CurrentCost has been a bit of a buzz going round Hursley for a few weeks now.
I’ve been resisting the temptation to get involved, because I know how obsessive I get about stuff, and I’m a bit busy at the moment to take on another new obsession!
But last week, I weakened. It was all looking a bit too cool, so I figured I had to give it a go.
I’m a few weeks behind the other guys at Hursley, so I’ve not got much to add that hasn’t already been said yet. Still, I have a few readers from outside the IBM group, so thought I’d share links to posts I’ve been following about what other IBMers have been up to, and add my first impressions.
What is it?
A gadget you attach to your electric meter to let you see how much electricity you are using at home, and how much it is costing you.
How does it work?
It’s an inductive loop that you put around the cable going into the meter, so there’s nothing complex or dangerous to do with your mains box!
It’s attached to a black box with a battery and transmitter in – which sends a measurement every six seconds to the second part:
This receives the measurements from the transmitter and displays information about your current usage, together with cumulative totals showing usage from the last day, week and month.
Where do you get it from?
Some electricity providers have started to give them away for free to new customers or customers on eco-friendly tarriffs. And Southern Electric are selling them online.
What does it show?
You see how much electricity you are using now. And when you switch something on or off, it flashes up the difference: e.g. “UP 800W” or “DOWN 200W”, together with info about how much that costs. So when you switch something on, you can see how much that costs you to run.
There is something cool (albeit in a geeky way) when we switch on our 900W microwave, and see the CurrentCost meter value jump by roughly 900W!
The CurrentCost meter and display don’t store data. They keep some running totals – so you can see how much you used in the last day, evening and night, as well as running totals for the last 1, 7 and 30 days. But nothing more detailed than that.
But in the bottom of the LCD display is a little serial port, and if you connect it to a computer, it will pass on the data it receives from the transmitter.
The next step is to try this, and start playing with the data.
Like I said, I’m a few weeks behind my friends. Here are some posts they’ve been writing about their meters:
Looking at the XML data you get out of the meter: Rich
What else can we do with the data: Chris
A home server
My next step is to get a home server to connect it to – if I only connect it to my laptop, I can only measure data when I’m at home using my computer. I need something small, cheap and low-powered that I can leave on all the time to capture the CurrentCost data.
Finally, a warning…
It’s worryingly addictive. As I go round the house finding things to turn off and unplug to get the usage down as low as I can get it, I fear I may already be driving my wife bonkers. Plus, I may have given her another reason to get me turn off the XBox! 😉