Electricity Usage Monitor is Linked to Google Spreadsheets

If you want to make your home more energy-efficient, chances are you will need a way to monitor your electricity usage over time. There are off-the-shelf solutions for this of course, but hackers like us tend to do things our own way. Take [Karl] for example. He recently built himself a solution with only a few smart components. We’ve seen similar projects in the past, but none quite like this.

[Karl’s] home has a power meter that blinks an LED to indicate the current amount of used electricity in Watt-hours. He knew all he needed was a way to electronically detect the blinking LED and he’d be able to accurately track his usage without modifying the meter.

The primary components used in this project were a CC3200 development kit and a photoresistor module. The dev kit contained a WiFi module built-in, which allows the system to upload data to Google spreadsheets as well as sync the built-in clock with an accurate time source. The photoresistor module is used to actually detect the blinking LED on the power meter. Everything else is done easily with code on the dev kit.

14 thoughts on “Electricity Usage Monitor is Linked to Google Spreadsheets

  1. Dangit, you just made me miss Google PowerMonitor(RIP Sep 2011). Monitoring your household energy consumption is smart and it really gives you a good idea of where your power is going and when. There needs to be a better, permanent and free service out there to do this with a variety of hardware and an open API but I guess for that to evolve someone would need to monetize bulk power usage information by zip code or something. Now if there was only a way I could get my power company to tell me what my KWH rate was, and notify me when it changes.

  2. I had a student which made something similar during his internship at a local seller of power meters, and he reused it as his B.Sc. theses. He used an Arduino, saved data locally (on an SD card) and made software in Java that retrieved data from the device, parsed it and showed nice graphs.

  3. How does the utility feel about having that strapped to the meter? I think they’d be pretty cranky about it here in the Midwest US.

    Also, that’s the cleanest, driest basement I’ve ever seen. Forget the mountains, I’m moving to Switzerland for the basements.

    1. My electric utility company would cut the zip ties and remove the offending electronics from “their” meter, and leave a “nasty-gram” hanging on the knob of the front door.

      1. Also in the Midwest U.S., and I can say fairly surely that if a device was attached to the meter my utility provider would have a Sheriff come to my door and issue a legal order to remove the device. They would not touch it saying there was risk, even for a battery powered device, and they were protecting their employees and equipment. There would also likely be an administrative fee on my next bill.

        This same company interrupted my power without announcement and damaged a couple of custom FPGA RF capture boards that were running in a long term bench test. They refused to pay any sort of compensation because the boards didn’t have a serial number and they refused any claim about the three years of data that couldn’t be accessed after the hardware was borked by their carelessness.

        Be careful where you live and who you get your services from, it can have a huge impact on your progress. I spend many hours every year replacing microcontrollers or whole devices because my power is so dirty it’s just barely within spec. I see voltages near 100v multiple times per day, motors and chips have a limited life in my house.

        1. That must suck. I guess you could consider having UPS or even small power banks to stabilize voltage given to the electronics. In Finland power quality especially urban and sub urban areas is really good. Also in distant locations it’s not that bad at all. Power quality specs is also quite tight and distribution companies are under though regulation.

          That leads to higher electricity transmission costs but quality is and keeps good. Also here is planned to dig cables even in the countryside under ground to prevent storm damages for overhead cables.

          1. In theory consumers are protected by the state Public Service Commission but they are a do nothing agency when it comes to complaints.

            The whole area is served by poor quality services except for vacation homes and resorts nearby. For internet I have one option. $58 a month for 200KB/s down and 70KB/s up, my provider doesn’t understand why I would need a faster upstream speed. The microwave based system has no weekend tech support and often drops service.

            My damaged equipment had back up power but a spike on the house side of the transformer fried the FPGA. Many of the filtering and protection schemes I tried messed up the pre-FPGA data conditioning circuits.

      2. I suspect the meter is inside the house, so the utility guy would first have to ring the doorbell, and wait for the owner/tenant to let him in. On discovering the device, they would have an opportunity to discuss the purpose.

  4. The Kamstrup meter used in this project actually has an IR-port for reading data, I’am going to make a logger reading from my Kamstrup meter, and it will be connected to OpenHAB.
    Info:
    http://blog.bangbits.com/2013/08/talking-to-kamstrup-685-382-electricity.html
    And some more info, incuding PCB and 3D-print files:
    http://wiki.hal9k.dk/projects/kamstrup

    I was actually planning on using the blinking LED myself, but this way I can also read the voltage and total usage..

  5. Here in NL, we have so called ‘smart meters’ with an RJ12 connector on them on which you are allowed to connect your reading equipment to. It spits out a page of info on the current and total usage every 10 seconds. Now thats what I call hacker-friendly ;o)
    I even ordered one to replace the analog meter in our complex’ basement to measure the power usage to see where we can cut some costs. The engineers were very interested in my project (in a positive way). The exchange only cost me 60 euros.

    http://www.gpx.nl/pdf/poort-P1-voorbeeld-2012.pdf

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