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Real-time Energy Feedback Technology
Sarah Rich, 25 Jan 07
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It's one of those telling facts of human nature that when we are being monitored, our behavior changes. The example we often use at Worldchanging to illustrate this phenomenon is a mileage guage in a car. It's been shown that drivers who have a mileage meter visible inside their car get better mileage, simply as a result of their elevated awareness, with no modification whatsoever to the car's mechanics.

The same holds true in households where inhabitants can be made immediately aware of their energy consumption. If you can see your pennies piling up on account of a light you left on in the bathroom, you can bet you'll remember to turn it off. It's the real-time feedback that's key. Reading a steep bill at the end of the month can't compare. It's also key not only to be able to know how many kWh -- but also how many dollars -- are burning away with your lightbulb.

Combining all these digits onto one little screen is the PowerCost Monitor from Blue Line Innovations, a Canadian start-up focused specifically on developing real-time energy feedback products for domestic energy consumers. According to their research, immediate feedback can result in 10-20% energy savings.

The monitor consists of two component units:

1. A detection unit, known as the transmitter, is affixed to an existing household electromechanical utility meter with a simple ring clamp. This transmitter tracks the energy consumed by counting turns of the meter disk. This is the only component of the PowerCost Monitorâ„¢ that will be in direct physical contact with the utility's electromechanical meter and the clamp mechanism allows it to be attached to the outside of the meter glass. It can also be quickly attached and detached without making any changes to the existing meter.
2. The display unit, located inside the home, receives a wireless signal from the transmitter and displays the consumption information in real time and in dollars and cents for the end user. Other information is also displayed such as time and outside temperature.

Blue Line's President and CEO, Danny Tuff, was recently awarded a Young Entrepreneur Award by the Business Development Bank of Canada. His company's product has become a leader in the market, and has captured the interest of large energy providers like B.C. Hydro, Hydro One and Southern California Edison.

In the Globe and Mail article about his achievement, Tuff attributes the idea for the PowerCost Monitor to the influence of his father, who was always preoccupied with turning off lights and saving energy. If only parental prodding always turned children into enterprising, worldchanging adults...

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That is pretty cool but at $150.00 is a little expensive. I have been using this Kill-A-Watt to monitor my electricity use which is only $25.

Posted by: Fat Knowledge on 25 Jan 07

neat invention. i agree with 'Fat' though...too pricey. i think i'd use this for about 6 months before it ended up in my closet.

Posted by: josh on 25 Jan 07

This is a great step, one I'd like to see considered as mandatory for vehicles as well. Unfortunately, though, it may be too little, too late, at least in Toronto, where the upcoming'smart meters' include the promise:

    In the future, you will be able to access your meter data through the Internet and/or telephone. The current plan calls for the previous day's data to be ready for viewing by 8 a.m. the following day and for 13 months of history to be accessible to the customer.

Not as immediate as the PowerCost Monitor, but an integrated solution. (The quote is from )

Posted by: David S. on 25 Jan 07

Looks like this is the same gadget I've been using for a while in the UK, although re-branded/packaged. I bought mine for £65 (currently about US$130) - Electrisave from (or various re-sellers).

The Kill-A-Watt is OK, but only allows you to measure one socket at a time. The Electrisave device provides near instantanious (every 6sec) whole-phase monitoring. In fact, it'll do up to about 4 phases, I think, if you have more sensors.

Posted by: John Kazer on 26 Jan 07



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