CurrentCost – first impressions

CurrentCostCurrentCost 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?

CurrentCost - the transmitterIt comes in two parts – the first is the bit you attach to the electric meter.

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:


CurrentCost - the LCD displayA LCD display panel

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!

What’s next?

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.

Catching up

Like I said, I’m a few weeks behind my friends. Here are some posts they’ve been writing about their meters:

Initial thoughts: Rich, Ian, Andy, Nick

Looking at the XML data you get out of the meter: Rich

Turning the data into graphs and charts: Nick, Roo

Identifying spikes in the graphs: Andy, Rich, Chris

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.

I’ve bought myself a SLUG for this, and will write another post once I’ve got it set up. Deciding on an approach for this has been made much easier by James’ posts on choosing the hardware and an OS.

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! 😉

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20 Responses to “CurrentCost – first impressions”

  1. Steve Lamb says:

    Thanks for an interesting post. I have a plug in device that does a similar thing & it’s addictive and it doesn’t tell me the delta in such a clear way as yours

  2. Javadog says:

    Sounds easier and cheaper than going this route (although you loose out on some of the home automation bits)

    http://www.automatedhome.co.uk/New-Products/Z-Wave-Smart-Utility-Metering-Application.html

  3. […] should probably try and do some work on my CurrentCost setup – now that I’ve got the new home server connected to the CurrentCost meter, I could write a […]

  4. […] written about my CurrentCost meter that I’m using to monitor my home electricity usage, and the small home server that […]

  5. […] I’ve finally got my home server capturing the electric meter readings from the CurrentCost, I thought it’d be good to try doing something with […]

  6. […] needed a break from work tonight, so went back to playing with the CurrentCost meter – a chance to try a few new […]

  7. […] looking forward to this arriving for the last month, especially after reading the blogs written by Dale Lane, Andy Piper, Roo […]

  8. […] little gadget that measures power usage in your house. These are being discussed on IBM blogs everywhere, because while the device itself is very neat, it also has the ability to output the data to a PC, […]

  9. […] CurrentCost meter has been ignored of late as I’ve been a bit busy with other things. Tonight, I started […]

  10. […] jt Last weekend saw the second London Hackday, now called Mashed, and it was great to hear that CurrentCost mania is continuing to spread, with Rich and Dale’s CurrentCost Live project winning the […]

  11. Current Cost Monitor…

    A couple of guys at work have managed to lay their hands on a funky new device called a Current Cost meter. It’s pretty simple to understand, it measures your household electricity usage and displays……

  12. Tim Beadle says:

    Hi Dale,

    I don’t know if you got my @reply on Twitter, but if you’re stuck for things to talk about at BathCamp, I’d love to hear about the CurrentCost 🙂

    Cheers,

    Tim

  13. dale says:

    @Tim – hi, I did, thanks. It’s not a bad idea, thanks!

  14. […] worrying that CurrentCost might be old news now, my talk was surprisingly well-received. It seemed to capture some […]

  15. […] played with ways that CurrentCost users could compare their usage with their friends for a […]

  16. […] dale lane » Blog Archive » CurrentCost – first impressions hacking Current Cost machines. anyone else done this? (tags: hacks currentcost environment energy conservation) […]

  17. […] downloaded the Java code written by Dale Lane and imported it into […]

  18. shams says:

    Absolutely fantastic mind blowing thing

  19. Oval2 says:

    Just bought one of this gadget and is highly addictive.

    Think that in the near future the distributors will have to offer energy meters that will be always online.

    From the Dominican Republic.

    Osvaldo Gonzalez

  20. Pete Thorp says:

    A handy monitor which provokes careful usage of electrical items. However, the temperature reading on my unit when checked against numerous comparison thermometers has shown to be a minimum of 2 degrees Centigrade higher than actual. I contacted Currentcost to query the fact over a year ago and have not received a response, which makes me think that it is intentional, to persuade people to turn down their heating further than they would normally. I would chose another brand in future as I feel that deception is not the way to go with energy saving.