My new friend TED

From my IBM bonus this year we purchased Benjamin’s college ring and my new friend TED 5000. TED is short for The Energy Detective – a device that installs in the electrical box in your house to measure the electricity usage. After a bit of wrangling yesterday1 I was able to get it installed and working and can geekily report that as I type this, we’re using 0.258 kWh. A point in time measurement is interesting and can be somewhat useful (it was educational for instance when we turned on the oven last night and the usage jumped an entire kWh) but trending data is much valuable and TED does that too.

The TED Footprints interface is accessed directly from a browser on the local LAN which renders it less useful for showing others. Thankfully the TED 5000 works with Google PowerMeter so I can know how much electricity we’re using when I’m not even there. That takes geeking to a whole new level.2

Armed with TED and another new geeky tool called the Kill-A-Watt I’m getting a much better picture of where we’re using and wasting electricity. Benjamin just shakes his head and loves me anyway.

More data and revelations to come I’m sure.

1 There are two pieces to the TED 5000: the MTU which sits in your electrical panel and the Gateway which plugs an electrical outlet and connects to your router. The MTU gathers the data and sends it to the Gateway using Power Line Communication (PLC). To do this the MTU connects to both A and B 120V sides of the power line so no matter which side the Gateway is plugged into, it can receive the PLC signal [aside: I’m probably using not-exactly-correct electrical terms here — there’s a reason I went Computer Science instead of Computer Engineering]. Unfortunately some devices, like UPSs, can obliterate the PLC signal if it’s on the same circuit. This was initially my problem as the most convenient outlet to plug the Gateway into was on the same circuit as the UPS for my computer. If I unplugged the UPS it worked great. If the UPS was plugged into wall, it stopped working. Drat. Thankfully the cables into our breakers are well labeled and I was able to locate an outlet in the basement that was on the A side not on the B side with my computer equipment. I plugged the Gateway into the A-side outlet, connected the MTU only to the breaker servicing that outlet and off we went.

2 Google’s too mainstream to be truly geeky. This takes us to a whole new level: the entire set of trending data is available through an API. Some folks have already developed some cool 3rd party apps, including an iPhone app. It should be pretty simple to develop a gnome-based applet that reports my real-time kWh usage via these APIs. More things to play with in my non-existent spare time!