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.