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Bringing it together to manage our electricity

Posted by on September 4, 2011

Last week, a Smart Meter from Randolph Electrical Membership Cooperative was installed at our home.

Smart meter, but not the model that was installed at our house

This was the final piece for managing our electricity, and now we can start monitoring and reducing our electrical energy cost in real time.  Consumers are purchasing energy saving appliances, CFL light bulbs, or adding more insulation to their attics.  But it is sometimes difficult to know the payoff of these purchases, or what a month of excessive summer heat will do to the pending electric utility bill.  Over the last month, we have installed three things at our home to allow us for the first time to monitor our electricity in real time plus save money.

The first thing we added was the TED5000 that I purchased through SouthernEnergy Management.  This equipment attaches a sending unit inside the electrical panel box, and our set up required 2 units, one for each panel box.  Then you plug the gateway into an outlet and run an Ethernet cable to your router.  This allows us to view the TED dashboard via an Internet browser.

TED5000 Screenshot

The TED seems to be the industry standard for residential energy monitoring, but the big shortfall is determining what is using the energy?

I can get real time information on kW, carbon footprint, or $$$, but no clue to what is using the energy.  The old school process is that I would hook up individual monitoring units to big energy users like HVAC, hot water heaters, or refrigerators.  Unfortunately, this process will quickly raise the cost of the TED5000 from $350 to hundreds of dollars more.  This is where the smart guys at Plotwatt enter our story.  They have determined that electrical appliances have unique electrical signatures.  By allowing Plotwatt access to the monitoring data from the TED5000, they take the data and apply it to an algorithm to determine what electrical devises are on.  After a couple of weeks of analysis, Plotwatt can pinpoint the appliance in use and report back to us so we know what are the real consumers of electrical energy in our house.

Plotwatt Screen shot


The final piece was the smart meter and switching to “time of use” instead of a flat rate.  With my utility REMC (Randolph Electrical Membership Cooperative) their flat rate was .12kWh, but with time of use there is an off peak rate of .049kWh and an on peak of .249 kWh.  The summer peak hours are 2 – 8 p.m.  So, I put timers on the big users of power like the refrigerator, freezer and hotwater heater.  The HVAC already had auto set back thermostats so they just don’tcome on during this period which is mostly the time my wife and I are out of the house at work.  Before you get all worried about the food in the refrigerator going bad, I have the timers cut on for thirty-minute periods during the peak hours.

My wife has been a real trooper on making the switch to “time of use” by minimizing or not using appliances like the dishwasher or clothes dryer that are not on any timers.  The clothes dryer is not a big issue anyway since she hangs most of our clothes on the line.  The big plus to time of use is that weekends arecompletely off peak rates, the time we are at home the most.  It will be the end of September before we get our first utility bill under “time of use”, but I am estimating between $75 to $100 a month savings, not a bad return for a total investment less than $500.

2 Responses to Bringing it together to manage our electricity

  1. David Bradway

    Eric, I’ve enjoyed reading your posts. I would like to talk to you sometime about your switch to Time of Use. I am considering doing the same at my house. I have a TED 5000 as well as monitoring on Plotwatt and MyEnerSave. I am living in Durham. Thanks, David

    • Eric Henry

      Thanks David, it is a journey! Tell me more about MyEnerSave and advantages or differences to Plotwatt. Probably in Durham you have Duke or Progress Energy for your power utility, I understand their peak rate is lower than the .249 kWh that I have with REMC.

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