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Author Topic: Open-source energy visualisation tool  (Read 5881 times)
dan_aka_jack
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« on: November 28, 2012, 08:38:38 PM »

Hiya,

This is a bit of an odd post Wink

I'm hoping to organise a Computer Science MSc group project on "Visualisation and Analysis of Domestic Electrical Energy Consumption".  The basic idea is to produce an open-source web app which will help people save energy by producing useful and interesting visualisations (pretty graphs) of their energy usage.  The ultimate aim is to produce something a bit like Google Powermeter.  But better Wink  The full spec of the group project is available here.

I'd be really eager to hear any comments / suggestions at this (very) early stage; especially as the Navitron community would probably be one of the main user groups the project might want to attract.  Some specific questions might be:

  • Do you currently use a tool to visualise your energy use?  (Such as Current Cost's website or Cosm or open.sen.se or something similar?)
  • Are there any specific statistics / visualisations that you'd be particularly interested in?
  • Would you be interested in being able to share details of your energy use with select friends to compare progress?

(To give a bit of context: Group projects run for the duration of the spring term (11 weeks starting Jan 2013).  I'm a PhD student in the computing department so I'll be supervising the project but the detailed design is up to the MSc students.  Groups usually consist of 5-6 MSc students.  There are no guarantees that a group will actually want to do the project, of course!)
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sbchapman
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« Reply #1 on: November 29, 2012, 10:39:29 AM »

Hi Dan,

I use Spreadsheets to track usage currently, having trawled through several years worth of bills, which when graphed produced some interesting results, particularly in relation to electricity consumption and replacement of aged appliances. Interestingly the appliances reduced the consumption more than installing a 4kWp PV system, although it could be argued I'd already reduced consumption enough so the PV had very little local demand to meet and therefore mostly exported to the grid.

http://www.navitron.org.uk/forum/index.php/topic,18708.msg214276.html#msg214276: I've since found a few more bills which fill in the gaps.

Automation is key in this area - its all good having a web UI, but a consistent format for (automated) uploading is key. Are there open standards for this currently? Users need devices that can automatically upload the data in a consistent fashion - noting down daily consumption gets tiresome after a few week I can tell you Smiley

Plots of kWh/d for gas AND electricity is a useful comparison. I realised although I had made big savings in electricity consumption, my overall improved electrical consumption was considerably overshadowed by my gas consumption (more insulation required!) It would be good somehow to capture biomass consumption too, albeit I realise this would require manual approximations by the user - tonnes/wood year etc.

Similarly adding functionality for users to add water meter readings would allow tracking of water reductions.

Having a "league table" on the app/portal would add a competitve edge to the proceedings and allow users to view the "most improved" user (who could add efforts they made to improve consumption at certain points, and these could be viewable against a historical plot of kWh/d or l/d. Users could have profiles with timelines of technologies installed/improvements made which could link directly to their usage plots. The competitive edge is good - I remember the CPDN project having this (http://climateprediction.net) as it drives improvements, and adding social media-type functionality would be good too (automatic posts eg "I just saved 25% off my electricty bills in the last day/week etc" via Facebook)

PM me if you wish to discuss further .... I'm hopefully about to embark on a project along similar lines with CREST at Loughborough, but focusing on the renewable energy side rather than the computer interface / application.

Steve
« Last Edit: November 29, 2012, 10:43:41 AM by sbchapman » Logged

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jonesy
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« Reply #2 on: November 29, 2012, 11:27:47 AM »

Jack,
In the last month I've joined pvsolar.org  http://pvoutput.org/list.jsp?userid=15556 .  It allows upload of kW, kWh generated and consumed, temperature and panel volts too.  I push all but panel volts.  solarpv lets you view other users, and ranks you in the world.  Whilst most of us can get solar data, metering data (kWh) is much harder with just a pulse output on the meter.  Plenty of these monitoring devices measure VA, not W and will give misleading results with the bulk of modern consumer goods as power factor is typically 0.6-0.8.
I'm considering pushing the use/generated data plus another 5 temperature channels to cosm, but cosm is a bit clunky and you cant overlay graphs. 
I've got tons more data in excel spreadsheets, but invariably it just sits in the spread sheet, as there is simply too much data and it overwhelms excel.  Good visualisation is key, and I'm quite happy with graphs that can be overlayed. d3.js look good.
Happy to share data.

I don't have much on just now, so I could help with mentoring (software/hardware).
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TimSmall
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« Reply #3 on: November 29, 2012, 09:21:05 PM »

This thing from the nice people at Ciseco is allegedly quite good for reading meter pulse outputs.

http://shop.ciseco.co.uk/tcrt-infra-red-reflectivity-sensor-break-out-board/

http://shop.ciseco.co.uk/clear-laser-cut-tcrt-holder/

There's also a fair bit of arduino code floating around to read them (with backlight and/or noise supression etc.), or just simple photodiodes instead.  Must get around to implementing one (after the external wall insulation is finished I think).

I'd certainly be interested in a good open source energy monitor - I think the social/psychological side of it is interesting, and it could be used as a suitable research tool for that if done well...
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dan_aka_jack
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« Reply #4 on: November 30, 2012, 12:08:00 PM »

Hi Tim, Jonesy and Steve,

Thanks loads for the replies (which have been very useful).  It's always great to get some feedback on these things.

Steve, I will definitely get in contact if a group of MSc students decide to do the project (we should find out on the 6th Dec or shortly after).

Thanks again,
Jack
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wookey
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« Reply #5 on: December 06, 2012, 10:43:40 PM »

sbchapman is quite right about protocols. Check out the openenergymonitor people and flukso for protocols that are already defined. I know flukso has some, and some free software for buffered upload which is important.
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Wookey
roscoe
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« Reply #6 on: December 30, 2012, 11:44:59 AM »

I used to dabble around a while back but interest has dwindled, here is a few comments.

1. Google Powermeter (GPM) was the best I used because,
  ... it was handy (everyone is lazy at best)
  ... it was quick for the most useful data (energy/cost rather than power) and had useful summarising
      ie say 30day graph of kWh, saying how much this 30d period and also last

2. What really annoys me is the graphs of power/watts and slowness or small hourly/daily is many first attempts.  The simple step of aggregrating power into kwh gets missed time after time.

3. People think/relate to there utility bill, always thought it would be good to allow manual input of this data and allow framing of logged data against this manual frame/period.  Also the ability to add summarised historical data.

4. People do good things at home, so again google style like the financial chart, the ability to see events eg. changed thermostat setting etc as flags on trends would be great

5. Back to google powermeter, it secretly kept getting better, features/bugs without any need for updates or hullabaloo

6. Still on GPM,.... that old chestnut,.. it was free

7. Brain, beginning to remember, I did like the 'Always on' feature in GPM it did give a target game to play.
http://albacontrols.wordpress.com/2010/02/20/always-on-power/

8. Another simple but effective chart that was effective was this one in my brultech interface, Consumption target
Here is one that basically shows it was our turn to cook Xmas dinner and host the stay over guests
http://albacontrols.wordpress.com/2012/12/30/domestic-energy-usage-vs-target/

...
Challenge is getting people aka the masses interested, even with utility costs up its still mainly a case of 'ostrich-style'.  This is not helped by the utilities continuing to make bill usage understandable nor the slow development of smart stuff with accessable standards.





 
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roscoe
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« Reply #7 on: December 30, 2012, 03:59:07 PM »

whoops as is the way,..... had a read at the project link after typing a reply

impressive and ambitious

.....
 I would consider 'keeping households motivated and energy aware' a key point.

 I also prefer to frame costs in úperAnnum rather than a pence based metric.

Good luck
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dan_aka_jack
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« Reply #8 on: January 04, 2013, 03:21:13 PM »

Just a very quick note to say that we've got 6 excellent MSc students working on the project.  Very excited...

They only have about 8 weeks (and they have very busy lecture schedules) so they will aim to implement a small number of features in the original spec but it should be good.

Thanks to everyone for your suggestions.
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