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electricity meter data visualisation

I remember seeing on Twitter (about 2 months ago) Ian Bell's (NI UK Marketing Manager) post that he got some sort of electricity meter that he was going to use to visualize how much energy his kids were using. Perhaps someone could convince him to share his results here with us

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OK Jakub - here goes!

I got this "free" home energy monitor from my energy supply company. It's actually developed by Current Cost www.currentcost.com. Two basic parts. A current clamp with a wireless transmitter which you fit over the incoming supply cable plus a display unit which you can site anywhere in the house. This unit displys current power, and (if you put in the per kWHr cost) the cost per and per month of the current power consumption. It also keeps track of historical data and temperature. Of interest to the DIY LabVIEW developer - it has a serial port on an RJ45 connector. So I bought the serial - USB cable from their ebay shop. Plugged it in. And after googling for the driver (their new website is much better), fired up a simple LV VI and grabbed some data.

Turns out the device transmits a set of data in an XML format every 7 seconds or so. It is a very simple format and - although I might convert it to the LabVIEW XML library later - for now I just parse that string with standard string handling functions. (Look.....it's not that the XML library is hard to use... its just overkill for this....anyway I first learnt LabVIEW 15 years ago and I can "do" the string functions in my sleep....aaahhhh yes that's "real" LabVIEW programming...from the GPIB era... when there were only a few instruments drivers....ooops sorry drifted off for a moment there)

So I now have a little LV program that gets the data and displays it graphically. (see screen shot below). Also used it with the built in web server so I can check on it remotely.

energy monitor.jpg

Now - the point behind this is ....once you start monitoring power usage you want to reduce it. To do the monitoring with LabVIEW needs the PC to be on and that consumes around 100W... all the time ... and that costs - you get the idea. So next step is to get this working on my home built Windows Home Server system, which is power optimised and is on all the time. Then - add some proper historical logging and long term trending, send usage email reports, text message alerts. Perhaps it could automate yelling at the children when power usage goes over a certain limit It's at this point that your other half starts to mutter - "LabVIEW all day and now all night.... you're addicted!".

Oh well output of the addiction is attached.

BTW - my job at NI UK changed on Jan 1st. I'm now doing Market Development - and I'm currently working on the renewable energy market!

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Hi Ian ,

good stuff.  I knew you will reply to this topic 🙂

Today I received my electricity monitor, but I got http://www.theowl.com/ , which AFAIK doesn't support any communication with a PC/MAC (at the time of writing this post I still haven't opened the box to check it). I guess it would be dead easy to build such monitor (not necessarily wireless) and programming it with LabVIEW for embedded systems.

Jakub

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