Archive for the ‘smart meter’ Category

This post is a follow up to my previous exploration of smart meter apps. I hope to keep having to add to this story, as new, better, and adapted apps come along to help every home owner reduce their energy bill, and the environmental impact of generating this energy.

Specifically, I want to add my 2 cents to Tyler Hamilton’s, concerning an Ontario startup called Energy Mobile Studios, and some thoughts that his post led me to. His blog goes through the founder’s vision, whats next for the company, and is generally an expose about a home grown innovator. They currently have two apps, Powercents and Gridwatch. Powercents is a great guide to time-of-use rates, with similar tips to both Lowfoot and Quinzee.  As an added benefit, it quantifies what you can save by switching specific loads to different rate periods. Its a pretty slick tool for those just learning about TOU and how to do something about energy use.

Gridwatch is also an educational tool, taking IESO public data and crunching it into easily understood graphics about where Ontario’s power is coming from. Take this snapshot taken as Im writing this (9pm, September 5):

iPhone Screen Capture

As a graphical tool it allows you to really appreciate what is keeping your lights on (or, ahem, your laptop typing). You can even shut off specific sources to see what effect that has on CO2 emissions.

Both of these tools are passive though. They are not connected to an actual meter, nor are they able to perform any action. I think I have been spoiled by the automation system that I use at work on a daily basis. I want to be able to do something with this data. In the app.

There is a real market opportunity here for someone with the skill and some time. Combine the following:

  1. The reporting functions of a smart meter and web apps like Lowfoot and Quinzee
  2. Real time, in home data display for users to get instantaneous feedback on their energy use (not next day,  not four weeks later). I mean being able to see when you shut off a light, or when the refrigerator cycles
  3. The ability to take action (with a web connected thermostat, or peaksaver-like load shedding)
  4. Mobile access to #1 through 3.

Easy to say from the comfort of my chair! I hope to see these apps move in this direction, and I’ll be one of the first to put up my hand to demonstrate the solution. I am starting down this path, but the solution is a patchwork: a web app for reporting smart meter data, an energy meter from Toronto Hydro’s Peaksaver promotion, a web-connected thermostat, and individual portals for each.

For now, check out Gridwatch and Powercents in the app store (and again, both are free – anyone seeing a trend here?)

In my 9 to 5 job, I manage energy. There are literally 80+ meters providing systems information at the click of a mouse, and I am always looking for ways to save based on what those meters tell me. Sadly, I have not been able to do this same thing with my home because I dont have the equivalent metering system for my home.

But wait, yes I do! Toronto Hydro installed a smart meter on my home, and I have been billed for time-of-use consumption since I moved in. The Toronto Hydro portal to see this information is simple and functional. My page looks like this:

Functional, not flashy. No analysis beyond the hard data, which is what you would expect from your utility – whose job is to get you the energy, and bill you for it. They let you decide what to do with the information. Note that our energy consumption went up significantly just before I got home, when we turned the A/C on and used the stove for dinner. is a site which, once you give it permission, can access this time-of-use data that Toronto Hydro is storing on its servers. I discovered it through Twitter, and did some homework, deciding to try it out (zero risk really – its free). The site gives you detailed, hourly consumption figures on a daily, weekly or monthly basis, like the Toronto Hydro page, but with added useful layers. Again, my page:

The same data is conveyed, but now we have something to compare to (our average), and something to target (reductions!), as well as progress based on the time period chosen.

A really neat feature of Lowfoot’s application is that it will calculate your baseline, and literally pay you for energy savings. My baseline can be seen as the red line above, and my actual consumption compared to the target (30% savings for yesterday). I haven’t seen yet what the monetary amount that generated (pun intended) Lowfoot credits will become, but love their line of thought in providing a monetary carrot to users to save energy. It will definitely help to grow their user base.  There are ads on some of the pages, but they are not intrusive.

Quinzee is another site, developed in Toronto, that came to my attention recently. Launched at the beginning of August, Quinzee accesses your smart meter data and presents it similarly to Lowfoot, including the baseline average. Its graphics are more iPhone/iOS like, and convey more analytics than the Lowfoot dashboard. It allows to you enter specifics about your home, so that you can compare to other users near you, or like you. A nice touch, that should facilitate some competition between the Hatfields and McCoys. Wouldn’t comparing utility bills be better than comparing lawns?

Here is a portion of my page:

My biggest gripe is that only weekly and monthly summaries are available. Like much of my generation, I want instant gratification, and want to see what yesterday’s efforts yielded me. I’d love to see live consumption details, but realize that this is not how Toronto Hydro records/shares the information (I’ll cover this in an upcoming post).  A tweet to Quinzee led me to believe they are working on adding daily data functionality.

Both sites have blog sections, with Quinzee taking a more story telling, humour-filled approach that is definitely entertaining, but doesn’t allow users to blog within the site. Lowfoot encourages users to provide product reviews, status updates, and allows users to link to social media sites (I linked my account to Twitter and created @houseenergymgmt as a handle to tweet out my updates and consumption numbers). It is a forum with a user base engaged to share lessons and project ideas. Both sites also contain conservation strategies, tips, and suggestions for what to target in a way that is easy to understand and actionable. Which site you prefer depends on how engaged you like to be.

I like features of both sites, and am actively using both to try to bring our home’s energy consumption as low as possible, and to share what I have learned with others to help them do the same. I will share more as I get used to the sites and have a bit more screen time with them, and see how they evolve.

These type of apps are what I have been waiting for since I started to learn about the smart grid. Hopefully more users will use these tools, saving themselves energy and money. Smart meters really do open up opportunities, and these apps are proof of that.

Did I mention both services are free?