few days. These are exciting times for the home energy monitor market as Current Cost launch their latest offerings into the antipodean market through SmartNow. Of particular importance to us is how we can offer the ENVI and TREC wireless home energy monitors to low-income households and those vulnerable to the rising electricity prices in Australia.