Steven Jones
A blog of electronics and programming

Planning the next project

I really need to start planning projects a little better, and actually go for a swim rather than just dipping a toe in the water.

Specifically, I want to have a go at making something IoT-y.

I really like monitoring things and having more information about everything, hence my previous posts about monitoring gas usage. Indeed, I have set up the gas monitoring system. However, it has a number of rough edges:

  • Hard to change the code
  • Doesn't have a nice dashboard anywhere
  • Is (hopefully) going to be made obsolete by smart meters in the UK.

I guess that in reality in 4 years, I'll have something from my utility company that will show total gas and electricity usage for my home.

I've been monitoring overall power usage for years using an Owl Intuition and it's been great. It's far from perfect, but does the job and allows me to see a nice graph of what's going on, and what the energy usage of appliances is sort of like. It doesn't allow me to see what the energy usage of our kettle is though.

I've recently purchased a WeMo Insight switch that was on offer, and have been running it for a few days now. Having appliance level insight into energy usage is amazing.

I have it hooked up to a dehumifier that we have at home, and it's predicting that it costs around £10 a month to run. Interesting stuff. I want that for all my appliances really.

So my next (current?) project:

Monitor the energy usage of as many appliances in the house as possible and present the data in a lovely way.

Buying a lot of WeMos doesn't really scale budget wise and although I got it on an amazing offer if I had to have one for every single plug, that would be very expensive.

So, what are the requirements to fullfil the goal of the project, I think they are:

  • Monitor real power of every possible appliance in the house, probably by inserting something between their plug and the wall socket (or being the wall socket)
  • Send the data to a central collection point where it can be pooled and presenting in a lovely way.
  • Capture data in the fuse box, for appliances like cookers.
  • Capture data in the fuse box, for lighting.
  • Don't kill/injure myself. Seriously, mains power is dangerous and really hurts (yep, been there, tripped the circuit breaker).

I figure that looking at the Owl and the WeMo and seeing what I like is probably a good place to start:

WeMo likes

  • Direct connection to wifi
  • Power usage monitoring of a single plug, granularity!
  • Simple setup
  • Notifications and scripting integration with IFTTT
  • Cost estimation
  • Switching of the socket on/off
  • Measures real power (I think)

OWL Likes

  • Graphing
  • Data can be viewed on a web browser
  • Cost estimation
  • Nice summaries and totals

So, I guess what I want is the nice graphing from OWL with the granularity of WeMo.

So, need to come up with a plan, otherwise this is going to be super aimless and a waste of time.

Written by Steven Jones on Tuesday February 2, 2016
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