Random Musings

Category: Energy

Current Cost after Google PowerMeter shut-down

Using Meniscus for Current Cost after Google PowerMeter was shut-down

Since Google shut down it’s  PowerMeter service I was on the look out for a replacement.

Initially I tried Enio but it wasn’t very stable, didn’t have many features and in truth as a bit Mickey Mouse, and then I found Meniscus

Meniscus runs as a service under Windows and there is a Python application for Linux. Once hooked up to the Current Cost, you can access the Meniscus Dashboard from any web browser running Microsoft Silverlight

There are various graphs available in Meniscus, such as:

  • Daily cost
  • Daily savings – when you have set a target energy use
  • Carbon equivalent
  • Seasonal Average use
  • Real-Time

Meniscus screenshot

Meniscus also captures the room temperature that is displayed on the Current Cost so you can monitor how the temperature in your house fluctuates over time.

It also has the ability to download historical data that is stored in the Current Cost unit, which is useful if you have had it running for a while before connecting it to Meniscus, or if your computer crashes and you have gaps in your graphs.

There’s a video showing some of the Meniscus dashboard functionality on YouTube

It’s definitely a suitable replacement for the Google Service. In fact I would say it’s actually better that what Google had.

CurrentCost revisited

Those nice people at CurrentCost have teamed up with Google to enable the automatic upload of CurrentCost data to Google PowerMeter, so I’ve switched from the monitoring software I was using to Google’s system. And I must say, it’s pretty funky.

Google PowerMeter

I’m still using my el-cheapo tiny little low-power Viglen MPC-L running Windows XP and have the CurrentCost connected to it. It runs a little application from CurrentCost that enables the upload to Google PowerMeter every 10 minutes.

PowerMeter itself shows a pretty graph of the power usage in 10 minute intervals, and shows historical daily usage. You can set a daily usage budget and it shows you how likely you are to meet or exceed this budget, which is useful for trying to reduce your energy consumption.

You can also share your PowerMeter page with other Yahoo users, but cannot as yet share it publicly. It’s a very slick and well done system that is highly recommended if you have a CurrentCost.

Monitoring Electricity usage with a CurrentCost monitor

A couple of friends of mine have recently been playing with CurrentCost monitor, which is a nifty little home energy usage device. It has an induction loop that you clip onto one of the wires coming out of your electricity meter and that wirelessly transmits electricity usage to the display, which looks like this:

The display shows you how much electricity your house is currently using, how much that is costing you (you can change the electricity cost depending on what your supplier charges you), and cleverly if you turn something on or off it will tell you how much your consumption has gone up or down, so you can see exactly how much power that device was using.

I got mine from the eco gadget shop although they are available direct from CurrentCost’s own ebay shop for more money. The eco gadget shop seems to be part of Scottish and Southern Energy so I guess they are subsidising the cost of these things a bit. One thing to be aware of though is delivery can take some time. They took my credit card payment when I ordered, but the device took almost 3 weeks to arrive as they were out of stock, and was sent standard 2nd class post!

But the best bit about these devices is that they have a port on them that allows them to be connected to a PC via a cable that can be purchased from the CurrentCost ebay shop,  and collect the data it spits out every few seconds. There have been various IBM people writing little applications to plot this data onto graphs, and also one of the friends who originally pointed me in the direction of the CurrentCost device has been creating a great little bit of software:

Techtoniq Current Cost Agent

Techtoniq Ltd's Current Cost Agent in action

As you can see it plots both electicity usage (green bars) and temperature (pink line).

In order to connect the device to a USB port on my PC I had to download a USB to Serial port driver. The Windows XP one can be downloaded from the Prolific website and I found a Vista version from here, although having read a bit more I think Vista might have found a driver for it automatically when I plugged the device in. Unfortunately either this driver or the CurrentCost software I’m trying doesn’t like Vista, which keeps BSODing so I’ve temporarily enlisted the use of an old Dell laptop that has got Windows XP on it

I can see this energy usage worry gauge coming in very handy when trying to reduce the amount of electricity we use. And it’s also perfectly geeky for me to play with.

This is the current LIVE power usage and temperature in my house:



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