Google PowerMeter Installation and First Impressions

Google announced last week that they had formed a device partnership with a company called T.E.D. to provide hardware to power their PowerMeter service. (Amazon appears to carry it as well.)

For those of you unfamiliar with the service, it’s a real-time energy monitoring service with a web-based interface, so you can see exactly how much energy (and money) your home is consuming in real time.

I ordered the http://www.theenergydetective.com/store/teds/model-5000-g.html”>TED5000-G. At the time, it cost $199.95. They sell a digital display you can stick on a counter or bookshelf with the 5000-C model for $239.95, but I planned to use the web interface so didn’t see the need for that.

It showed up in around 2 days via FedEx, although they now appear to be backordered for 3-6 weeks due to high demand from the Google partnership.

Installation

There are a couple stages to the installation process.

1. Install a set of clamps in your circuit breaker box. I wouldn’t recommend doing this if you’ve never worked with electricity before. Ask a friend for help. The most important tip I’ve heard for this step is to make sure the clamps are both facing the same direction in order to get accurate readings. Here is an excellent video explaining the install process:

2. Hook up the gateway. The gateway is a cube that plugs into an AC outlet and your ethernet router. Information gathered by the clamps is transmitted to the gateway through the home’s power grid and stored in the gateway.

3. Configure the software. T.E.D.’s software is called Footprints. It resides on the gateway and is accessed through a browser. For Windows computers, one can browser to http://TED5000 to access it. However, that address doesn’t resolve on a Mac, and whoever has ted5000.com is seeing a spike in traffic. Instead, you have to figure out the IP address of the gateway. This is undocumented, which led to some Googling, which led to this set of instructions, which didn’t happen to work for me but probably will for many of you. In my case, I ended up hooking up an old Dell, browsing to http://TED5000 to make sure I could see it, then running the following command line: ping TED5000

Which responded with the IP location of the gateway. That address allows me to see the web interface on a Mac (and iPhone).

Once found, the Footprints software asks for a few data points to improve its data. Utility costs and cost structures being the primary info, so have a power bill on hand. This will allow Footprints to calculate your real-time cost for energy.

4. Browsing from iTouch.

The Footprints website is iTouch and iPhone friendly, so you can view your energy dashboard and doubletap to zoom in on specific metrics. For example, here is my current current:

T.E.D. Footprints Interface on iTouch

5. Monitoring Changes.

The immediate feedback provided by this software is fascinating. Flipping a light switch on/off is reflected on the meter in a few seconds. So far, I’ve noticed the impact of our clothes dryer (wouldn’t want to run that thing 24/7), refrigerator when it kicks into chill mode, running computers, the additional energy needed to watch YouTube videos, and the impact of charging cell phones (looks like around 8 cents/night for my Treo).

6. Profiles.

If you have appliances that you’re particularly interested in tracking, you can set up profiles for up to 5 in Footprints. To do this, you tell Footprints that you’re going to flip on something significant, then Footprints notes the power consumption profile of that appliance. This would allow you to break out the use pattern and energy costs associated with, say, an A/C unit.

7. iGoogle Integration.

The whole point of the Google partnership, as I understand it, is to be able to push this data to Google for additional uses. This includes viewing on iGoogle, but I think the larger benefit could be trending and benchmarking reports based on shared energy data. I haven’t figured out how to do this yet. Drop a link in the comments if you happen to know a good source of information for this. Google’s documentation on this is sending me in circles. The model I purchased didn’t have the Google PowerMeter firmware installed when shipped. I downloaded that, updated the device, then went to Edit > Activate Google Powermeter. Google asks for a zip code (or other location data) which they’ll likely use to look for energy consumption patterns.

Google PowerMeter on iGoogle

Apparently, my 3 bedroom house is consuming energy at levels comparable to a 1 bedroom apartment. That won’t likely be sustainable.

This is the first time in my life that I’ve had even the slightest understanding of how my home uses energy. It’s a very cool thing.

By the way, some utilities around the country are installing power meters and providing web interfaces where utility customers can see how their energy consumption compares to others in their community. That seems like a great way to educate consumers about what they could be doing to painlessly save energy in their homes. Will Xcel Energy do this?

Update: Here is what the data looks like on Google in the Day view:

Google PowerMeter Stats

I believe those are 30 minute increments. No one is at home flipping a light switch on/off every 30 minutes. It will be interesting to figure out what that is. My prime suspect is the refrigerator.

22 thoughts on “Google PowerMeter Installation and First Impressions”

  1. @Nick, I don’t believe the Google PowerMeter gadget in iGoogle has a waiting list. I’d be surprised if one formed due to the relatively slow rollout they’ll likely experience with this service due to cost.

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  3. Great post. I’m really excited about this technology. Do you know if Google is letting anyone in who buys the TED? Or is there a waiting list?

  4. Thanks for sharing your experience Ed — great to see. I’ve been thinking about getting one of these myself. Having accurate and realtime data on personal energy use is, in my opinion, a potential game changer.

    I’ve been paused though wondering if Google is putting this information into my advertising profile. I’ve reviewed the privacy policy for Powermeter and it isn’t clear. I’ve asked on their help site but haven’t received a response yet. Wish I could get an answer to this.

  5. Jamie, I wonder what kind of ads they’d serve up based on my power consumption? If they could tell me that certain appliances were energy hogs with recommendations for better alternatives, I’d see value in that. Perhaps Nancy Botwin would see ads for grow lamps?

  6. Ed, others have highlighted that that may be a great thing to target advertising on. I can totally see it. Knowing someone uses 2x the “neighborhood” average of electricity would be a great targeting opportunity. For whatever reason, I find that data crossing a boundary that makes me a little nervous. I don’t know why, just reacting to my gut. Perhaps in a year I wouldn’t care.

    To be sure, I’m not uniform in my opinion. The idea of sharing energy consumption data with friends and people in my neighborhood would be awesome. If my neighbor, with a house similar in size and design to me, uses less electricity I would love to know how. What a great way to start a conversation.

    I just feel that we are allowing so much data into that Google profile that at some point the camels back breaks.

    Independent of all of the above, I am critical that the Privacy Policy is completely opaque about this issue. I would expect the privacy policy to spell out in clear language exactly what the data is uses for and for what purposes. It highlights some uses, but it doesn’t highlight any exclusions.

  7. “Dan October 13, 2009 10:24 pm
    I emailed inquire@xcelenergy.com asking if they plan to partner with Google powermeter or something like it.”

    Xcel has “partnered” with Microsoft and use the Hohm service to provide the data. I haven’t tried it yet as it requires setting up a Live account.

    I have also sent a request to Xcel.

  8. @rhauff, thanks for the update. I wonder if Xcel’s going to provide the meters, if they’ll have to be purchased, of if they can push the data to Microsoft Hohm some other way?

  9. @Eric, that’s a shame. The faster the feedback, the easier it is to understand what’s causing the draw. That doesn’t sound much better than the bills we already receive monthly.

  10. I am in Minneapolis. I looked at the company that makes the meter I have (Cellnet I believe), found someone who made a reader for it, and emailed them directly. They replied:

    “If he has a Cellnet meter (AMR), then they have limited options in being able to read their own meter. What they will need to do is to contact their local utility (I am assuming it is Xcel) and make their request direct. We are working with a company, Tendril to develop a bridge that can read the AMR packets – but Tendril works with the utility (not direct to customer).

    “The ecoMeter will only work with ZigBee-enabled metering endpoints, so it will not work for his current endpoint.”

    I contacted Xcel and they didn’t seem to have any plans to let me read my own meter. Too bad.

  11. I have had discussions with the makers of the TED 5000 for another project I’m working on. It should be noted that if you have 120/208 single-phase power, the TED 5000 will not be acurate with its readings. Most SFR’s (single family residences) will be 120/240 single phase and the TED 5000 will work just fine. Many condo and apartment buildings are fed with 120/208 three-phase power and then they serve 1/3 of the units to each pair of the three phases. Works just fine from the electrons persective. But the TED 5000 won’t work correctly. The TED makers are working on such a unit at this time.

    Many authories will not let you personally install these devises. And if you are not trained, you shouldn’t do this yoiurself anyway. The CT’s (little doughnut looking things) that are installed to measure the current flow immediately have dangerous voltages on their leads as soon as they are installed. Please be careful and get qualified, licensed help. Saving energy doesn’t do you and/or your family any good after you assume room temperture.

  12. Matthew, I think that as long as the CTs have built-in burden resistors, they shouldn’t have inordinate voltages across them – but there are plenty of other dangers in the panel…

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