I recently installed a TED Model 1001 energy monitor so I thought I’d share my thoughts.
Energy Detective Details
The Energy Detective (TED) is a fairly simple device – a measurement unit installed in my electrical panel transmits real-time power consumption data to a LCD display. The display unit tracks peak levels and can display power in kilowatts (kW) or dollars as well as the line voltage. Here’s what came in the box:
You’ll notice the USB port on the LCD unit - I paid an extra $40 to try the TED Footprints software so I can log and view data on my PC. More on this in a moment.
Installation was quick, as long as you don’t mind mucking around in your electrical panel (do so at your own risk!). It's similar to replacing a breaker or adding a circuit. If you’d rather avoid the hassle an electrician could easily install this in less than an hour.
Next there are a few setup steps on the Display Unit – you can enter electrical rate details which allows TED to display in dollars (and $/hr). It works well with the Austin Energy 2 tiered rate model and seasonal rate change.
Living with The Energy Detective - My Review
I’m not going to say that TED changed my life, but I certainly enjoy having it. I’m kind of a data addict and TED allows me to measure and track my power consumption. The first hour or so after I installed it were spent turning on all of our lights and appliances and monitoring the change in kWh. Kind of nerdy, but an enlightening experience.
For anyone considering the TED, I would highly recommend the Footprints software. It allows me to connect the TED display to my PC and log the data. This has been very useful for tracking the performance of our HVAC system as well as monitoring our use-patterns.
All of the above information has helped me to live more efficiently and consider the costs of leaving a light on, or even baking brownies…
Baking with TED
Last weekend I baked a small pan of brownies in our electric oven. Brownie ingredients are pretty cheap (chocolate, eggs, butter, etc.), but I was curious as to the cost of the ‘embodied energy’ (at least my oven’s contribution). So I pulled up the TED data for the afternoon, here is a snapshot:
This graph shows a lot of good data. The TED takes a measurement every second, so the x-axis shows the time I spent baking. The blue plot is the power consumption (in kW) – this is what we’re after. The red plot is the voltage (RMS) of the power lines – interesting mainly to see the power quality from Austin Energy and to see it drop as I draw more current.
First – Wow! My oven takes some power! The plot jumps up about 5 kW when the oven started pre-heating. I checked my owner’s manual and it turns out I have a 5 kW heating element – this supports the measurement data. It’s also interesting to see how the heating element turns on and off to maintain the 350 degree temperature. This is basically the same control algorithm used by your average thermostat - simple but effective.
Also notice the two ~ 2 kW spikes around 2:40 pm – this was when I used the microwave to melt the butter/chocolate mix. Here’s a closer look at this section of the plot (oven pre-heat and microwave):
With the TED power measurement for each second, I can calculate the total power consumption for baking the brownies. This is the area under the blue plot in kilowatt-hours. To be fair I’ll remove the ~0.6 kW base level as this is due to the lights, computer, fridge, etc. in the house.
So there you have it – Thanks to TED I know that baking brownies required 1.67 kWh of power, which cost me about 12 cents.
You get the idea – The Energy Detective is a neat way to learn more about how you consume electricity, which should help you to be more efficient in your consumption. I think installing TED is a great idea for builders – costing less than $200 it’s very affordable feature and it can immediately measure/demonstrate the effectiveness of the home and its systems. Of course TED can eventually pay for itself by helping to reduce wasted energy.
What do you think? Is the TED providing worthwhile data or is this too much information? Share your questions or comments below.