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Wattson, Come Here, I Need You
Jamais Cascio, 16 Feb 06

wattson-high-power.jpgUK environmental and sustainability consultancy DIY Kyoto will soon release a very cool new product they call Wattson. A combination of energy meter and portable display, Wattson can provide real-time information about household energy consumption, displayed as both a text display of current power demand or accumulated "burn rate" of power in pounds sterling per year, and a "non-verbal" colored LED display indicating overall energy health of the house.

DIY Kyoto -- which bills itself as providing products and services that "challenge & enable people to meet the Kyoto Protocol at a personal level" -- is explicit that the goal of Wattson is to make the invisible visible.

[Wattson] is based on the understanding that producing energy efficient products is of no use without an understanding of why they are needed. Without knowing what actually happens when we use the appliances in our homes we have no reason to make changes to our behaviour or purchases. [...]
Wattson encourages people to learn about their energy use through interactive play. The user can carry Wattson around the home switching appliances On and Off, the display unit reacting instantly to any subsequent change in electricity load. Turning any appliance On or Off (or to Standby) has an immediate and understandable effect.
Electricity changes from being an invisible, intangible idea into a visible, tangible entity with real and quantifiable consequences for using it.

This is exactly right, and the Wattson device is as close as I've seen to a real world implementation of a worldchanging energy meter. It can even be hooked up to a computer to archive information and connect to a community of Wattson users for information and idea exchange.

Wattson will be available by September at a cost of £150. UK-only, sadly -- I want one for my California home!

(Via HippyShopper)

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In the US you can pick up a "Kill-A-Watt" meter for about $30. It doesn't do anything fancy like display the cost of the energy, and it only works on one appliance at a time, but it does display watts, VA, hours plugged in and kilowatt hours. You plug it into an outlet and plug an appliance into it and let it run for a bit. For the US $260 the Wattson costs you could buy 7 or 8 Kill-A-Watts and distribute them around the house.

Posted by: jet on 16 Feb 06

This could be a tremendous advance. I seem to recall that there was a utility test (Minnesota?) with smart metering, with the meters showing $s rather than Kwh and the meters placed directly in the living spaces (kitchen or living room), that led to major reductions in electrical use (over 50%) in a short time period.

This looks like this could quickly achieve that sort of 'smart monitoring' to show people just how much their background noise electricity, inefficient appliances, and wasteful habits are costing them (and, if they care, the environment ...).

A small question -- so what is the electrical load that this device creates?

Posted by: Adam on 16 Feb 06

Actually, Jet, I posted about the Kill-a-Watt back in 2004, and have one here at the house.

What makes the Wattson appealing is the combination of (a) whole house metering, (b) simultaneous information and ambient displays, and (c) ability to hook up to a computer.

Adam, that's a good question. The DIYKyoto site doesn't have that information.

Posted by: Jamais Cascio on 16 Feb 06

The system is still being developed and fine tuned, but to answer your question Adam the expected power consumption will be around 5 Watts. Ideally it would be zero, but we're sacrificing a few watts to hopefully create as big a behaviour change as possible.

Thanks for the positive feedback. If we get enough interest from the US we may well begin exporting!

Posted by: jon on 20 Feb 06

These monitors are becoming quite common. Two-way communicating thermostats are soon to be code in CA for HVAC systems. Additionally, a lot of utilities will not allow you to go online and track your energy usage by time to determine when you are using the most and how much it costs you.

Real-time energy info is a valuable and necesary step, but it isn't sufficient.

There have been multiple real-time pricing experiments including MN, Chicago, CA and Pacific NW.

Posted by: daklute on 21 Feb 06

I have a Question could this be used to do a comparison of electrical useage between 2 different brands of spas on my showroom floor?

Posted by: bob on 24 Feb 06

To answer your question Bob, yes it would. You would need to attach the Wattson sensor to your electricity meter (don't worry, no wiring is involved) that powers your showroom. You would then use each shower to demonstrate the changes in power and cost per year.

Posted by: Jon on 1 Mar 06



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