OT: electrical power consumption monitoring

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Can anyone recommend an economical system that will let me monitor whole-house electric power consumption?

An ideal system would allow me to plot kW consumed vs. time over a 24-hour period. I'm trying to determine the ideal overnight set-back temperature for my "smart" thermostat. Our power consumption over the winter months was higher than we expected. I had the heat pumps checked last week, and the installer said everything seems to be in order. He suggested that I was setting the overnight temperature too low, causing the back-up electrical resistance heat to come on during the morning recovery period. I would like to test his theory by tracking electrical power consumption as a function of time overnight.
 

Butlerkid

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Karen
Interestingly, we just had to purchase a new heater/ac unit. The installed informed us it was much more economical to keep the thermostat set the same during the day and night. His is explanation is the same one you got....that re-heating the house in the morning required much more energy than keeping a steady temperature.
 
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Can anyone recommend an economical system that will let me monitor whole-house electric power consumption? ............
That's a contradiction in terms. It's like asking for a budget Porsche.

Emon/Dmon is what I would recommend for whole-house monitoring, but it's a world away from 'economical'.

If you have a smart meter installed by the utility, you may be able to request the information you need from them. For free or a small fee.
 
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Jim,
Check with your local power company.
After my heart surgery my doctor told me about the medical baseline program.
He literally does at least a hundred applications a year for patients.
You don't necessarily need to have an oxygen machine, dialysis machine or a nebulizer to qualify for it.
Read the application carefully. If your doctor will certify that increased heating and cooling will benefit your health you qualify.
Normally we receive 150 KWH as our tier 1 rate which gives us the best price. Unfortunately 150 KWH does not take very long to use up.
With the medical baseline program 150 KWH is increased to 1000 KWH.
We rarely go above 1000 KWH in a month.
This program has saved me a lot of money and lets us live in comfort without worrying about the high cost of electricity.
I believe anyone over 60 would qualify for this and I have recommended it to many friends and neighbors and not one of them has been turned down.
 
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Joined
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Interestingly, we just had to purchase a new heater/ac unit. The installed informed us it was much more economical to keep the thermostat set the same during the day and night. His is explanation is the same one you got....that re-heating the house in the morning required much more energy than keeping a steady temperature.
Karen,
We did the same as you about 2 years ago.
We had a 20 SEER A/C and furnace installed.
Your installer is right.
When the unit starts the fan to maintain temperature is on slow speed compared to a high speed if you let the temp vary a few degrees and it has to catch up.
The system does require a little more maintenance as the furnace produces condensation instead of fumes that are exhausted. We have it serviced annually to make sure it is draining properly. The new system uses half the electricity of the old unit and is more energy efficient. Don't forget to take your tax credit for it. The credit is not as good as installing solar but it is something.
 
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Mar 16, 2005
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Alaska
Jim, I do realize that it isn't as convenient, but can't you look at your electric meter which should be attached to the outside of your house? You should be able to determine average electricity used over a 24 hour period. We live off grid, so I do have a meter inside which shows power used, and power coming in (solar or diesel generator). I know for instance how much energy each appliance uses (microwave is the worst, followed by the toaster). We don't need AC here, but do have the heat on every day. Even if the house is warm, the boiler still comes on to make domestic hot water; heat is supplied by the same boiler which runs the in floor heat. We found there was no benefit to using a smart thermostat, as it took so long for the floors to cool down, and then as long a time to bring the heat back up. We do have several zones, and we do keep our bedrooms cooler than the main floor, as we like our bedroom to be a bit cooler.
 
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Interestingly, we just had to purchase a new heater/ac unit. The installed informed us it was much more economical to keep the thermostat set the same during the day and night. His is explanation is the same one you got....that re-heating the house in the morning required much more energy than keeping a steady temperature.
I'm aware of the trade-offs. When the house cools down, all of the interior walls and furnishings cool down too, and have to be reheated. That has to be balanced against running the heat pump less overnight. It's difficult to measure the effect since no two nights have equal ambient conditions. I am hoping to be able to monitor it more carefully with some kind of a power-use monitoring system.

Our heat pump installer said that if you have the thermostat set to two degrees lower overnight, the back-up electrical doesn't switch on during the recovery period. He also said that some of the newest thermostats will start the recovery earlier and bring up the temperature gradually w/o ever triggering the electrical resistance back-up heat.
 
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That's a contradiction in terms. It's like asking for a budget Porsche.

Emon/Dmon is what I would recommend for whole-house monitoring, but it's a world away from 'economical'.

If you have a smart meter installed by the utility, you may be able to request the information you need from them. For free or a small fee.
Your link is apparently to industrial/commercial-scale monitoring systems which would be overkill for me. There are some designed for homeowners that can be had for $300 or less.

I will check to see what Appalachian Power can provide.
 
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Our heat pump installer said that if you have the thermostat set to two degrees lower overnight, the back-up electrical doesn't switch on during the recovery period. He also said that some of the newest thermostats will start the recovery earlier and bring up the temperature gradually w/o ever triggering the electrical resistance back-up heat.[/QUOTE]

I'm not sure this is dependent on the thermostat as much as the type of system you have.
Your heat pump and a/c may need to be capable to run at variable speeds.
Ours is about 2 years old. The most energy efficient we could get at the time.
We did have to get a variable speed thermostat to work with the new system.
7 wires going in to the thermostat where most have only 4.
If we program the thermostat to change the temp at a certain time about an hour before that time it starts cycling at a very low fan rate gradually bringing it up to the right temp.
The a/c compressor or heat box also runs at a very reduced rate at the same time.
We can barely hear it running most of the time.
This works exceptionally well when coming on just before you wake up.
We like it chilly at night while we're sleeping because we have a blanket on but when we wake up we're ready to go.
I am also able to change the temp remotely through my cell phone.
 
Last edited:
Joined
May 5, 2005
Messages
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Jim,
Check with your local power company.
After my heart surgery my doctor told me about the medical baseline program.
He literally does at least a hundred applications a year for patients.
You don't necessarily need to have an oxygen machine, dialysis machine or a nebulizer to qualify for it.
Read the application carefully. If your doctor will certify that increased heating and cooling will benefit your health you qualify.
Normally we receive 150 KWH as our tier 1 rate which gives us the best price. Unfortunately 150 KWH does not take very long to use up.
With the medical baseline program 150 KWH is increased to 1000 KWH.
We rarely go above 1000 KWH in a month.
This program has saved me a lot of money and lets us live in comfort without worrying about the high cost of electricity.
I believe anyone over 60 would qualify for this and I have recommended it to many friends and neighbors and not one of them has been turned down.
Thanks for the info, Dave. I had never heard of this, but since we have no health problems I doubt we would qualify. In addition, we seldom use less than 1000 kWh/month. Typically, in the winter our consumption is between 3000 and 4000 kWh/month.
 
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Jim, have your power company install a smart meter. This will help answer your questions.

I've just gone through all of this as we are about to install a large solar system on my roof.
Thanks, Mitch. I have inquired by e-mail. Appalachian Power is not a very modern or sophisticated utility so I don't expect them to offer such a meter.

Jim, I do realize that it isn't as convenient, but can't you look at your electric meter which should be attached to the outside of your house? You should be able to determine average electricity used over a 24 hour period.
Thanks, Steve. Certainly I can view the meter even though it's not very convenient to get to. But I want to monitor consumption over much shorter periods than that.
 
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Thanks for the info, Dave. I had never heard of this, but since we have no health problems I doubt we would qualify. In addition, we seldom use less than 1000 kWh/month. Typically, in the winter our consumption is between 3000 and 4000 kWh/month.
Hi Jim,
I went on the App Power website once you mentioned it and I did not see any type of program like the one I'm on. That doesn't mean they do not have one. A phone call might be needed here.
I did not know about ours until my doctor mentioned it. It doesn't require a financial requirement just a basic health need which I feel anyone over 60 is entitled to.
If you are using 3,000 - 4,000 KWH that's a lot.
First thing I would do is ask them to check the calibration of your meter.
It sounds much too high.
There are manufacturing companies that do not use that much.
 
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If you are using 3,000 - 4,000 KWH that's a lot.
First thing I would do is ask them to check the calibration of your meter.
It sounds much too high.
There are manufacturing companies that do not use that much.
No, I don't think the meter is at fault. We have a 3400 sq ft house with 1700 sq ft unheated basement. Often in the winter we will have temperatures continuously below 32F for a week or more at a time.

Over the last year our consumption was below 1000 kWh for the months of May, June, and August. In February we used 3300 kWh.
 
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No, I don't think the meter is at fault. We have a 3400 sq ft house with 1700 sq ft unheated basement. Often in the winter we will have temperatures continuously below 32F for a week or more at a time.

Over the last year our consumption was below 1000 kWh for the months of May, June, and August. In February we used 3300 kWh.
Jim
If we used 3,000 KWH a month it would cost us well over $1,000 per month.
We have tiered rates here.
The more you use the more you pay.
Something doesn't sound right.
We had an unusually cold winter this year many days low of 29 at night.
Biggest electric bill I had was $150. Gas did go up to $90 though.
There is a device called a "kill a watt" that you can use on individual appliances and see how much money they are using every month.
I'm not familiar with a whole house device that would do this.
I have a sodium night light that illuminates my back yard.
I thought it was costing me a fortune.
Kill - A Watt says it uses $5 a month.
That's fine with me. Well worth it.
Might be time to think about solar.
I think you can still get a 35% tax rebate.
Off the tax over several years if you choose.
$10K system gives you $3500 off of your tax bill.
 
Joined
May 5, 2005
Messages
24,076
Location
SW Virginia
Jim
If we used 3,000 KWH a month it would cost us well over $1,000 per month.
We have tiered rates here.
The more you use the more you pay.
Something doesn't sound right.
We had an unusually cold winter this year many days low of 29 at night.
Biggest electric bill I had was $150. Gas did go up to $90 though.
There is a device called a "kill a watt" that you can use on individual appliances and see how much money they are using every month.
I'm not familiar with a whole house device that would do this.
I have a sodium night light that illuminates my back yard.
I thought it was costing me a fortune.
Kill - A Watt says it uses $5 a month.
That's fine with me. Well worth it.
Might be time to think about solar.
I think you can still get a 35% tax rebate.
Off the tax over several years if you choose.
$10K system gives you $3500 off of your tax bill.
You have very expensive electricity in California. Our February bill, for 3312 kWh, was $354. We have no gas; our heat is entirely supplied by two electric heat pumps.

I'm familiar with the individual outlet monitors, but that is not what I'm looking for now.
 

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