Tuesday, 27 March 2012

E.On's Energy Fit monitor

We've been E.On customers for a while now, and in around 2010 they sent all their customers what they called their "Energy Fit" Starter Pack. In a nutshell, it's a clamp sensor, plus a small wireless transmitter for it to plug into, a base unit with a big LCD, a USB cable, and some documentation and a CD.

I was not at all surprised to discover the CD was Windows-only, and had a gentle go at E.On for that. Reading around a bit, I discovered a couple of useful things:
A bit more Googling around revealed the CurrentCost page with the specs on how to talk to it, and a few assorted folks' sample code to do so, and the fact that the USB cable was simply a USB-to-serial adaptor. Brilliant.

Not that much coding later, I had a Perl script on our Linux server (which I'm not going to share just yet, for reasons I'll explain in a later post) that both displayed the instantaneous value of the clamp sensor on a web page, and uploaded the data to Google PowerMeter. Which was fab, right up to the point where Google decided that, and I quote:

 "...our efforts have not scaled as quickly as we would like, so we are retiring the service." 

Colour me unimpressed. Especially when earlier in the same press release they said, quote:

"Studies show that having simple access to such information helps consumers reduce their energy use by up to 15%; of course, even broader access to this information could help reduce energy use worldwide."

Lovely. Nice one, Google. Way to help out there. Nice to see the studies back up my views on monitoring, though.

The script's still running and saving the data, and I'm currently feeding it into Splunk, which is a sysadmin tool I've used at work, and comes with a free version which'll handle the volume of data we generate. While it's an ├╝ber-geeky solution, I wouldn't recommend it since Splunk does require a pile of customisation to generate wife-friendly dashboards, and there's still the overhead of running the background script to feed it. 

But - it has taught me a fair bit about what it's capable of, and a lot more about what else was out there. If you can get your hands on one, be it the E.On branded one or a CurrentCost, they're pretty easy to set up and get info out of, and you will learn a lot about your power usage habits.

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